Helena Glaser 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
The Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO) sent a delegation to India this week, led by President of World WIZO Helena Glaser.
The federation's visit marks the first time that WIZO has sent a representative to India, and Glaser is hopeful that this is only the beginning of WIZO's activities there.
WIZO's connection with the Indian community began when the Judah Hyam Synagogue in New Delhi contacted the organization and expressed its desire to establish ties with the women's leadership in Israel. The Indian Jewish community is losing many young people to assimilation, and does not have the wherewithal to maintain strong bonds with outside Jewish communities without the aid of a larger organization.
Glaser stressed the importance of not only meeting with these communities, but also of establishing a network through which they can be in constant contact with Israel and the international Jewish community.
"I have realized that it is up to us to try and locate Jewish women and get them involved, especially in eastern Asia," she said.
As WIZO is primarily concerned with women's issues, a large part of the federation trip to India will be devoted to a women's conference that is being held by a non-Jewish organization. Because the conference is hosting organizations that share the same goal to promote women's status worldwide, WIZO has found it fitting to participate.
Glaser views the two goals of WIZO as being of equal importance: "In addition to allowing these women to be Jewish and Zionist, we enable them to promote their status throughout the world," she said. "We will use all our resources to guarantee that women are equal in society."
While this first delegation's visit to India will be relatively brief, the hope is to use this meeting to establish a network through which a continued relationship can be established. WIZO plans to strengthen the Jewish communities in India by sending Israeli women to speak to their Indian counterparts about feminist issues and to educate them to set up forums for discussion.
The plan is to have Indian representatives at the annual WIZO Enlarge General Meeting in Israel; the next one is scheduled to take place on January 13, 2008. The meeting regularly brings in close to 1,000 women from remote communities worldwide, and is one of the ways WIZO maintains close bonds with its members.
With 50 federations across the globe and over 100,000 members internationally, a solid support network and good technology is key to ensuring that communities keep in touch. In some cases, the communities are located in remote areas with only one Internet connection for an entire village, making it especially difficult to maintain contact. Even so, WIZO manages to include these peripheral communities within its network, which is essential as many have no Jewish leadership or ties to organizations other than WIZO.
The organization was founded in England to promote women's rights in 1920, and today WIZO is based in Israel with branches all over the world.