Photo: Vadim

ESRA – Embracing Differences

As I write, news is coming in of the terrible slaughter of innocent young people in Manchester, England, and I am seething that our beautiful world is beset by enemies of humanity who are prepared to kill and maim in the name of whatever ideology they follow. Hopefully none of our families or friends are directly impacted by this latest travesty but I know that many of us have dear ones in Manchester. Trying to overcome the anger due to young lives lost, I can only wish you all well.


Fifty years ago, many of us volunteered to come to Israel at the time of the Six Day War. Some remained in Israel, some returned to the diaspora and many made Aliyah later. And here we are today, still volunteering for Israel, with ESRA. Back then we were concerned about Israel's survival. Half a century later, we are working for Israel's future, in the knowledge that we have a strong country, albeit with just a few problems. With concern for its members, the needy of our society and especially for the education of our youth, ESRA is driven by the intensity of the same ideals that brought us to volunteer in Israel back in 1967. As ESRA is apolitical, I will leave aside any discussion of our path from then until now. Suffice to say that whatever our politics, all of us in ESRA share a love for Israel, and we care deeply about the future of our country and its citizens. And what better way to show that love, than to volunteer for an organization that does so much for the future of our children.

ESRA's projects are designed to help the recipients help themselves. By helping our children succeed in their education, we empower them to become self-sufficient and productive citizens. By working in the neediest areas, we help children develop worthwhile values and keep out of trouble. These are not idle slogans. Due to ESRA projects, real change has occurred in the fabric and character of these communities, change that has been noted on many levels and applauded. Students Build a Community continues to be our flagship project, and it is our fervent wish to be able to bring this project to other communities in need. The key is having the volunteers to help run it and the local bodies to partner with us.

"Strength lies in differences, not in similarities" ― Stephen R. Covey

Our Campaign this year was dedicated to the theme, Embracing Differences. Not only do our members and volunteers come from many English-speaking countries, but we assist those who have come from an even greater number of countries. We help those who made Aliyah from diverse countries with cultures that are entirely different from those we grew up in. But we are all Israelis, whether we speak Amharic, Hebrew, English, or any other language, and we share a common future. In large part, that future will be determined by the education of our children. That is the very good reason so many of ESRA's projects focus on education.

ESRA is managed and run by volunteers together with a small professional staff now led by our energetic Sunny Marshansky, who not only ensures getting through all the day-to-day work, but keeps things running with an eye on future development. By the time you read this, we will have had our AGM and elected our Executive, which, together with all the other dedicated volunteers working in the branches or nationally, will run ESRA for the coming year. Details of the new Executive will appear in the next magazine and on the ESRA website.

ESRA's volunteering spirit is personified by Janet Kiesari, our Southern Regional Coordinator. Although recently hospitalized and still recovering from illness, she insisted on attending the regional meeting in Modiin, and as branch chair of Rishon Lezion, she has been in constant contact regarding the branch's two projects. The Rishon projects, which by the way are great examples of what can be established locally by ESRA branches, include the Darbuka (hand-held drum) Club, teaching children from distressed backgrounds about rhythm and allowing them to bang out their frustrations! This project is totally supported by the Rishon branch. The second project provides scholarships to students in exchange for their mentoring children at risk; this project is run in association with Aharei (יירחא), a social educational organization that develops young leadership and promotes social involvement among youths from development towns, absorption centers, boarding schools, and shelters. Kudos to the Rishon branch, and we wish Janet a full and speedy recovery.

It is amazing to note that in two years we will be celebrating ESRA's 40th Anniversary. The occasion will be marked with an event worthy of our organization, our volunteers, our members, and our Life President and Founder, Merle Guttman.

With warm regards and wishing you all interesting and entertaining activities, satisfying volunteering, and an enjoyable and cool summer.