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Changing Lives

Hinda Raphaela Prottas-Buchbinder and her son Jonah Seth Rafal.

"Denver, Colorado: Hinda Raphaela Prottas-Buchbinder, First Vice President of Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., has been recognized by Cambridge Who's Who for showing dedication, leadership and excellence in all aspects of financial services."

What is less known about Hinda is her generous nature and philanthropic deeds, her zest for life and joy in her family.

I was introduced to Hinda through Joel Lichterman, the Cantor of the BMH BJ Congregation of Denver, Colorado which has been a long time supporter of Esra's Netanya sewing centers. The following article from the Denver Jewish press tells the story:

Making a Difference - One Family at a Time

A new project is underway in the Jewish Community of Denver. One of our society members, Hinda Buchbinder, has created a Charitable Foundation to benefit not one, but two Ethiopian families living in Israel.

The organization is called the Prottaska Fund and it is being handled by The Denver Foundation. The genesis of the endeavor "just came into my head one day" Hinda said. "After looking back on my life over the last many years, it occurred to me after almost 22 years of working in the financial services industry, that it was a long and arduous ordeal to win the respect of my male peers and to get 'the corner office' several years ago. (Hinda was the first female and Jew to achieve this). It was difficult being a woman in a predominantly male industry. It was even more difficult being a Jewish woman. " As Hinda reflected back on her career she shuddered at the thought of what she had to endure, the obstacles thrown in her path, and it occurred to her that, well, it could have been worse... she could have been Jewish and black.

Suddenly the lights came on and she realized that there are black Jewish women in this world and many are in Israel. The original plan was to create a charitable foundation and henceforth yearly give a single Jewish woman with children the opportunity to live in dignity, be self-sustaining by educating her and have her children receive cultural enrichment in addition to both a religious and secular education. It was her understanding that the country of Israel is having a difficult time assimilating the Ethiopians as many of them, while having religious freedom at long last, are not fitting in. They have essentially been taken from an agrarian society and dropped in the middle of a Western democracy that is Israel. "Just imagine us as Americans, as Jews, being dropped in the middle of the Belgian Congo, not knowing the language, the customs, the mores and not used to the food. Yes, it's true, the Ethiopians went to Israel by choice but this in no way changes the challenges they have had to endure. So by starting with a family, (in this case two) every year and giving them the chance to be the essence that they really are, we simply decided what better time than now and if not now, when?"

The Prottaska Fund's board consists of Hinda's son, Jonah Seth Rafal, Dr. Andrea Tatkon-Coker, Donna Darzentas, Sandy Schiff and Marlena Siegel. "There are always reasons for not doing the right thing at the right time. The stock market is down, one has other obligations and my board and I have chosen to be unreasonable. Every year the intent of our plan is to fund an indigent Jewish family somewhere in the world and give them the chance to live life as we are sure G-d intended for it to be. It is on the shoulders of Jews here, everywhere and now, that the future of following generations will stand."

We found two families in Netanya – one is a divorced mother with one child who was in the middle of studying and could not afford to continue her education. Hinda provided the funds for her to finish her studies at the Seminar Hakibbutzim in Tel Aviv as a group leader guiding immigrant parents. Leah has, in fact, just completed her mid-term exams with a 95% average and started her practical work in May. Her son, who is 9 years old, received a brand new state-of-the-art computer – the first new item he has had in his entire life.

The second family is Tamar Lavi's family. She is a mother of eight whose husband died suddenly two years ago of cancer. The husband and father was a man of high esteem in the community, a teacher of Amharic, and the sole supporter of the family. His death was such a severe blow that when we met his wife and children, they were still reeling from the shock. Walking into their apartment we realized that in order to get this family on their feet again, we'd need to start by providing them with the basics of better living conditions. Hinda agreed to install a new kitchen (they didn't have one) and supplied beds for the children who'd been sharing what they had. We walked into a house of heavy mourning; the 19 year old son was lying in bed and refused to even talk to us about getting an education or job training. The mother couldn't speak and the younger children were quiet and withdrawn. Even when the beds arrived, we could hardly get a smile. Last week I went to inspect the new kitchen and found, as well, a new family! Happy, smiling mother, kids running around as kids should and the oldest son asking about getting some kind of trade. We're now looking at education for both the son and the mother who says that she is finally ready to face the world again. She told me that when we first came in, she had been visited by so many people/charities and been promised so many things, nothing of which came to fruition, that she didn't believe this time would be any different. I can do no more than quote a copy of her letter to dear Hinda:

To: The Dear Donor

Re: Thank you letter to tell you how much my family and I appreciate what you have done for us.

How are you? I hope you are well and feeling as good as we are.

We, the Lavi family, would like to thank you from the depths of our hearts, for the things that you have done for us. Thank you for making our home livable again. You cannot imagine the joy you have brought us.

Our father (may he rest in peace) was a good and gentle man. He volunteered in the community in many capacities and never stopped contributing his time and knowledge in our community. In this way, you remind us of him. A good and kind person. Someone like you should be granted all the blessings in the world.

From the children: When our father died, we were so lost. To lose a parent is the hardest thing that can happen to young children. We have been grieving for a long time and have found it very hard to move forward, but now, with your generous spirit you have brought some smiles and joy into our lives again. We never believed that there could be someone like you who would help us get back onto our feet again. It is not only the fact that you gave us beds and a kitchen – you have brought us a ray of hope and a lesson that all is not lost. You have shown us that we can now continue, even without our father, and will now find the strength to support ourselves.

From the mother, Tamar: Thank you so much. I really cannot tell you how difficult life was for me. I could not find place for my children in my grief. And you have shown me, by giving of yourself that I too must give of myself again. We shall now move forward together. You are a wonderful woman.

Thank you and with great respect.

The Lavi Family

And the letter from Leah to Ms. Hinde Buchbinder:

I would like to thank you from my heart for the help you have given me in funding my studies for this year at the Seminar HaKibbutzim. Without this support I would not have been able to continue my course this year.

Also, it is important for me to emphasize my appreciation of your concern for the future of my son. I must tell you that for many years we have been using old second hand computers and the help of outsiders to print the work for my studies and my son's education. The receipt of the new computer and printer has given us both so much excitement and joy.

It is an honor to have met someone who is a true giver and cares for others.

With thanks: Leah

Please note: In the interests of privacy, the names of the donees have been changed. 

 

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