Honoring my father’s legacy in Israel

My father was born in Poland. In 1941, after he lost one brother to the Nazis, the Soviets took control of his hometown and he and his family were deported to Siberia, where they survived the war.

Even visionary Israel Bonds founder David Ben-Gurion could not have imagined multi-million dollar institutional investments in Israel bonds. (photo credit: ISRAEL BONDS)
Even visionary Israel Bonds founder David Ben-Gurion could not have imagined multi-million dollar institutional investments in Israel bonds.
(photo credit: ISRAEL BONDS)
Supporting Israel is in my DNA. Throughout my life, my father invested in Israel bonds, in part because he believed it was a smart investment, but also out of a sense of duty to support the Jewish state. It’s a lesson he passed down to me and the rest of our family.
My father was born in Poland. In 1941, after he lost one brother to the Nazis, the Soviets took control of his hometown and he and his family were deported to Siberia, where they survived the war. After the war my father made his way to Cuba, where he joined a vibrant Jewish community, met my mother and began his family. In 1961, my family, like the great majority of the Cuban Jewish community, fled Cuba, in our case to Puerto Rico, where I was raised.
My father’s love for Israel and its people came not just from a deep religious belief, but from an admiration and pride for its achievements. The perseverance, ingenuity and bravery that captivated my father so many years ago, and that we witnessed on our first family trip to Israel in 1970, were on full display during a recent women’s delegation to Israel organized by the Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds, which I had the honor of attending along with my daughter, Michelle. What we saw there was remarkable, and once more cemented this feeling of pride and reawakened our desire to be part of this miracle.
I’ve visited Israel throughout my lifetime, but had not been back in many years. Friends and colleagues who visit regularly told me of the “new Israel” – just how modern, dynamic and booming the country has become, both in the major cities and the countryside – and I was eager to see it with my own eyes. That’s why, when a friend invited me to participate in the recent delegation to Israel along with the Bonds’ Women’s Division, I jumped at the chance, bringing my daughter along.
Aside from seeing all the change and progress in Israel since my last visit, I knew that by joining with 40 other women from different parts of the US and Canada, I would have a unique view into Israeli society. What we saw there together was eye-opening. Israel is a small nation facing outsized challenges and threats. Despite this, we saw again and again organizations and individuals – especially women – dedicated, sometimes at great personal sacrifice, to creating a better future for themselves and for Israel. We met heads of nonprofits, entrepreneurs, politicians and educators, and with each visit we learned about a complex reality and met inspiring people rising up to address each challenge.

FOR EXAMPLE, take the case of Israel Flying Aid, a volunteer-based organization led by two remarkable women: Gal Lusky and Maya Zuckerman. The group leads regular missions to conflict zones in the region, such as Syria, to administer direct on-the-ground support, including medical aid and humanitarian assistance, at great personal risk to all involved. Despite the danger, these women make it their business to actively seek out the most afflicted areas in an already-unsafe environment and do what they can to help those in need. This was truly inspiring for me and for my daughter.
Another example of Israel’s problem-solving spirit is HaGal Sheli – or “My Wave” – a nonprofit organization we met with in Bat Yam. HaGal Sheli teaches surfing to at-risk youth as a tool to help improve their lives, career prospects and educational outcomes. The organization has already helped 3,000 people turn their lives around.
We met the leaders of this innovative social enterprise and we spoke with one young woman who had struggled with drugs and homelessness before coming to HaGal Sheli and finding a new path forward. Her story was both moving and inspiring, and served as another example of how Israel is working to lift up women in need of a helping hand. As a professor of the law of social enterprise, I was especially pleased to see this example of social entrepreneurship at its best.
Lastly, we visited Beit Shemesh, a diverse city outside of Jerusalem, where we met with Mayor Aliza Bloch, an effective and well-liked former principal who won a long-shot bid for office. Walking through town with us, she engaged with her constituents face-to-face, demonstrating firsthand what leadership looks like. She was a portrait of female tenacity and empowerment. My daughter and I were honored to meet and learn from her.
Before we knew it, the delegation visit was over. I feel very blessed to have been able to share this amazing experience with my daughter, honoring my father’s memory by supporting Israel and passing along this legacy to the next generation.
What Michelle and I both know, and felt acutely throughout the trip, is that the drive to solve big problems and tackle daunting challenges that we saw at Israel Flying Aid, HaGal Sheli, Beit Shemesh and in the many other places is the same spirit that impressed my father every time he visited Israel. His pride and love for Israel are now ours.
The writer is an active member of Israel Bonds’ Women’s Division.