During Israel’s fires, WIZO again showed its mettle
It’s hard to believe that a whole year has gone by so quickly. And what a tumultuous year it has been for us all! The news reveals disaster in every corner of the globe and we all held our breaths as we watched events unfold in Israel.
As Israeli society battled wildfires around the country, new challenges emerged every day, for which WIZO provided the solutions. WIZO branches have been doing all they can for those who have lost everything – house, contents, clothes, memorabilia – everything.
Unfortunately, WIZO Achuzat Yeladim Boarding School had to be evacuated due to raging fires. One hundred children as young as seven years old, and teenagers with severe emotional conditions, were among the boarders.
The children were taken to WIZO Nahalal. Those who have homes to go to were sent home for the weekend and remain there for the moment. For children lacking family support and unable to go home, WIZO staff opened their hearts and homes to host them. Upon receiving further details, WIZO will be able to plan the immediate future, with much sensitivity to minimise the disruption to their daily routine and school work.
WIZO invites you to make a gift to support the WIZO Fire Appeal today and help one of the various WIZO projects in Israel desperately needing our help at this time. Banking details: WIZO Johannesburg, Nedbank, bank code 151105, account: 1511028858. Ref: Surname + Fire. For credit card donations please phone Batya on (011) 645-2515.
In June this year, Adi Altschuler, 29-year-old Israeli social entrepreneur, educator and activist launched WIZO SA’s Biennial Campaign. The audiences were riveted by her presentations, by her energy, by her remarkable achievements and her passion for changing and improving lives.
As an extraordinary “Agent for Change”, Altschuler’s talk reflected the embodiment of WIZO whose focus is to change and improve the lives of the vulnerable and less fortunate through a range of initiatives.
Helen Maisels Trisk, vice president of WIZO SA, spoke about WIZO’s many programmes in Israel and their high standards of excellence and care. She said that all WIZO facilities are real and that they do not simply live in the minds of the donors.
WIZO added a further dimension to its #SpreadingLight campaign in conjunction with the Shabbos Project, where it invited women from around the world to help spread the light by lighting candles and reciting a special prayer for peace in the home, for Israel and the world at large.
This year, we are inviting people to nominate women in our community who give so selflessly of themselves, bringing light into the world through their good deeds and actions. These women will appear on the WIZO Facebook pages as #ShiningLights because their light is one we should share as far and wide as possible!
Last month, WIZO South African Council members countrywide gathered at the beautiful home of Mushe Kirsh, in Johannesburg, for its Enlarged Council Meeting. All the necessary reports were presented and a wonderful address was given by Ayellet Black, deputy head of Mission Embassy of Israel in South Africa. The ECM reflected on the past and planned for the future.
Since the very beginning, WIZO federations around the world and in Israel, have always looked to its own next generation of chaverot to bring new ideas to the table, to provide fresh solutions and to engage women of their own age to volunteer in the WIZO movement, a movement that must march ever-forward hand-in-hand with the State of Israel.
WIZO needs Aviv members to harness the pioneering spirit of tomorrow, to encourage leadership and solidarity, to build upon the foundations laid by our mothers and grandmothers and to take WIZO forward into a future that belongs to them.
As this year draws to an end, we thank all those who worked hard and gave their commitment to ensure that our special projects in Israel continue to serve Israeli society.
We wish you a happy Chanukah and a safe and peaceful holiday season.
WIZO celebrates achievements and new beginnings
Rosh Hashanah has brought new beginnings for all of us and the hope that the special connections and support of family, friends, and community, will continue when the threat of COVID-19 is a distant memory.
Over the past few months, WIZO (the Women’s International Zionist Organisation) has been constantly in the news in Israel. Fighting for women’s rights, maintaining excellence in WIZO schools, and being recognised by the Israeli government for the network of philanthropic projects that stretch the length and breadth of Israel are only some of the milestones that make us such proud members of this international organisation.
WIZO Israel proudly promoted the Bill for Equal Rights and Pay for Women and Men in the Workplace passed in the Knesset on 24 August 2020. As women’s rights activists, WIZO works tirelessly to promote gender equality on all fronts. Women’s empowerment is one of the founding principles of the organisation since its inception in 1920. Lobbying against domestic violence is ongoing, and WIZO provides safe-houses, training, and work opportunities for women forced to flee their homes, often with small children in tow. As leaders against gender-based violence, WIZO also offers a helpline and counselling for the perpetrators of abuse, and the lines are busy day and night.
Esther Mor, World WIZO president, was one of four women in Israel to receive the Eshet Lapidot Award for philanthropy on behalf of WIZO. Mor was also invited to the signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House in Washington DC last week. What an honour for her and for WIZO, demonstrating the esteem with which the organisation is held not only in Israel but around the world!
The day before Rosh Hashanah, the chairperson of World WIZO’s early age department visited Neve WIZO (WIZO South Africa’s jewel-in-the-crown project), accompanied by Avi Mottola, Israel’s deputy director general of the ministry of welfare. Each of its five cottages had exquisitely laid yom tov tables, and the children at each home shared warm and tender stories of their lives before and after coming to live at Neve WIZO. In one of the houses, Mottola met Hila, a soldier in the Patriot Regiment who came to celebrate at the home. Mottola was moved to tears, and at the end of the visit he said, “I couldn’t have started the year in a more significant place than Neve WIZO”.
On the home front, WIZO has hosted a number of informative webinars, WIZO societies have committed themselves to outreach projects in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and WIZO’s Wheelchairs of Hope have been donated to needy children around the country.
The WIZO Elise Gift Shop is officially online, with a stunning range of hand-picked homeware, baby gifts and more at significantly reduced prices. Shop.wizo.co.za
Finally, please save the date for WIZO South Africa’s conference on 22 November 2020, with guest speaker Trudy Gold, renowned British historian and Holocaust educator, and the former chief executive of the London Jewish Cultural Centre.
May we all be inscribed in the book of life, and a gmar chatima tova.
WIZO celebrates women every day
World WIZO (the Women’s International Zionist Organisation) celebrated its official centenary on 11 July 2020. There were greetings and celebratory messages from the 50 WIZO federations around the world, including ours. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin sent personal video messages of congratulation to the organisation and all its federations, acknowledging them for the critical role they play in uplifting Israel, and paying homage to WIZO’s incredible longevity.
WIZO founders Rebecca Sieff, Edith Elder, and Vera Weitzman recognised an urgent need to uplift women and children in the early days of Palestine who were living in dire circumstances. In 1920, they formed the Women’s International Zionist Organisation to establish education and social-welfare infrastructure in Palestine.
Through the years, WIZO has stepped in to do what the government can’t do itself. In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, WIZO helped to integrate new immigrants to Israel. In the 1970s and 1980s, WIZO created the first shelters for women and children suffering from domestic violence. WIZO was a pioneer in this area, setting up many programmes, and uses a holistic approach which takes care of victims and abusers.
In the present time of COVID-19, WIZO was a first responder in opening up emergency shelters for women at risk due to the confined spaces in which they have been forced to live with perpetrators of violence and abuse. WIZO also made sure that its day care centres were fully operational at hospitals for the medical teams on the frontline fighting the pandemic in Israel. WIZO continues to lobby the Knesset for the advancement and empowerment of women and children in all spheres of society in Israel.
We are proud to be active participants in this worldwide movement of women dedicated to strengthening the fabric of Israeli society, especially now when health, work, schooling, finances, and food are everyday concerns.
We are proud to support issues affecting women and children in South Africa. From our Wheelchairs of Hope initiative (light-weight, brightly coloured, wheelchairs, from Israel, designed specifically for children, giving them the dignity of mobility), to joining local non-governmental organisations in collecting blankets, toys, hygiene packs for rape victims, and more whenever we have been called on to offer support.
As Women’s Day approaches, we are aware of the desperation facing women and children who suffer abuse in this country, and we stand with all women – those who struggled under the harsh laws of apartheid, those who became struggle heroes, those who set out to help others even though they had so little themselves, and those who still face hardships.
We salute the generosity of women in South Africa, the spirit to move forward, the ubuntu.
May we continue to be proud volunteers, raising awareness, giving support, and empowering society’s most vulnerable citizens here and in Israel.
“It does indeed take a village to raise the child, but it takes a global sisterhood to build the Israeli nation.”
SAJBD puts in sterling work on Hate Crimes Bill
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has sent its submission on the “Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill” to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for consideration.
The much-awaited Bill aims to give effect to South Africa’s obligations, in terms of both the country’s Constitutional and international human rights instruments, concerning racism and discrimination; to provide for the offence of hate crimes and hate speech; as well as the prosecution and prevention of these crimes.
The SAJBD, as the umbrella representative body and human rights voice of the South African Jewish community, has been involved in hate crimes awareness, education and legislation advocacy for nearly a decade. Through its role as a founding and current steering committee member of the Hate Crimes Working Group, as well as participating in other important civil society initiatives, the SAJBD continues to be deeply committed to ensuring that issues relating to hate crimes and hate speech are adequately addressed in the country.
The SAJBD’s submission on the Bill focused on a significant concern of the local Jewish community, namely that of anti-Semitism, and outlined the need for hate crimes legislation in the country as well as effective monitoring and data collection of cases of hate.
On the issue of hate speech, it was felt that the relevant sections of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (No 4, 2000, hereafter “Equality Act”) were sufficiently far-reaching for purposes of addressing cases of hate speech.
Rather than having two very similar laws on the statute books, it was therefore strongly recommended that the anti-hate speech sections of the Hate Crimes Bill be removed and that instead the relevant sections of the Equality Act be revisited with a view to their possible amendment.
This might entail making the propagation of hate speech on the basis of race, ethnicity and other prohibited grounds an offence not only when it is directed against an individual, but against the particular group which is being thus maligned.
The SAJBD’s submission stresses that the Act must be so framed as to make its practical implementation possible, and to this end recommends bolstering and expanding the reach and effectiveness of current legislation and mechanisms dealing with incidents of hate, such as the SA Human Rights Commission and Equality Courts.
The issue of restorative justice, to both educate against and prevent hate speech and hate crimes, as well as a method of dealing with perpetrators after an incident has taken place, was also emphasised.
“History has shown us where hate leads,” says the SAJBD’s representative on the Hate Crimes Working Group, Alana Baranov. “Genocide and crimes against humanity do not begin with action but with words and incidences of discrimination. South Africans need to work together to ensure that our country is one in which human rights, freedom and equality are afforded to all who live in it.”
The SAJBD looks forward to working with the Department of Justice on the draft Bill going forward, as well as any on other initiatives aimed at preventing and combating hate in South African society.
* For more information, contact Alana Baranov on 083-275-2184.
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