Friday, July 19, 2013

Three Women on a Mission: Minsk and Israel

Leigh Kole Johnson enjoying time with Birthright participants
Last week, three San Diegan women participated in an inspiring and most meaningful experience on the Jewish Federation of North America’s (JFNA) Campaign Chairs & Directors Mission, along with 95 other participants from all over North America. Leigh Johnson, Women's Philanthropy Chair, Lisa Kornfeld, Women’s Philanthropy Campaign Chair, and Debbie Kempinski, Major Gifts Officer, Women’s Philanthropy, traveled over 24 hours to arrive to Minsk, Belarus to see the life changing work with the elderly, children and young adults and the amazing programs being done with Federation dollars.  Together, we spent three days in Minsk, Belarus, learning about the horrors of the Holocaust that decimated a large part of the Jewish community of Belarus, while also meeting children and young adults who are now embracing their Jewish heritage. A common theme of the Mission, “Why Minsk? Why now?” Out of despair comes hope and along with the promise for a brighter future. We met young leaders of the community, many who are past Birthright participants, who are inspiring and engaging others in the community to create a vibrant rebirth and rejuvenation of the Jewish community of the Former Soviet Union.

Lisa Kornfeld at the Minsk JCC participating in a program for senior citizens

From Minsk we travelled to Israel, to spend four days in the Jewish homeland. Once again, we saw in action our dollars making the difference in lives all across the country. We met with middle school students who attend a special science and technology program at a new state-of-the-art World ORT school in the north. We then met “youth-at-risk” involved with the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) that provide after school programs that involve not only the youth, but their families and teachers as well, to work together to bring about real change, and learned about a American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) program that empowers disabled parents and restores their belief in themselves allowing them to successfully parent their children. This is just a sample of some of what we experienced together. Stay tuned for more info on this incredible journey!

Debbie kempinski and Lisa Kornfeld in Belarus at a Jewish summer
camp enjoying time with thirteen year-olds from Minsk.
Truly inspiring work being done with our Federation dollars! TOGETHER, we are doing extraordinary things and impacting our Jewish community around the globe. 
Debbie Kempinski and Lisa Kornfeld met with Tamara, Righteous
of the Nations, who saved three Jews during WWII.

Leigh Kole Johnson participating in
Jewish cemetery clean up in Belarus


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