As we prepare to celebrate Chanukah, a holiday commemorating the fight for religious freedom, I think back to Bnai Zion’s founding nearly 110 years ago. Our organization was created with the mission of providing a lifeline for the people of Israel. During those early days, before Israel was established as a state, the people of Israel were already looking to the Jews in the Diaspora for financial, emotional, and social support. Bnai Zion was there alongside other organizations working to create a sense of independence for the people of Israel. They required sustenance, medical care, and other basic necessities. They turned to us for help, and we did not disappoint them, just as we do not disappoint them today.
I’m very excited about where our organization is headed, even though it has taken us longer than anticipated to get there. We are embarking on a path that will make Bnai Zion stronger than ever before. I am very pleased to report that we were given a four-star rating by Charity Navigator, which reflects one of our goals as an organization: to keep our overhead as low as possible, so that every possible penny goes to the people and the land of Israel.
In keeping with our goals, we have begun partnering with Yad Leah, an organization that proves what individuals can do when they are determined. Two women, Jessica Katz and Karen Milch Thaler, had a vision of supplying clothing to people in need in Israel. Together, they built an organization which last year sent nearly five million dollars’ worth of clothing to Israel. Their mission is closely aligned to ours, and with the approval of the Board of Directors we now officially have made them a project of Bnai Zion. I am extremely excited about this development, which opens the door for several possibilities. Firstly, it adds to our presence in the US, where people can actually see the beginnings of Yad Leah’s work when they volunteer at the new Bnai Zion Yad Leah Center in New Jersey. Secondly, it fits in so beautifully with our projects, particularly the Ahava Village, which always needs clothing for the residents. This is just one example of how we are constantly working to find worthy projects that mirror Bnai Zion’s mission.
Today we are embarking on new ventures. We are meeting with new people. We had a wonderful Women’s Leadership dinner honoring Dr. Edna Edrich and Nadine Epstein, followed by a successful annual gala honoring Kevin Roche and Shoshana Bederman. It is not easy for organizations to evolve, but we’ve done it at Bnai Zion, and will continue to work towards our mission going forward. So as we think about Chanukah, let’s think about freedom and the ability of a small group of people like the Maccabees to overcome all the odds. Think about Israel overcoming all the odds it has had to face to become a great force for freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Bnai Zion has been there for them for 109 years, and with G-d’s help we will be continue to be there for them for another 109.