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ESRA: Yes, That Is What We’re Talking About

Baruch Tanaman taking a session watched by (from left) Adele Hunter, Lawrence Bertfield and Brenda Katten. Photos: Mike Altman and Marian Lebor

First National Conference: Moving forward together 

The first ESRA National Conference was held on May 22, 2016 at the Kiryat Hasharon Community Center in Netanya. Over 140 people, from all parts of the country, participated in presentations and discussions on the whole range of ESRA activities. According to the feedback, attendees found the day both enjoyable and beneficial. 

Talking heads ... ESRA’s first National Conference in the Kiryat Harsharon Community Center in Netanya

In recent years, ESRA has expanded and opened new branches in the periphery. Whereas formerly ESRA was mainly based in the center of the country, it has now become a nationwide organization.

The idea of holding a conference was raised at the ESRA Annual General Meeting two years ago by ESRA's Founder and Honorary Life President, Merle Guttmann. The aim was to bring people together, giving them the opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other. 

Concentrating ... Terry Shlomo, Glenis Bertfield, Jane Krivine and Jackie Klein

A committee, chaired by Maddy Levine and Glenis Bertfield, was set up and spent many months working on the planning and organization of the conference.

Because attendees were coming from all parts of the country, it was important to choose a location that was accessible. The Kiryat Hasharon Community Center was generously made available free of charge. Its location was ideal - ‎close to the various highways and the railway station. Volunteers from the local Netanya branch ferried those who had come by train to and from the Community Center. 

Listening to what people have to say ... Nina Zuck, Cynthia Yaakovi and Dorith Bignon
Time to eat ... all this talk is making everyone hungry!

The conference started at 9 am with refreshments and registration. The ‎official opening of the conference by outgoing ESRA Chair, Brenda Katten, took place in the large auditorium and was followed by ‎entertainment by the Maniac improvization group. ‎This 'broke the ice' and both relaxed and energized the attendees. 

ESRA members from Modiin turned out in force for the Conference

Four panel discussions then took place in different rooms, each led by a moderator and two or three panelists. Each panel discussion started with introductory remarks by the moderator, followed by a short presentation by each of the panelists. The floor was then open for questions, comments and discussion, under the direction of the moderator. 

Putting forward ideas

The topics of the four panel discussions were:

ESRA Programs
Moderator:Terry Shlomo
Panelists:Jackie Klein, Jane Krivine, Glenis Bertfield

Discussion centered round the organization, success and challenges of the lectures, social activities and trips of the various branches.

ESRA Projects
Moderator: Nina Zuck
Panelists:Marsha Goldstein, Cynthia Yaakovi, Dorith Bigon

Panelists presented some of the projects in which they are involved, such as Neve ESRA, Students Build a Community, anda project for schoolchildren at the Ruppin Institute of Marine Science. Discussion then centered on successes and issues relating to the projects set up and run by the branches.

Moderator: Marise Gordon
Panelists:Juliet Rostowsky, Gill Teicher, Jackie Graham

There was lively discussion of the various ways in which members can use their skills in volunteering and contributing to society, such as counseling, befriending, English tutoring and more.

Moderator: Lawrence Bertfield
Panelists:Adele Hunter, Cynthia Barmor, Brenda Katten

Panelists presented issues such as how funds are allocated to projects, scholarships and welfare, and approaching trusts for finance. There were many questions from the audience and a lively discussion ensued.

Following the morning sessions, a light lunch was served in the foyer. This provided a welcome opportunity for people to mingle, discuss and exchange ideas. 

Baruch Tanaman with conference organizer Maddy Levine
At the mike ... Glenis Bertfield

There were two afternoon sessions which took place in larger rooms.

The Money Trail
Moderator: Lawrence Bertfield
Panelists:Roger Lavender, Jackie Klein

This was a detailed and most enlightening insight into the sources of ESRA funds and the way in which they are managed, controlled and allocated.

Moderator: Barbara Kliner
Panelists:Rika Meyerowitz, Carol Lipman, Baruch Tanaman

Discussion centered on the importance of membership dues and ways in which membership can be increased, perhaps by wider distribution of the ESRA Magazine.

The day culminated in a very enjoyable presentation by the keynote speaker, Barry Katz. A well-known motivational speaker, Barry presented ideas about how to engage and communicate with people. His talk was both entertaining and motivating, inspiring many to use some of his ideas in their involvement with ESRA.

ESRA Lifetime President, Merle Guttmann, then closed the conference, thanking all those who had had the vision and the organizational ability to make this Conference such a memorable and successful occasion in ESRA's history, and all those who came for making ESRA what it is. 

Ilse Gluckstadt
Marise Gordon
Cynthia Barmor

Attendees were asked to fill in feedback forms, which showed a very positive assessment of the day. Some comments:

  • The pick-up service was perfect … a huge thank you to Barbara Kliner and her ‎Netanya committee for organizing this so efficiently.
  • The registration was very well organized with volunteers from different ‎committees.
  • It was wonderful ‎meeting people from different branches.
  • We learned so much about the projects.
  • We feel ‎motivated to do more.
Flowers for Smadar Alfasa, Director of the Community Center in Netanya, who allowed ESRA use of the center for free because of the work ESRA does with the Ethiopian community.
The motivator ... Barry Katz at the whiteboard.
There to film the event was ESRAvision. Log on to: to enjoy a short movie of the day’s proceedings.
Merle Guttmann ... closed the conference.

The conference had clearly met and exceeded all expectations. It encouraged and supported one of ESRA's aims: to be an organization with an interconnected branch network, which also meets the needs of each individual branch. We look forward to more conferences in the future. 



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