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entries tagged with: Magen David Adom


A ‘gap year’ spent in service

“Nativers” Ilana Rosenzweig, Seffi Kogen, Shara Fishman, and Gabe Cohen are all from Bergen County.

“My name is Seffi Kogen and I am writing to you from Yerucham, my home for
the second half of my year on Nativ. Back in Fair Lawn, I read The Jewish Standard every weekend, but here, in Israel, I rely on my mom to let me know if there is anything interesting that I should look up online. Recently, she told me about a front-page article documenting the wild behavior that sometimes occurs on yeshiva gap-year programs. That article moved me to suggest that the Standard might want to let their readers know about Nativ: The College Leadership Program in Israel.... Right now, there are five Bergen County residents currently volunteering in the development town of Yerucham. We work in kindergartens, the soup kitchen, the graveyard, the community center, and volunteer with Magen David Adom. We live and work and enjoy ourselves down here in what Israelis lovingly call ‘the middle of nowhere,’ and we would love for more people to know about ... the impact Bergen County is having on advancing the modern Zionist dream.”

That letter, from the son of Linda Ripps and Avi Kogen, prompted a conversation with The Jewish Standard one recent morning after Kogen’s late shift on the Magen David Adom ambulance in Yerucham.

Kogen is among 80 participants in Nativ (“nah-TEEV”), a United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in its 29th year. A graduate of Solomon Schechter High School in West Orange, he is joined by fellow Schechter alum Ilana Rosenzweig of Oradell; Frisch School graduate Gabe Cohen of Hillsdale; Pascack Valley High School graduate Shara Fishman of River Vale; and Eric Leiderman of Englewood, who attended the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in Manhattan.

An active Conservative Jew who attends Temple Beth Sholom in Fair Lawn and served on the United Synagogue Youth regional board for two years, Kogen sees Nativ as the perfect middle ground between a yeshiva program and a secular work/travel program. It offers religious or college studies in Jerusalem in the first semester, and optional Judaic courses during its second volunteering semester.

Participants from all across North America travel throughout Israel, experience a taste of military life and desert survival, take leadership seminars, and receive preparation for Israel advocacy on campus. “I hope they go home from Nativ with the ability to keep on asking questions and keep on caring,” said Nativ Director Yossi Garr. “Nativ grads often take a leadership role on college campuses and later on in Jewish communities.”

During their first semester, Kogen and Rosenzweig took for-credit courses in the overseas students program at Hebrew University. Kogen studied Hebrew, Talmud, medieval Jewish history, entrepreneurship in the Middle East, and Israel society, culture, and politics; Rosenzweig took courses in the Holocaust, modern Jewish history, and Israeli literature.

Although Nativ also offers a kibbutz track for the second semester, all five Bergen County participants chose to volunteer in Yerucham, a blue-collar town 30 miles south of Beersheba. Living in downtown apartments with other “Nativers” and counselors, each chose a volunteer job from a list provided by the community development organization in Yerucham, said Kogen. The majority work in local schools, teaching English or assisting preschoolers. Those who also want to volunteer as emergency medical technicians must complete a 60-hour Magen David Adom (the equivalent of the Red Cross) course in Jerusalem, as Kogen did.

Rosenzweig works at a kindergarten. “It’s great because I don’t know that much Hebrew and they don’t speak English,” she said. Every couple of weeks the youngsters learn words that start with a different letter of the aleph-bet, and Rosenzweig learns them, too — like “nadnedah” (swing) for the letter “nun.”

One of her students is among the five children of her host family in Yerucham. These families volunteer to host Nativ participants for Shabbat meals or during the week. “It’s nice to have a family you can go to when you need it,” said Rosenzweig, who shares an apartment with eight other girls.

Living in a community rather than in a dormitory gives “Nativers” an authentic Israeli experience, especially when it comes to shopping, cooking, and cleaning. They have to learn how to read labels in Hebrew, substitute for American ingredients, and figure out metric and Celsius equivalents for measurements and temperatures.

Kogen said he and his seven third-floor-walkup apartment mates have mastered the Israeli method of cleaning tile floors with a squeegee instead of a mop. “We’re all learning how to play mom and dad,” he said. “These skills will come in handy when we have our own dorms and apartments.”

“It’s very different from what I’m used to,” added Rosenzweig, “but not in a bad way. I enjoy it.” A USY member through the Jewish Community Center of Paramus, she expects to attend Rutgers University to study elementary and special education.

Kogen used a Jewish National Fund connection to get a volunteer job writing a grant proposal for Youth of Yerucham, which aims to help newly discharged soldiers go to college. “Then, hopefully they will stay in Yerucham, and with their education they will bring jobs. It’s all part of trying to improve Yerucham as a whole,” said Kogen, who has met the town’s mayor.


Wine merchant makes sweet deal for Israel

Making kiddush over wine is a mitzvah by itself. But, shoppers who buy Israeli wines at Wine Country in Bergenfield this month can do an extra mitzvah by helping Israel.

The store has announced that it will donate 10 percent of the proceds of all Israeli wines sold in May to Magen David Adom, the Israeli emergency medical services organization. The promotion, said owner Scott Maybaum, is part of “a proactive attempt to reach the [Jewish] community, connect with them, and work on positive relations.”

Scott Maybaum promotes charities along with selling wine.

Situated on New Bridge Road in Bergenfield, close to the Teaneck border, Wine Country is near a handful of Orthodox synagogues. Maybaum wanted to do something that would set his store apart from other area retailers, and this promotion, he said, would benefit not only his store, but Israel as well.

Wine Country carries more than 100 wines from 25 Israeli wineries. While kosher wine still has a reputation for being overly sweet (recall a scene from the sit-com “Frasier” where the main character and his brother pour sugar into a glass of wine and declare it to be awful, but perfect for a Jewish wine palate) the variety and quality have undergone a transformation in the past decade.

“The kosher wines themselves are getting better and becoming more available from Israel and other places as well,” Maybaum said.

Bayonne-based Royal Wine Corp., distributor of Kedem and a number of other kosher wine brands, has provided Maybaum with some help in the form of signs and special selections. Maybaum has not had contact yet with MDA, but plans to send the organization a check at the end of the promotion. He chose the charity based on his own familiarity with the organization.

“There are many good charities and if this program is successful I’d like to extend it to some other charities,” he said.

Maybaum is working on a display to draw attention to the Bergenfield Fire Department’s funding needs for its newly opened training center. His other business, the Website, an Internet retailer of gift items, promotes the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

“There are plenty of good causes out there that need funds and people can relate to,” he said. “It just takes some focus and direction.”

New Jersey is home to 10 Wine Country stores. Maybaum owns the brand, but all except two stores are franchises, and the MDA promotion is in only the Bergenfield store, which Maybaum runs and his wife, Ronda, owns.

If the store receives positive response to the promotion, Maybaum said, he will consider extending it beyond the end of the month or repeating it. He has already heard from some customers who like the idea and the charity.

“Whenever I hear that it creates more incentive for me and makes it more worthwhile,” he said. “As a retailer, you come out with ideas and try to implement them, and if no one gives feedback there isn’t that motivation to continue with certain things.”“It’s nice to hear when people do comment in a positive way,” he added. “And hopefully it’ll create some good-will.”


American Jews plan relief efforts in wake of Israeli blaze

With Israel in desperate need of aid to fight the fire ravaging its north last week, countries from four continents sent help, including those with whom Israel has been at odds lately, such as Turkey.

Now that the fire is out, the question is what will Israel’s close friends, the American Jewish community, do to aid in the recovery process?

Damage estimates are ranging as high as $75 million, and the American Jewish community has opened fund-raising mailboxes, started as emergency campaigns while the blaze was still burning.

The national branches of the three largest U.S. Jewish religious denominations launched fire assistance funds and asked their rabbis to address the topic in their sermons last Shabbat. Dozens of the country’s largest organizations, including the Jewish federation system, the American Jewish Committee, and B’nai B’rith International, also started funds.

The heaviest lifting in the nonprofit world likely will be done by the Jewish National Fund, which since Israel’s founding has been responsible for the forestation of the country.

With some 12,000 acres scorched and an estimated 5 million trees burned, the JNF has launched a $10 million campaign to be split between reforestation and other causes, such as rebuilding tourism in the area. In less than a week, JNF had raised nearly $2 million in cash and pledges. A number of organizations, such as Hadassah, have pledged to help JNF pay for more trees.

Reforesting the area will be a slow process, according to the JNF’s director of forestry for the northern region, Omri Bonneh. For the first year, JNF says it won’t plant any trees, allowing the land to replenish itself.

It’s not clear how much the American Jewish organizations’ total campaign will be; in some cases it’s not yet clear where the money will go.

The American Jewish Committee pledged $100,000 for reforestation, saying it will plant 10,000 trees to commemorate the 42 people — mostly police cadets from the Israeli Prisons Service — killed in the wildfire.

B’nai B’rith International, which by Tuesday had collected $12,000, will use the money to address unmet needs, according to its vice president of programming, Rhonda Love.

Last week, Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, deployed hundreds of medics, paramedics, emergency vehicles, and volunteers to the scene of the fire. Its American fund-raising arm, the American Friends of the Magen David Adom, had raised about $150,000 online since the fire broke out, according to its director of marketing, Robert Kern.

A number of organizations are focusing on helping Yemin Orde, a youth village for immigrants to Israel that was 40 percent destroyed in the fire.

Hadassah is providing space for 500 families dislocated by the fire by opening several youth villages with which it is associated. The Jewish Agency for Israel has made space in its facilities for Yemin Orde to continue operating.

The two overseas arms of the North American federation system have been on the ground since the fire began. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee helped out in the evacuation of residents and supplied emergency needs such as food and blankets. Now the JDC is planning to provide programs for the disabled, psycho-social support, and emergency preparedness, according to spokesman Michael Geller.

The Jewish Agency brought hundreds of children from the stricken area to Tel Aviv for respite, and planned to bring 4,000 by the end of Chanukah.

JDC and the Jewish Agency also are working on coordinating youth volunteers. In the long term, the fire could provide the Jewish Agency with an opportunity to test the value of a new strategic plan that places more emphasis on creating volunteer opportunities in Israel.

The agency has proposed a plan to focus volunteer mentors on the Druze town of Tirat HaCarmel, a development town near Haifa that was evacuated during the fire. Agency officials also have talked to the Jewish Federations of North America about creating, through the agency’s MASA program, a project to bring diaspora Jews to help in rehabilitating the animal wildlife in Israel’s north, according to Jewish Agency director general Alan Hoffmann. JFNA will be recommending programs to member federations that will assist both Jewish and Arab communities affected by the fires. This will include immediate relief that will address issues of evacuees and respite activities for children and youth, trauma relief, and professional support to professionals and volunteers. Long-term relief efforts are being assessed.

Jewish Agency officials also said they would like to set up a fund for grants to victims of the fire, much like the fund it has for victims of terror that gives out up to $35,000 to individuals and families affected by terrorism.

How much exactly the JDC and Jewish Agency will be able to do in the long run will be determined largely by how much the federations are able to raise for them. That’s not yet clear, though insiders said the federations would probably allocate approximately $2 million.

Their campaign received an early boost when the JUF-Jewish Federation of Greater Chicago immediately pledged $500,000 of its own money for the JDC and Jewish Agency’s fire relief efforts.

The question is whether money will continue to come in now that the fire has been extinguished.

“It is clear that when the fires stop burning, also the flames of philanthropy tend to die down,” Hoffman said. “But there are clear needs that have been created here. The question is how can world Jewry play a part in restoring this place to where it was before, and that will require resources.”

Use any of the links below to donate to a variety of emergency campaigns established in the wake of Israel’s devastating forest fire.

American Friends of the Magen David Adom, Israeli Red Cross:

America Jewish Joint Distribution Committee:

American Friends of Yemin Orde:

B’nai B’rith Israel Emergency Fund:

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews:

Jewish Agency for Israel:

Jewish Federations of North America:

Jewish National Fund, Forest Fire Emergency Fund:

JStreet and the New Israel Fund:

Organizations of the Conservative/Masorti movement in North America:

ORT America:

Orthodox Union emergency fund:

Union for Reform Judaism and ARZA:

Young Israel charity fund:

Zaka, a recovery and identification organization:

JTA Wire Service


Celebrate Israel Parade set for Sunday June 5

New name, new logo to honor love for Israel

The event formerly known as the “Salute to Israel Parade” will take place — with a new name and new logo — on Sunday from 11a.m. to 4 p.m.

This year the march up New York’s Fifth Avenue is called the “Celebrate Israel Parade” and is part of a series of events conceived to promote enthusiasm about Israel, according to Gabe Roth, publicist.

“It used to be a one-off event, but now we are trying to keep the enthusiasm going all year round,” said Roth.

The name change is only one part of the Celebrate Israel Project initiated by the JCRC-NY, sponsor in cooperation with the Israeli consulate and UJA-Federation in New York. It is aimed at honoring the bond between Israel and its metropolitan-area supporters.

Other events planned as part of an ongoing series include a Celebrate Israel Concert the evening of the parade and a Celebrate Israel Run in Central Park the morning of the parade.

Most Jewish day schools and high schools as well as several Jewish communal organizations from northern New Jersey are sending contingents to march and, in some cases, perform in marching bands. Thirty thousand marchers are expected.

The parade’s new logo, created by graphic designer Milton Glaser, is intended to illustrate the bond between American Jews and Israelis.

“I wanted to depict the strong bond American Jews feel toward Israel and its people,” said Glaser, who donated the image. “The Celebrate Israel Parade makes the statement that we stand with Israel through thick and thin, and that the fates of our nations are linked. The shapes and colors in the logo represent the relationship of light to life.”

UJA-NNJ is on the march

UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey will be marching in the parade.

A bus will leave the JCC of Paramus at 11:30 a.m. Cost is $18 a person, $65 per family. Strollers and large backpacks not allowed.

The new logo consists of the white five-pointed star that appears on the American flag, outlined in red, surrounded by the blue six-pointed Star of David, with a second Star of David in light blue radiating from behind.

Glaser, who helped found New York magazine in 1968, is creator of the famed I Love NY logo.

The parade’s route extends along Fifth Avenue from 57th Street to 74th Street. Viewers are encouraged to show up at any point along the route.

For the first time this year, the parade will be broadcast on television. John Huddy, reporter for Fox 5, will broadcast the parade from noon till 2 p.m. on WWOR My9. It will also be broadcast online at,, the companion site of Israeli TV’s Channel 2, and, Yediot Ahronot’s website.

Huddy and co-anchor Beck Griffin, an Israeli TV host, will interview participants at the corner of 68th Street and Fifth Avenue.

An American Friends of Magen David Adom ambulance will pull a float in the parade. MDA, Israel’s government-mandated ambulance and disaster relief organization, provided treatment and rehabilitation services to Haitians in Port-au-Prince following the earthquake in January 2010.

To commemorate the event and honor the State of Israel, the Empire State Building will be lit in blue and white on June 3, 4, and 5.

The Celebrate Israel Run, to start at 9 a.m., will take place over a four-mile, counter-clockwise course. It is to begin near SummerStage (East Drive and 68th Street), extend around the reservoir, and conclude parallel to 72nd Street, just north of Sheep Meadow.

The Celebrate Israel Concert, featuring Israeli musical artists Beit Habubot, Israela Asago, and DJ Eyal Rob, will take place at 7 p.m. at the Edison Ballroom, 240 West 47th St. The concert is free to the public but an RSVP is required. For more information on the parade, concert, and run visit

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