Exodus to Empowerment (Guest Author: Dana Talmi)

July 8, 2010

Dana Talmi profiles Avraham Nega Admasu for
PresenTense Magazine’s recent “Heroes” issue

Name: Avraham Nega Admasu
Home: Rishon L’Tzion, Israel
Profession: Material engineer, father, community leader
He’s a hero because: He’s empowering Ethiopian youth

Who is Avraham Nega Admasu?

A 38-year-old father of three, material engineer, and community leader, Avraham Nega Admasu empowers Ethiopian youth in Israel to connect to their culture and to integrate into the broader Israeli community.

Admasu is part of a garin—a Hebrew word that means “seed,” a collaborative community working together for the betterment of society, under the umbrella of the Friends by Nature.

The nonprofit organization works to empower and educate the Ethiopian community in Israel. Committed to planting the seeds for a successful and vibrant Ethiopian community in the town of Rishon Letzion, the garin is one of 10 such communities dedicated to strengthening the Ethiopian community from within.

Ethiopian Beginnings

Admasu’s path as a community leader is informed by his life story. He grew up among 11 siblings in Kabazit, a small village in northern Ethiopia.

During his childhood, he tended livestock with his father and helped the women bring water from the nearby well. In 1984, his family sold their livestock and bribed the necessary local officials, enabling 52 family members to leave the country secretly and make the 12-day trip to the Sudanese border by foot.

— Don’t stop reading now. Continue on to Israel. —

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What Can We Expect from the Israel Teachers Corps?

April 22, 2009


Israel has a new program for Americans and native English speakers: the Israel Teachers Corps.

Modeled on Teach For America, the Israel Teachers Corps seeks to train Americans and new English speaking immigrants to teach in Israel’s disadvantaged schools for one year. Perks include Hebrew language instruction and housing assistance. The criteria are:

“A minimum of one semester of informal or formal educational experience, commitment to service, the Jewish community, and a desire to take on new challenges.”

I don’t like to criticize Israeli or Jewish initiatives intending to do good, but I can’t keep mum on this one. As you know from reading The New Jew, I was an 8th grade teacher for Teach For America in a severely disadvantaged school in Phoenix, Arizona. It was not a positive experience.

Although Teach For America (TFA) has seen significant success, it has many notable weaknesses as well. Based on this description of criteria, the Israel Teachers Corps seems vulnerable to these same problems.

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Making a Difference: Children of Ramle & Sir Nicholas Winton, Patron Saint of Jewish Children

February 11, 2008
Photo sourced from Wikimedia
Sir Nicholas Winton, Patron Saint of Jewish Children

Good People Doing Good Things

I admit it. I love feel good stories about people making a difference. Every once in a while, I feel we’re in need of a good dose of stories about people who prove our faith in humanity. Here are two examples.

Chess Club for Children of Ramle

Here’s a video about Daniel Prozumenshivov, an American chess player who started a chess club for minority and immigrant kids in Ramle, a low-income suburb of Tel Aviv.

Looks as if David and his partner are MASA volunteers.

Saint Nicholas


And while we’re on the topic of doing good, let me bring your attention to a man I have dubbed Saint Nicholas.

Sir Nicholas Winton of Britain, 98, has been nominated for a 2008 Nobel Peace for his work in organizing rescue missions to save 669 Czechoslovakian Jewish children from concentration camps in 1939. He secured safe passage for the children through Germany and found them foster homes in Britain for the duration of the war.

Sir Winton’s heroic action was secret until his wife discovered documentation in the attic detailing his efforts. Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, does not consider Sir Winton a righteous gentile because his family was originally Jewish, having converted to Christianity before he was born.

Keep reading to learn more about Sir Nicholas Winton and
his incredible efforts.

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Bronfman Big Idea Series: “Renewing the Jewish Pioneering Spirit by Volunteer Work in the Negev”

January 14, 2008
Western Negev After Rain
Photo by Yaniv Ben-Arie, Western Negev a Week After the Rain

How can we re-awaken the Jewish pioneering spirit with strengthening Israel and helping to make the Jewish future more secure? Dr. Jason Goodfriend’s proposal for the Bronfman Big Idea contest presents the possibilities.

This is the 6th entry in the Bronfman Big Idea Series.

About the Author

DrJasonGoodfriendJason H. Goodfriend is a senior forecast analyst for a major corporation. He holds a PhD in Systems Engineering (decision sciences) from the University of Virginia. He has held a variety of posts in industry, government, and academia, and he is the author of the textbook A Gateway to Higher Mathematics .

Dr. Goodfriend has volunteered within the Jewish community on numerous occasions. He has always been deeply concerned for the Jewish people and for Israel ever since his parents played Yiddish and Israeli folk songs to him when he was a young child.

The Executive Summary

The goals of the proposal for “Renewing the Jewish Pioneering Spirit by Volunteer Work in the Negev” are the following:

  • Establishing a large-scale volunteering program for Jewish young adults and teens to help the Jewish National Fund, the Daroma Association, and other organizations working to develop the Negev region of Israel
  • Creating programming for and trips to biblical sites in the Negev and other parts of Israel as part of the volunteer experience
  • Designing a marketing and outreach program to the Diaspora to promote the Negev volunteer experience and to make the Jewish community worldwide aware of the efforts being made to develop the Negev
  • Creating programming that focuses on the central importance of the desert and the pioneering spirit in Judaism

The Proposal by Jason Goodfriend


The Desert as a Place of Spiritual Rebirth for the Jewish People–
The desert has played a central role in the history of the Jewish people. The patriarchs and matriarchs sojourned in the Negev. The Israelites received the Torah in the desert, and then wandered there for 40 years as they fused into a people. Moses and Elijah, as well as countless others, fled to the desert to “find” themselves.

The narrative history of the Jewish people is infused with stories of the desert as a place for finding ourselves and developing our connection with G-D. There is something about the desert that fosters a spiritual reawakening.

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Political Donation will Help Israeli Arabs Volunteer for National Service

December 26, 2007
Photo by Zainub

Don’t you wish sometimes that politicians would just set aside the their differences and join hands to work on making the world a better place? Isn’t that why they wanted to work in public service to begin with?

Avigdor Lieberman, the heavy hitting leader of Israel’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party, is laying aside his political guns and partnering with Arcadi Gaydamak’s Social Justice Party to promote Israeli Arab volunteering.

Promoting National Service for Israeli Arabs


Yisrael Beiteinu has just donated $128,600 to promote Israeli Arabs’ participation in Israel’s National Service. Reports from the Arab community assert that 76% of Arab youth would like to volunteer, but don’t know how to go about it. There is very little precedent and what with Israel’s often hostile perception of Arabs, it’s hard to get started.

Lieberman states: “These people need to feel wanted here in Israel and not the other way around… the volunteering issue is a crucial one, this kind of volunteer work can bridge gaps between Jews and Arabs and carries a positive message.”

Growing Number of Israeli Arabs in National Service

The number of Israeli Arabs in the National Service (Sherut Leumi) is growing: 2007 has the highest numbers of participation yet. Israeli Arab enlistment has grown almost 100% from 2006 to 2007 with 600 Arabs now serving in Israel’s 12,000 person force. Volunteers typically serve the community directly, working in schools, community centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and other social institutions.

Resistance from the Arab community is high and potential volunteers face expected challenges. Ha’aretz reports:

Still, many Israeli Arabs oppose such volunteering, calling it an attempt by the Jewish establishment to blur the Arab-Palestinian identity of the younger generation and “Israelize” them. Another claim is that the state is using the national service to indirectly recruit Arab youth for a kind of military service.

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Jewish Princess Desert Odyssey: Adventure in the Negev

December 5, 2007

NatalieCamel JPDO

Please join me in welcoming home (to England) Natalie Susman of the Jewish Princess Desert Odyssey. Let’s hear how it went.

UPDATE: How You Can Help– The Cost of Simple Happiness

Natalie wants your support in helping Israeli children in need.


“I am hoping to be able to make a difference to those wonderful kids and keep fundraising, and being involved hands on when possible. Please do all you can to see that we get all the help and support to these wonderful children. Just enough for a doughnut or two to two to feed each child would be incredible.”

I think we can do better than that. Let’s say a doughnut for each day of Chanukkah costs 20 shekels total. That’s $5 or about 2.5 British pounds– pretty cheap for making someone’s week a little happier.

Natalie urges, please go to the Jewish Princess website and make a contribution to a child’s life. For more information on the project and on Natalie, see the links below the story.

My Desert Odyssey by Natalie Susman

Well I am home, my nails were broken, my hair and skin were dry, I had a stinking cold and there was not a muscle in my body that did not ache, but you know what, I was and still am on top of the world!

I have successfully completed my desert challenge. Let me give you a little insight as to what this entailed and my motivations.


When we arrived in Israel, we spent time at one of the children’s homes that we were raising money for. We spent Shabbas there and I was ‘twinned’ with Natalie, a 14 year old girl who has been all but abandoned by her parents.

She and the other children were thriving in this loving environment, but they had been let down so many times in their lives that they were detached and wary of being close to anyone. She was my motivation during the challenge.

MorningStretch JPDO

I shall give you an example of a couple of days that we had to endure in the Negev desert. Before my husband and kids would have had breakfast, I would have risen with the sun (or probably before, as the nights were freezing, the ground hard and the animal noises somewhat scary) and already climbed the desert’s tallest mountain. Of course, what you go up, you must also descend!

The next morning, also before breakfast in the UK, I had abseiled twice down a cliff and again climbed back up. Why twice? I have no idea, but it seemed like a good idea at the time motivated by the children that we were raising funds for. After this abseil, where you literally walk backwards off a cliff, we then drove our off road vehicles to the next challenge, and my heart sunk! There were bicycles!

DesertClimb JPDO

Don’t worry that I had just abseiled, and climbed mountains, slept under the stars – not funny with the freezing temperatures and roaming animals, ridden camels, driven down mountain steps, changed tires and climbed walls……I was petrified of a bike! I had not ridden for 25 years and I was terrified!

Just think of the children… so I did, and I built my bike (yes, nothing was easy), and off I followed. I was the last one of the group and kept having to stop from nerves, but I cycled 10 miles in the midday heat, and all this was before lunch!

I hope that this gives a little insight as to the challenge of the week. All this and more has given me such motivation to keep fundraising for these children. When we returned to the airport to fly back to the UK, the kids came to wave us off……this was probably the most continuity that Natalie had had from an adult outside of the home for many years.

DesertDescent JPDO

I shall continue the work and support from here. I wish to thank all those that sponsored me for this fantastic cause. If you wish to sponsor me, please go to the Jewish Desert Princess website and click on my profile (you can see photos of the challenges there too).

Now trying to get some form of normality going and must stop this urge of wanting to sleep out in the garden!


Thanks, Natalie! I loved hearing about your experience helping Emunah support children in need and participating in the Jewish Princess Desert Odyssey. What an amazing adventure.

Tell Me More

I am always wanting to hear more about Jewish volunteering experiences. Please contact me if you plan to participate in such an activity and would like to write about it in The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy or if you would like me to write about your organization. My e-mail is mnorton [at] TheNewJew.org.

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Top American and Canadian Doctors Donate Time and Expertise to Israel

November 23, 2007


There are many kinds of giving. Money has the best reputation, but pure acts of generosity are valued above all else.


Last week I wrote about Amitai Ziv, who received the Charles Bronfman Prize as the founder and Director of the Israel Center for Medical Simulation, which helps reduce medical error and promote training simulations in medical communities.

Today we have even more proof of the importance of this effort.

Visiting Doctors Train in Israeli Emergency Medicine

APF SimulationPhoto2

Thirty top American and Canadian doctors will gather in Israel next week for a course in “Medical Emergency and Disaster Preparedness.”

The course trains visiting physicians in emergency medicine scenarios unique to war and disaster situations so that if Israeli doctors are called to the front lines of war, the doctors who are now training will be fully capable of taking their place in hospitals across the country.

This is a selfless act of giving to the people of Israel.

Dr. Mike Frogel, Vice President of American Physicians Fellows states:

“Israel has earned global respect for its incomparable emergency medical care. This has come at a dear price.

If we can help alleviate the strains of war-time health needs through this remarkable partnership with our Israeli colleagues, then we stand to both help the people of Israel in a critically important way and also draw immense satisfaction from our personal commitment…

The invaluable experience and lessons learned will also be applicable to Emergency Preparedness planning back home in the US and Canada.”


APF Logo

The year 2007 marks the 10th anniversary of the program, which is sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Health, the Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps, and the American Physicians Fellowships (APF).

American Physicians Fellowships is a nonprofit foundation which supports American and Canadian doctors in receiving emergency medical training in Israel. It also maintains a list of medical volunteers on-call for Israel.

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