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Together for a better tomorrow

ESRA recently held its Annual General Meeting. This is the time of the year when we take stock by looking back at what we have achieved as we look forward to a new year filled with activities and the continued opportunity to give support to the wider community.

This year marks two years since I had the privilege of becoming the chairperson of ESRA. It has been a most exciting and meaningful period in my life - an opportunity to understand the dynamism of this organization. Just like a diamond, there are many sparkling facets to ESRA. The volunteering aspect results in a two way giving process, first to those who require help and second to ourselves. There can be no doubt that those of us involved in volunteering would say that we receive more than we give. This great magazine (thank you Merle) is distributed because of those volunteers who come together every two months to help with the massive organization required for its distribution. I remember quite early on in my ESRA career coming to Gan Rashal and seeing the fantastic job carried out by some dozen volunteers packaging the magazines that were ready for hand delivery by other volunteers in various areas. One recent oleh said: "It has made such a difference in my life – I have found friends and now feel at home thanks to ESRA".

There are those volunteers who receive satisfaction by helping a youngster with the English language – be it with the Bagrut oral examination in high schools, pupils in primary schools or in the Netanya English Center that encourages children to write in English .

The recently appointed English Tutoring Coordinator, Michael Levinsohn, former head of the junior section of the American International School, gave an update of his activities to the Executive. Among all the interesting facts and challenges he spoke of, one sentence stood out and that was the question as to whether we adequately express our appreciation to our volunteers. In my view, we can never say "thank you" enough times. On December 4th this year we will once again be distributing awards to twelve very special volunteers nominated by their branches or ESRA committees. The process for choosing the worthy candidates is about to begin.

ESRA is proud of the numerous projects it supports – giving vital assistance to those who need help most. I sometimes wonder if we offer enough opportunities to our members to see for themselves the difference ESRA makes in the lives of so many. We would love our branches to visit our projects and feel a part of them. It is wonderful to see for oneself the difference we make to a child's life through our "Right Track Centers" and our "Students build a neighborhood" projects. It is rewarding to see how youngsters, from deprived backgrounds, can blossom through our "Project of Excellence" scheme. All require funding and we are forever in need of extra funds to support these "life changing" programs. We constantly endeavor to find new ways of raising funds and are always on the look-out for potential donors whom we would like to introduce to our projects. Seeing is believing and we know that once a potential donor has seen he/she will believe.

It has been heartening to view the expansion of ESRA, with new groups founded throughout our three regions. This is due in no small measure to the dynamic leadership of our Regional Coordinators, Jane Krivine in the North, Glenis Bertfield in the Center and Janet Kiesari in the South. We have welcomed Tiberias (Jordan Valley) and Haifa in the North; Givatayim /Ramat Gan and Ramat Aviv in the Center, and in the South Jerusalem and Rishon's ESRA New Generation (ENG) group of young people. The introduction of regional branch meetings has proven to be an outstanding success. Because we have expanded northwards and southwards it also means the center is not as easily accessible as it was previously when ESRA branches were mainly based in the Tel Aviv and Sharon area. It has been a joy to participate in these regional meetings and to learn the significance of ESRA especially to recent retirees. What is interesting, especially in the North, is that those who have been working all their lives in Ivrit, on reaching retirement age, are looking to return to their roots – namely the English language and perhaps, more importantly, a culture that they were born into. ESRA has become the vehicle for making their lives more meaningful.

Perhaps the most positive aspect of these regional gatherings is the opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas, all of which are of enormous benefit not only to the participants, but to ESRA as a whole. The three regional chairs participate as well as ESRA's Executive Director, Yonit Gurfinkel. Personally it has been one of the highlights of these past two years to be able to attend these gatherings. It is an opportunity to hear of the challenges and successes of our individual branches.

ESRA can look forward to the coming year with confidence. We are alive and kicking – exploring ways and means to continue our outreach program and give additional support to those who benefit from ESRA's projects. It has been a great pleasure to work with our wonderful volunteers in our branches and on our Executive as well as with ESRA's small but totally committed professional staff.

Together we can and we will make a difference! THANK YOU! 



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Friday, 31 March 2023

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