Wizo hands 311.
(photo credit: Photo by Assaf Shilo/Israel Sun)
When Yvette Woldenberg was a child growing up in Barranquilla– Colombia’s fourth largest city located on the steamy tropical shores of the Caribbean Sea – she would often observe her grandmother meticulously preparing for a meeting of the local chapter of Women’s International Zionist Organization, the Jewish social welfare sorority.
“She would put on her blouse and pin and go out to meetings where they would raise money to help Israel,” Woldenberg animatedly recalls. “I’ve been around it all my life.”
Now herself a mother of three, the 35-year-old Woldenberg is continuing the family tradition as the head of a WIZO chapter in Miami, where she moved after meeting her husband.
Woldenberg is currently in Israel together with 50 other WIZO activists from around the world participating in the group’s Aviv program, a week-long seminar cultivating the sisterhood’s young leadership. The group of women, whose ages range from late 20s to 45, is as international as they come.
Participants flew in not only from the US, which is home to the largest Jewish population outside of Israel by far, but from 16 other countries, from Australia to Brazil. One participant even arrived from Mumbai, India.
Tova Ben-Dov, World WIZO executive chairperson, spoke on Tuesday about the program, which is held in Israel every year.
“The idea behind the Aviv seminar is to produce continuity for international Zionist Jewish leadership,” she said. “The seminar gives tools to the next generation of WIZO leadership in Israel. It strengthens their Jewish and Zionist identities and the intensive encounter with Israel enables them to share ideas with one another.”
Karen Bogner may be the participant who traveled the greatest distance to take part in the program. The 35-yearold is head of a WIZO chapter in Sydney, Australia, and she too said that WIZO is something that runs in her family.
“My story is a multigenerational one,” she said. “My grandmother was involved with the organization, and my mother in law was the president of WIZO in New South Wales. When I joined, my sister in law announced I was co-president and I’ve been with them ever since.”
WIZO, which was founded in the UK in 1920, serves two basic functions.
It’s a place where women can get together to contribute to Israeli
society, raising money for various causes from day care centers for
working mothers to shelters for abused women. At the same time, it’s a
place for participants to feel a sense of community, a platform for
like-minded Jewish women to interact and share experiences.
Bogner and Woldenberg have day jobs. The former is a clinical
psychologist and the latter an interior designer. Their involvement with
WIZO is voluntary.
Each proudly said they would like their children to become involved in the organization when they become adults.
“Once you’re involved you can’t stop,” Woldenberg said. “It is in your blood.”