WIZO sets sights on improving Israel’s standing in world

Since the start of the global recession WIZO, like many other Jewish not-for profits, has had to cope with diminished donations.

WIZO 311 (photo credit: Koko/Israel Sun)
WIZO 311
(photo credit: Koko/Israel Sun)
Some 150 members of the Women’s International Zionist Organization, a Jewish activist group celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, gathered in Tel Aviv on Monday for its annual Meeting of Representatives.
WIZO chairwoman Tova Ben-Dov welcomed the delegates from 24 countries to the event at the Hilton Hotel and spoke about the organization’s significant contribution to Israel.
“During the last 90 years WIZO has stood for integrity,” Ben-Dov said. “It is our ongoing commitment which makes WIZO an icon of Israeli society.”
Since its founding in the UK 90 years ago, WIZO has spread around the world to almost every country with a Jewish community. It employs around 5,000 people in Israel and runs dozens of day care centers, women’s shelters and other charitable projects.
However, since the start of the global recession WIZO, like many other Jewish not-for profits, has had to cope with diminished donations.
“We’ve carried out a cutback of NIS 15 million to the core budget and it was very hard,” Ben-Dov informed the delegates.
“Here in Israel we are doing everything possible to approach funds and foundations for support. I know our members in the [WIZO] Federations are making an extra effort.”
One of the issues on the agenda on Monday was Israel’s political standing in the world.
Michal Moda’i, the widow of the late minister Yitzhak Moda’i, spoke with alarm about the challenges the country is facing on the international arena.
“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using the same terminology used by another dictator in Europe 70 years ago,” she said, drawing parallels with Adolf Hitler. “He is making every effort to achieve nuclear weapons.”
Moda’i later lashed out against the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, saying it ignored Israel’s human rights record.
“Israel is the only country in the region which offers equal rights to every citizen regardless of their color, gender and religion,” Moda’i said.
“Women are not stoned to death in Israel. Homosexuals are not hunted down in front of cheering crowds. Everyone is equal in front of the law and even a president can be tried for rape and molestation.”
One of the more interesting group of delegates was from a Mediterranean country that cannot be named for fear of repercussions against its members.
“If you write about us, we will be in jail,” one delegate implored. “Please forget we were here.”
Ben-Dov said the WIZO group meets clandestinely at the rabbi’s house without the authorities’ knowledge. She added that WIZO groups exist in several other countries where public opinion is not always favorable toward Israel, such as in Greece and Latin America.
WIZO President Helena Glaser chose to touch on the relative dearth of WIZO representation in Eastern Europe, reiterating her call to expand its operations into that part of the world.
“I resubmit my suggestion.
WIZO cannot fall behind other Jewish or Zionist organizations that have already established themselves in that region,” Glaser said. “In the age old debate about whether leadership is congenital, I believe it can be acquired and therefore, it is imperative that WIZO Federations put emphasis on preparing the future leadership on all levels – local, state, national and international – so that WIZO never find itself without the right people in the right positions at the right time. Again, this calls for innovative and ego-free thinking and focused theme programs. Emphasis should be put on nurturing those committed haverot [members] who can advance and benefit our movement and organization.