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Chairman’s Message 197

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Variety and Unity

As this issue of the magazine arrives on the heels of our festival of light, I hope it finds you all still enjoying the aftermath of the warm glow of Hanukkah, homes filled with family, and everyone filled with latkes and sufganiyot!

The hanukkiot, or menorahs, we use at Hanukkah come in a wonderful array of sizes, shapes and colors, from stately silver heirlooms to modern colorful glass or ceramics, and of course the handmade hanukkiot proudly lit by each child. This variety is given unity because, whatever they are made of, all hanukkiot share a basic structure. They all have 8 lights and one shamash (the auxiliary, attendant candle) raised above the others. And Jewish households throughout Israel and the world over, whether religious or not, celebrate this festival in much the same way. It is this acceptance of difference, of variations on a strong unwavering theme, that expresses what is best in the human spirit. It is a basic thread that runs through Judaism, uniting Jews of all colors, and ethnicities. And in fact, it made me think about the variety we find among ESRA's branches – different groups of people with different preferences and in different locations, but all united through our unified branding and our shared goals and social values.

"Society is unity in diversity."George Herbert Mead, American Philosopher

ESRA has branches in over 20 locations in Israel, from Nahariya to Eilat. And each branch is different. Some have a large membership and others a more intimate social group. Some concentrate their social activities on lectures while others have get-togethers at a café. Activities cater to those who like hiking through hills and valleys, as well as to those wishing to visit museums and theatre. Our many education and welfare projects reflect a similar variety. Each branch has their chosen project – whether knitting sweaters for the needy or tutoring English, special courses for high school students or music enrichment for schoolchildren, after school centers, upgrading whole communities or providing legal assistance to Ethiopian Israelis – nearly all of our branches have some involvement in a huge range of wonderful projects aimed at improving the lives of so many Israelis. Each of our branches have their unique local color and their own character while being part of a strong national organization. While we thrive on variety, we maintain a unity of purpose. As a national organization it is important that we maintain our unified image and values. We ensure that all areas of ESRA operate within the law and according to the regulations governing amutot (charities).

ESRA Magazine also reflects "variety in unity", with its rich array of articles and varied content, all within the consistently professional structure of the magazine. This issue of our magazine also arrives at the start of ESRA's 40the  Anniversary year, which will be marked by a major event on 14 May 2019 (save the date!). It is a rare achievement of longevity for such an organization, that four decades after Merle Gutmann first established ESRA we can celebrate such a marvelous landmark. And ESRA continues to go from strength to strength.

Coming soon! Before we get to our major anniversary event in May, we have our annual fundraising concert with a very special Israeli artist, also in celebration of our 40 years. ESRA's 40th Anniversary Gala Fundraiser on 23 December 2018, features Rami Kleinstein, who has been a top star in Israel, delighting audiences for some 30 years. Rami will perform his Israeli hits as well as songs from around the world, singing both in Hebrew and English. I look forward to seeing you there.

Finally, I feel I cannot ignore certain world events. The horrific murder of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue was the tip of the iceberg which is antisemitism. Always present, it is now once again making headlines. We mourn those killed just because they were Jews, and we are thankful that Israel stands strong as a refuge and a home for the Jewish people – a home and a people that accept variety within their unity.

I look forward to everyone contributing their own brand of variety, to the unity that is ESRA.

Baruch

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Saturday, 16 October 2021

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