Everyone, whether it be people or organizations, strives for success. So, what is success? And how can it be measured?
There are probably as many definitions as there are people who have pondered the question. There are those who would say success is directly related to how much money is in the bank. Others invoke a less materialistic definition saying it is related to peace of mind, or self-realization through achievement of vision and goals. Still others will say the result doesn't matter, success is appreciation of the journey. Warren Buffett, by most standards a successful man, has said "the measure [of success] is whether the people close to you are happy and love you." Richard Branson believes success is about achieving happiness. Success is also about relationships, about achieving mutual support and happiness. And then, of course, there's the very Jewish version of success – tikun olam – repairing the world. So what about an organization's success? What is success for ESRA?
Longevity and growth may be cited as indicators of the success of an organization, and after 40 years and considerable expansion, ESRA can certainly claim to have achieved both. If we consider "the pursuit of happiness" as every person's basic right, with its achievement being a measure of success, then an organization too, may be judged by how successful it is at helping people achieve this "inalienable right". So how are we doing?
Looking around at our projects, the participants, the recipients of education and welfare benefits, and at our volunteers who make it all happen, I am pleased to say, I think we're doing a sterling job! It may not be a scientific measure, but the smiles on the faces of children at various projects' end of year celebrations, the glow on the faces of scholarship recipients, reflected on the faces of the donors, and the teary-eyed joy on the faces of volunteers in reaction to the achievements of their students, that says it all.
I have received many messages of praise for various aspects of ESRA's activities, such as thanks for the help ESRA provided to an individual or group, praise for the ESRA Magazine, enjoyment of a particular film, lecture or other event. Recently, for example, many messages were received in praise of the ESRA trip to the Chamber Music Festival in Eilat, and fundraising concert with Rami Kleinstein. But the messages that most please me, and that I add to ESRA's measure of success, are those from people who say what a difference ESRA has made to their lives.
Of course, no organization is without its ups and downs, and ESRA also has its hiccups. I do receive an occasional complaint … we do not do enough of this or that, or we have not been careful enough to ensure that something is not colored by one political side or another. And that's fine. I am happy to receive complaints as well, since we can only improve if we know where improvement is needed.
Our branches have been another source of happy tidings. I am always pleased to hear of successful branch events and I read the minutes from each unique branch with interest. Although we devote much discussion to how we can assist the branch committees in their endeavors, in the final analysis it is the volunteers in each locality that arrange their own activities and successfully drive their branches. The National office is there to help with publicity, administration, and advice, but it is the hard work of the local committee members that determines success of each branch. Recently, the Chairperson of ESRA Eilat, Carolyne, moved to the center of the country, and I was very happy to receive a message from the new Chairperson, Hannah, to say that they had a very successful event - a talk about dolphins. Such continuity and the recruitment of new people, is what is so important for our continued success.
Having said all that, I feel that the greatest measure of our success is what we do for our fellow Israelis, be it those from the Ethiopian community, our English-speakers, or any member of Israeli society in need. I would like to particularly mention two examples of our Welfare Projects, which should get the publicity they deserve: ESRA Crisis Welfare Assistance offers financial assistance to needy families or individuals, helping them through stressful times; and ESRA's Lemonade Fund provides financial assistance to breast cancer patients in active treatment and experiencing economic distress as a result of their illness. Details of these and all ESRA's projects are to be found on the ESRA website.
The secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes. - Benjamin Disraeli
Recently, much was made of the success (there's that word again) of Lt. "Y" who became a navigator in the Israeli Airforce, after completing the prestigious pilots course. "Israel Air Force Gets First Ethiopian Pilot" blared the headline in the Jerusalem Post. "He is an Israeli, of Ethiopian heritage" I shouted back. And that success for our Israeli children is part of what we are working for in ESRA; be they descendants of those who made the arduous journey from Ethiopia, struggled to leave the former Soviet Union, were exiled from Islamic countries, survived the Holocaust, or left English-speaking countries, all our children deserve an equal opportunity. ESRA exists to help them all achieve the greatest success in their lives, for their and our country's benefit.
Long may ESRA continue to achieve success, in providing volunteering opportunities, events to stimulate our minds, and assistance for those who most need it.