Israeli Lions of Judah with their Oklahoma City Counterparts.
(photo credit: STEPHANIE GRANOT)
The Israeli Lions of Judah hosted their Oklahoma City counterparts last Thursday at an intimate event featuring a Challah Baking and home cooked dinner in the home of one of the Israeli Lions, Varda Ben Baruch.
Israeli Lions of Judah (ILOJ) is the local affiliate of the Jewish Federation’s International Lions of Judah, a philanthropic organization numbering 16,000 Jewish women worldwide dedicated to Jewish causes in their home communities and in Israel. They hail from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Holon, Herziliya, Ramat Hasharon, Modiin, Bet Shemesh, Zichron, Hod Hasharon, Ramat Hasharon, and include Israeli women from all walks of life, including a candidate running for Mayor of Ramat Hasharon, Nurit Avner.
Sigal Bar-On, Chair of ILOJ, reflected on the importance of connecting with Lions around the world, “We learn from each other different ways to broaden our circles and get our work done. We also feel like ambassadors as we connect women from around the world to Israel. We truly empower each other as this strengthens the Federation,” said Sigal.
Edie Rubman has led Oklahoma City’s Federation for 24 years, “As a small Jewish community of only 2300, we feel that connecting our greater community to Israel is one of our roles. We’ve sent four governors of Oklahoma, among other members of state government to Israel”. The Oklahoma City contingent of nine women, five of whom had never before been to Israel before, said they were not deterred by the current security situation.
“The possibility of cancelling our trip never came up, “said Susan Robertson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Israel Exchange, a non-profit that works to develop agricultural, educational, cultural and commercial projects between the state of Israel and the state of Oklahoma. She has been coming to Israel every year since 1989. “No one ever had pause about coming. To tell you the truth I have never had any pause about coming to Israel. Quite frankly worse things happen in American cities”.
Ruthie Oren, President of ILOJ, described the mission of the organization. “Improving the lives of new immigrants and disadvantaged girls and women in Israel is our goal, so they can acquire the capability for economic independence and develop community leadership skills”, said Ruthie, who made Aliyah from the United States about 25 years ago.
Ruthie emphasized the importance of philanthropy in Israel, “We used to feel that just living here in Israel and sending our children to the army was doing our part, was our philanthropy, but it’s not enough”, and highlighted some of ILOJ’s projects, The Hatachana Haba'a Mentoring Program at Sapir College, The Olim Beyahad project for the Employment, Empowerment, & Leadership of Excelling Ethiopian Israeli Women, the Wings project, supplying services for Lone Soldiers in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, and United Hatzalah - Women's EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and Family-Safe Instructor Course.
An elaborate dinner had been entirely prepared by the evening’s hostess and author of several cookbooks, Varda Ben Baruch. Before partaking, the women participated in a challah baking led by Varda, who explained the mitzvah of “hafrashat challah” – separating out a piece of dough in a symbolic gesture of charity.
“Tonight is a special night,” said Varda, “Together we can do great things”.