Event: Fighting Sexual Violence Together!

Here in Israel elections are coming up and everyone has an important decision to make about which party to vote for. If you care about advancing women’s rights, then join ATZUM’s Task Force and The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel on Sunday, February 15th to hear what the parties have to say about these important issues.

Singer songwriter Shimrit Greilsammer will kick the event off with music from her new album. The concert will be followed by a panel discussion with candidates from across the political spectrum.

Panelists include:

MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli HaBayit HaYehudi
MK Yifat Kariv Yesh Atid
MK Orly Levi-Abekasis Yisrael Beitenu
MK Michal Rozin Meretz
Dr. Anat Berko Likud
Revital Swid Zionist Camp
Rachel Azaria Kulano
Aida Touma-Sliman The Joint List
Ruth Colian B’Zhutan

When: Sunday, February 15th 19:00 – 21:30

Where: HaTachana HaRishona – David Remez 4, Jerusalem

For more details see our event on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/389298404581450/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

* We hope to see you all there!

ATZUM’s Activist Beit Midrash TAKUM Reaches Mumbai

Learning Torah; backdrop, the slums of Mumbai

Udaipur, India December 2014
Rose Pollard, GPM JDC Entwine Fall 2014 Fellow

For the past 2 months, I spent my time teaching informal education classes in a slum called Kalwa, just outside of Mumbai. As I taught, sang, and laughed in the tin-hut classrooms with my students, their eagerness and earnest expressions brought me moments of pure fulfillment. The kids’ integrity, cooperation, and joy was humbling, given the conditions of the slum around them. The images I saw every day walking to class still stick with me – naked children scampering across trash piles, pigs, goats and chickens running rampant, and families of 10 living in single, tiny rooms. It was hard to filter the difference between the comforts I am used to and the reality for those in the slums of Mumbai.

rose_takumThe organization I worked with, Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM), helped me process the contrast. GPM organized Jewish learning classes on social justice with TAKUM led by Shoshana Cohen and Rabbi Levi Lauer. Taking time to learn Torah allowed my cohort and me to take a step back from the overwhelming images and experience in Kalwa. The learning urged us to question the big picture and ask: Why are we here again? What influences brought us to India in the first place, and why is being here important?

As soon as we started reading Torah with Shoshana, I smiled, comforted by the sounds of Hebrew and the transition to analytical thought. We discussed the power of creation – in its definition, in G-d, in ourselves and in every human being. It reminded me of the power I hold as a teacher to shape each lesson and affect a child’s life. Shoshana also urged us to share what made us decide to work with GPM, reconnecting us with what we wanted to get out of the experience. 

Our time with Rabbi Lauer combined the theories of spiritual ideas to our physical work in the slums and vulnerable children with vital significance. He led us through thoughts of leadership, justice, and motivation. One concept he spoke of was the necessity to “pursue meaning, instead of comfort.” I have since considered this idea many times, asking myself:  how can I push the boundaries of discomfort to pursue growth – both in the communities I touch and myself? Rabbi Lauer’s session revealed that this question has been asked for eons, and the struggle of finding and pursuing meaning is everywhere in Jewish text.

newsletter pic takumThe sessions allowed my fellow volunteers and me to connect on a deeper level. As my new friends piped up around me, engaging and offering insightful thoughts, I felt a new appreciation for each of them. After spending so much time living, planning, and joking with one another, we were suddenly relating in a new way. Bouncing off one idea to another, we were able to appreciate each other intellectually, which for me added a meaningful layer to our cohort.

The discussions were invigorating and I left each session with new energy to bring to the classroom. I gained perspective on the discomforts and contrast in the slum– urging me to seek the meaning beyond it. From the steadfast sense of community to the boundless happiness of my students, there is so much to learn from those in Kalwa. I have Rabbi Lauer and Shoshana to thank for helping me to seek this meaning and allowing it to bring profound personal growth to my time with GPM.  

 

Rabbi Levi Lauer to Present at Jewish Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach

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Recognizing Righteous Rescuer Jaroslawa and ATZUM volunteer Katya

“Righteous Among the Nations” is official terminology to identify those, who, at great risk to themselves, protected and helped save Jewish life during the Shoah. RAN (Righteous Among the Nations), a direct service initiative established by ATZUM, has ensured for the past 12 years that every Righteous Rescuer living in Israel receives support not provided through Bituah Leumi (Israel’s National Insurance Institute) or other public or private resources, making certain that these heroes among us feel appreciated. Here is the story of one Righteous Rescuer and the ATZUM volunteer who has become her long-time companion.

Katya1Jaroslawa’s Story:  When the Ukrainian town of Zloczow was occupied by Germany in July, 1941, its Jewish citizens were subjected to horrific restrictions and suffering. Aleksander Lewicki surreptitiously began to supply his Jewish neighbors with basic supplies, medicine, and shelter. Aleksander’s bravery was matched by that of his courageous daughter, Katarzyna, and granddaughter, Jaroslawa, whose youth allowed them to act as his couriers without awakening the suspicion of the Ukrainian guards.

The three continued their clandestine efforts until the murder of 6,000 Zloczow Jews by the Germans and Ukrainian nationalists in April, 1943. Among the few survivors were two Jewish girls whom the Lewickis protected until July, 1944, when the area was liberated. The Lewickis also fed 25 other Jews hiding in the basement of a ruined house two kilometers away, despite the distance and great danger. On September 21, 1989, Yad Vashem recognized Aleksander, Katarzyna, and Jaroslawa Lewicki as Righteous Among the Nations.

In Israel, Finally: Jaroslawa, who stayed in Ukraine after the war, faced increasingly bleak social and economic conditions. She visited Israel in 1995 at the invitation of one of the people she had saved, and decided stay and accept Israeli citizenship, settling in Haifa. While some Righteous Rescuers came to Israel soon after Statehood, learned Hebrew, and integrated fairly well into society, others, especially the later arrivals like Jaroslawa, have struggled, their strongest connection to Jews remaining their wartime acts of heroism.

Jaroslawa, now 79, lives alone in a hostel for the elderly. In the words of RAN program coordinator, Levana Dorum: “Jaroslawa a remarkable woman, once told me that there was nothing left in her life except loneliness. All those who mattered to her have passed away, including her closest friend in Israel, one of the many men she saved. She is Christian, which often complicates her life in the hostel where all other residents are Jewish and fluent Hebrew speakers.”

Earlier this year, ATZUM arranged for a Russian-speaking chaplain to visit Jaroslawa to provide much needed spiritual and emotional care. However, it is Katya, a young Israeli Ukranian and Russian-speaking student who has been her steady anchor. This wonderfully dedicated ATZUM volunteer has visited Jaroslawa weekly since making aliyah as a teenager from Belarus in 2006.

ATZUM encourages and offers opportunities for Israeli youth to volunteer time and energy with the dwindling community of Righteous Rescuers in Israel. That Katya and Jaroslawa’s connection has endured so many years, during which Katya completed her army service and B.A, studies and is now pursuing a graduate degree in special education, is remarkably inspiring.

In describing her visits with Jaroslawa, Katya notes that, “Over time, our meetings have become less my giving to her and more our giving to one another. Our talks have become more open, full of emotional sharing. Far from growing apart, we continue to grow closer.Jaroslava is a remarkable woman I am privileged to know. She is a treasured part of my life; her company fills my grandmother’s place and gives me so very much.

ATZUM is privileged to recognize Jaroslawa for her bravery, and Katya for honoring the humanity of all Righteous Rescuers.

Task Force on Human Trafficking: Facing New Political Realities


Facing new political realities

The 19th Knesset lasted 671 days, less than half its designated term. The government’s vote to dissolve on December 8, 2014 and call for early elections in March 2015 was a blow to those working to bring about critical legislative reforms to protect vulnerable populations. Many important initiatives have been shelved, at least for the time being. Understanding social change as a marathon, not a sprint, the work of ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT) continues.

For the past three years, TFHT has called for passage of legislation based on the Nordic Model, the international standard designed to criminalize the purchase of sexual services and protect the prostituted person, nearly always a coerced girl or woman victim of childhood rape and/or incest. Following the dissolution of the 18th Knesset (February 24, 2009 – February 5, 2013), during which important strides were made with then MK Orit Zuaretz, TFHT maintained and increased its efforts.

From the day the most recent Knesset was sworn in, THFT lobbied and worked tirelessly with government officials from various ministries to advance the complicated process of presentation of legislation through its passage into law. (For detailed information, please see “Primer on Passing Legislation Based on the Nordic Model“.) Perhaps our most significant accomplishment of the past 22 months was bringing to the table three MKs from parties of considerably different political orientation — MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, and MK David Tzur (HaTnuah). In the next Knesset, the strategy will remain the same as we collaborate with those parties with which we have established ongoing relationships.


The next 100 days

There is much to be done to keep the issue front and center and assure we do not lose traction gained. Among other things, our work will focus on:

Legislation: Continue to liaise with past and potential legislators, and the NGO, academic, and law enforcement communities to author comprehensive legislation providing broader protection of prostituted persons than that previously tabled. Such legislation will more comprehensively address issues of demand, deterrents, and rehabilitation.

Legal: Bring to justice individuals renting or managing hundreds of brothels and “discrete apartments” openly operating with impunity; challenge increasing incidents of police violence against prostituted persons, particularly those from the LGBT community.

Advocacy and Social Action: Marshal our “Project 119” international volunteer corps in new ways during this transition between governments to better inform government ministry officials, influential media persons and Diaspora Jewish communal leadership.

Education: Facilitate continuing and new service-learning programs with the aim of encouraging informed activism towards the abolishment of trafficking and prostitution in Israel and the Diaspora.


Stay tuned

TFHT and our long-time pro bono partners which include the law firm of Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar and advertising company Y&R-Israel are committed to changing the social norms and criminal “industries” which allow women and girls to be exploited and diminished. No matter the obstacles placed in our path, we shall persevere for the stakes of human suffering and slavery are too high to abandon. To understand the need for a full-out attack on the prostitution industry, please view this 5-minute hard-hitting piece aired by Israel Social TV (with English subtitles) called The Customer Is Not Always Right.

Shop at Amazon and Support ATZUM

ATZUM is pleased to announce our participation in the AmazonSmile program. AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support ATZUM every time you shop, at no cost to you.

Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to ATZUM whenever you shop on AmazonSmile.

AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. You’ll find the exact same products, low prices, service and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will make a donation to ATZUM every time you make a purchase.

ATZUM

#BringBackOurGirls

 

 

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The fate of over 200 Nigerian girls has dominated international headlines for nearly a month.  YouTube Preview Image

These girls, aged 12-18, were kidnapped from their school by an Islamic terrorist group, held hostage and forced to convert to Islam. Shocking video footage that went viral depicts disturbing images of young girls terrified for their lives. Yet more tragic, this terrorist group is known to brutally rape their hostages, turning their captives into sex slaves.

As the global community mobilizes to attempt to end this month-long kidnapping-rape, and by extension all modern versions of human trafficking, political leaders and influential personalities are demonstrating concern via social media.  Most notably, First Lady Michelle Obama, posted a selfie holding a sign of #bringbackourgirls.

michelle obama

While digital advocacy efforts to sign an online petition have produced greater attention and resonance, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign seems a profoundly inadequate response. 

 

More than three weeks after Islamic extremists abducted the girls, world outrage is galvanizing Twitter and other social-media networks.  As advocates of ending human trafficking in Israel, and across the world, please help our efforts to indeed #BringBackOurGirls. 

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You Can Never Kill a People With Hate

Today, we honor the memories of those we lost and the strength of those we’ve had the fortune to meet. Each candle that was once extinguished prematurely, now shines a brighter light, warming the darkness of our lives.  

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Today is Yom Hashoa, the Holocaust day of memorial. Tonight, we walk the paths of memories that were left for us; memories of our families, our communities, our peoplehood. We remember the love, the loss, the courage and the strength to survive. We scribe the memories into our hearts as a reminder of who we were and who we continue to be. 
Seen on the streets of New York, this woman reminds us that “you can never kill a people with hate.”

“I lived in Poland, so we were persecuted from the first day of the war. First they took us from our home, then they put us in a ghetto, then they made us march, then they sent us to the camps. I was separated from everyone, but my brother later told me that my father froze to death. But I have children now, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren– a great big family, all of them educated. Look at everything that came from just one person who escaped. Just goes to show that you can never kill a people with hate. There will always be someone left to carry on.” – Humans of New York, Sept 6, 2013.

Passover and Modern Slavery

modern day slaveryIn Israel and all around the world Jews are preparing for Passover. While everyone has their own way of celebrating the holiday, most Jews will dedicate at least one night to retelling the story of Pesach and remembering when we were slaves in Egypt. Yet, most people tend to think of slavery in a historical context, making it difficult to relate to the experience of slavery.

However, slavery persists among us. The United Nations estimates that 27 million people are enslaved worldwide, meaning that more people are enslaved now than at any other point in human history. Although slavery has been outlawed in every country, there isn’t a country in the world free of it – including Israel. Whether we like it or not, slavery continues to be a pressing and modern issue.

Pesach is a particularly appropriate time to consider questions of slavery. During this holiday we encourage you to think deeply about the Jewish people’s history of oppression. It is this history that positions us to uniquely understand the suffering of others still living in bondage. ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking has developed a guide to help you and your community talk about and address modern slavery.

Click here to download this Passover supplement. – Pesach-and-Modern-Slavery

This holiday let us celebrate the freedom we were granted, by advocating for the freedom of others. Hag Pesach Semach, and a season of freedom from hate and oppression for all Israel and all of humankind.

 

Prostitution in the Country That is meant to be a Light Unto the Nations

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What does it mean to be a Jewish State? Every day, thousands of Israelis and Jews across the world ask themselves this very question. Yet, all too often when answering, we focus on the demographics of a Jewish state as opposed to the values a Jewish state upholds.

When was the last time we asked ourselves, “Would a Jewish state allow men to purchase the bodies of women and children?”

For the past 11 years ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT ) has been working tirelessly to eradicate sex trafficking and prostitution in Israel, and has seen significant changes.  Unlike in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Israel is no longer a major destination for sex trafficking victims.  Israel has established shelters for victims of trafficking and has passed strong anti-trafficking legislation; however, Israel unfortunately has still failed to address the demand for prostitution.

In the country intended to be a “light unto the nations,” the act of purchasing sexual services is legal, therefore, creating a market in which 15,000 prostituted persons, 5,000 of whom are children, are sold daily.  This, plain and simple, forgoes the strong value of what a Jewish state should stand for.

Every day the Task Force works to raise public awareness about the realties of prostitution, and lobby the Knesset to pass legislation that would criminalize the act and provide social services for those who wish to escape the brutal world of prostitution.

Please join our efforts in strengthening the values of our Jewish state.  Even if you only have a few minutes, you can help. Join Project 119 and receive weekly emails from TFHT staff to send to a Knesset Member.  Copy, paste and send. It’s that easy.

These emails are an essential part of our lobbying campaign and encourage the MKs to advance legislation proven to drastically reduce the number of people in prostitution. 

To learn how you can help, click here to join Project 119.  We implore you to think about what a Jewish state looks like, and to work with us to ensure that Israel realizes the dream that it was founded upon.