Last night, together with other local women and girls, I attended an awards ceremony for a fund in memory of Yaffa London-Yeari, as a representative of the Beit Shemesh Womens' Council. The award was presented to Miri Shalem as the founder and chairwoman of the Women's Council.
Miri and the BSWC received the award for the work in promoting dialogue between different "tribes" of Jews in the city of Beit Shemesh. The Council is composed of women from different backgrounds, different countries of birth, different religious views, different educational backgrounds, coming together to support each other as women - with shared needs for health, safety, parnassa, etc. We also each have unique needs, and part of the Council is to support others even when our needs are different.
The camaraderie of the Council is a model to Jews everywhere, that we can talk, argue, laugh, share, agree, disagree, support other Women - we can find the common ground and develop it.
The Yeari family is a model of caring, a desire to assist women of all streams and stripes, to encourage women to volunteer in their communities and improve life in Israel.
It was a wonderful experience to feel the appreciation of the Yeari family for Miri's intiative.
Added to that was the experience of having the opportunity to learn about others, to hear from the 3 other women who were recipients this year, as well as recipients of pervious years' awards. Last night was a chance to learn more about the wonderful people who make this country beautiful.
The other recipeints of this year's awards are:
Galit Abu-Aharon, age 40ish, mother of 4, lives in Kiriat menahem in Yerushalaim, an "underpriviliged neighbourhood". She spearheads a group of 30 women from her neighbourhood who never had academic training. The group are learning in David Yellin college, in a program put together specifically for them ("הזדמנות שנייה", Second Chance). They are now finishing their 3rd year of a 4 year B.Ed., learning one day a week. As they are neighbours, they support each other and keep each other going strong. Despite the warnings of doomsdayer's that half to two-thirds wouldn't make it through the first year, all 30 finished their first year, and most are more than half-way to their degree already.
Tal Ohana, deputy mayor of Yeruham. She has started programs, including צעירים בירוחם (a play on the Hebrew expression "young at heart"), in order to help residents reach their dreams, including higher education. She recruits Jewish youth from Morocco, so that they make aliya rather than move to Canada or NY.
Galit Deshe, of the Women's Lobby (שדולת נשים), dedicated to helping women, especially mothers, be able to work.
One of the women who had received the Yaffa London-Yeari award in a previous year is a metapelet, a babysitter, who organized a group of metaplot, and now has made contact with almost 3,000 metaplot all around the country. As metaplot, these women work with no social benefits. By organizing all metaplot in the country, regardless of their religious affiliation, she is working to give them status that allows them to also have pensions, sick days, perhaps even continuing education and professional guidance.
All in all, I cannot say that I agree with all the goals of everyone who receives this award. In the same way, the family that gives these awards do not appear to be Orthodox Jews, and yet they gave 50% of this year's awards to Orthodox women representing, among other needs, the needs of Orthodox women. They might not agree with everyone on a personal level, but in priciple, they are supporting women who are improving their communities. The emphasis is on working together, supporting each other. This cooperation strengthens all of us. When wonderful people work together, we can be much, much more than the sum of our parts.