Returning the gift

As we gather together this Passover to celebrate our freedom from slavery, we are celebrating more than just our freedom from oppression. We are also celebrating our freedom to appreciate the richness of our lives, to work toward a stronger future, and to help those in need. I want to share with you the story of one young woman who has done just that. Hani Ovrutski, a 22-year-old biology teacher, has not only benefited from our Federation's investment in Israel, but she has passed that benefit on to others in need. Hani was fourteen when she first enrolled in Heznek L'Atid, an educational program for economically disadvantaged youth in Israel, which the Federation supports. Like so many other kids who grew up in the periphery regions of Israel, Hani - the child of Russian immigrants - was getting less than an adequate education. Her school in Kiryat Malachi, a development town in the southern region, did its best to educate a diverse immigrant population, but Hani knew that if she wanted to get ahead academically, she'd have to look elsewhere. When her mother heard about the Heznek L'Atid program, Hani didn't let the opportunity pass her by. Seven years and a Hebrew University degree later, Hani volunteers her time as a teacher in the very program that helped her to soar.

Hani Ovrutski, graduate of Heznek L'Atid program

Every Friday, Hani travels for over an hour from her home in Eilat to the Johanna Jabotinsky Youth Village in Be'er Yaakov, where she tutors kids in the same situation she once found herself in. Hani said that she was inspired to become a teacher because of the support she received in the Heznek program. "I don't know where I'd be now if I hadn't gone to Heznek," she said. And where she is today isn't where she's stopping. Her ultimate goal? To become the Israeli Minister of Education. Having come this far, she knows there's no limit to what she can achieve.

How we got to know Hani Last week, a delegation from Federation traveled to Israel for our annual consultation visit. Ten members of our Israel & Overseas Committee, along with three staff members, visited the core programs that we fund, as well as a sampling of those that we may fund in the future. Trip participants also had the opportunity to meet with members of our Amutah, our Israel-based non-profit board which for twenty-five years has provided invaluable advice on which programs are most worthy of our philanthropic dollars. I am deeply proud of the work we do in Israel, and this trip only confirmed to me what I have long believed: that our work in the Jewish State is more than just important - it is crucial. At this critical moment in Israel's history, our Federation is helping to ensure that Israel continues the work of building the vibrant and just society that its founders so boldly envisioned more than half a century ago.

For twenty-five years our Federation has been ahead of the curve. Federation allocates funds to programs that support equal opportunity, education, job training, and pluralism - all issues and needs which have been identified by the Israeli government as top priorities. From the Olim Together program, which helps place Ethiopian immigrants in jobs related to their educational background, to the Shalom Hartman Institute, which promotes pluralism and Jewish identity, our Federation is invested in the key issues of the day.

Arab-Israeli preschoolers do arts & crafts as part of the Echad program

Echad program' s Arab-Israeli preschoolers doing arts & crafts

Together we have the freedom to change the fate of those less fortunate and to ensure a thriving community - starting today. As Jews we are part of a proud tradition in which we say to all our People, "I claim you and your plight claims me. Be part of my story and I will be part of yours." Hani is just one example of how a gift to Federation enables vital social service agencies to reach out to Jews in Israel, around the world, and in our own neighborhoods. Help us continue conveying these stories of optimism to our children and grandchildren when we sit down together at the table this year by making a gift to the 2010 Annual Campaign.

Thank you for your support. We wish you a joyous, reflective and hopeful Passover.

Jennifer Gorovitz, Acting CEO, Jewish Community Federation

Categories: Israel


March 29, 2010


The Federation