Social Action Headlines (click for full report)
30 of May 2008: Painting the family room for the neonatal intensive care unit in shaarei tzedek hospital
19 of May 2008: Jewelry and Mezuza Making for Kallot
9 of May 2008: Yom Haatzmaut Carnival with Ethiopian Children
6 of May 2008: Spa for Bat Melech Women's Shelter
May: Bake off for the Pina Chama for Soldiers
31 of March 2008: Bridal Shower for an Underprivileged Ethiopian Bride
28 of March 2008: Meals on Wheels for the homeless
23 of March 2008: Dancing and singing for the elderly at Yad L'kashish
14 of March 2008 - Purim Carnival for Ethiopian childrenMarch 2008 -The Kedma SDEROT committee
1 of February 2008 - Winners of the Choir Competition sing for the elderly
25 of January 2008 - Spa for the elderly
22 of January 2008 - Tu Bishvat Planting at Herzog Psychiatric Ward
19 of January 2008 - Kol Chatan V'kol Kallah Choir Competition
14 of December 2007 - Helping at a farm in Ashkelon
9 of December 2007 - Spa for Victims of Domestic Violence
4 of December 2007 - Gush Katif Pre Chanukah Shopping Spree
9 of November:2008 - Pina Chama for soldiers
Social Action Report
Soldiers in Israel have to stay out late in the cold and the heat, the rain and the snow. They don’t get so many breaks and they certainly don’t get home-baked cookies. The Pina Chama in GushEtzion tries to alleviate some of the stress in a soldier’s life by giving them just that- home-baked goodies. The residents of Gush Etzion take turns baking for the soldiers, but sometimes these rotations of good will don’t make enough for all the soldiers that visit.
Kedma students wanted to help so we decided to have a competition. Each student would bake up a storm and bring their treats to the Pina Chama. The soldiers would get to taste each cake and decide who wins.
Kedma did two such competitions this year. Each time the students were amazed at what they saw. The Pina Chama is an unimpressive caravan in the middle of nowhere- from the outside. On the inside one can see every single unit’s flag and badge covering the walls. There are little tables with flowers and colorful table cloths waiting for the soldiers to come and take a break.
Kedma students covered the tables with cakes, cookies, ice creams and other treats. They made so much that even the freezer was filled to capacity. Many soldiers came to taste and the students were even honored with the presence of the second in command of Gush Etzion. He gave a very moving speech saying that as a career soldier for 11 years he sometimes feels lonely. He feels like the people do not support the soldiers and are not grateful for all the self sacrifice that goes into being a soldier. However, when an occasion like Kedma coming to the Pina Chama happens and bringing so much for the soldiers, he realizes that this is not true. He realizes that everyone cares. Even Jews from so far away who are only here for a year recognize that the soldiers need support. With tears in his eyes he said that our coming was a tremendous comfort for him.
While the major Ethiopian immigration occurred in 1985 and 1991, there is still a slow trickle of Ethiopian Jews into the country that is under the radar of most Israelis. Kedma, an international student organization that focuses upon social action, recently ran a Purim festival to welcome 21 new Ethiopian Jews currently studying in Talpiot Mizrach (East Talpiot). Studying in a special class to help ease their acculturation, these children have not yet experienced the rhythm of modern Jewish life that many of us take for granted.
In order to teach them about Purim in a fun environment, thirty Kedma volunteers representing various seminaries around Jerusalem, such as Shaalvim for Women and Midreshet Harovah dedicated much time and effort to prepare for this past Friday's carnival held at the school.
Kedma's Shira Zimmerman greeted the children warmly and proceeded to engage them in the many activities offered at the carnival. The children pinned the scepter on Queen Esther, made groggers, had their faces painted and threw hoops to win prizes. The Kedma volunteers were especially inspired by the new immigrants' ability and desire to write Hebrew messages, which accompanied the mishloach manot that they created and presented to one another.
While the cultural and language differences posed some challenges, both the children and Kedma volunteers deemed the enterprise an overwhelming success, encapsulated by the smiles and camaraderie evident throughout the day. The new immigrants not only learned a great deal about Purim, but it was clear that they deeply appreciated the attention that they received from the foreign students, especially as they struggle with a new country and culture.
While Kedma currently runs
an array of volunteer programs within Israel, it is clear that the
success of this program will translate into further activities for these
As Yael Schonfeld, student coordinator of the event said, "Before I went to Friday's carnival I thought that I would brighten up a child's day or even change one child's world. However, as I left the classroom at the end of the carnival, I realized that these amazing children have brightened up my day and changed the way that I perceive life."
March 2008 - The Kedma SDEROT committee
The community of Sderot is plagued almost daily by Quassam rocket attacks. The attacks have caused many deaths, injuries and terrible mental distress to Sderot residence. In addition, the city’s businesses have been severely damaged as many are afraid to shop in outdoor unprotected places.
Students studying in Israel for the year could not remain unaware of what is happening in Sderot and many have resolved to put energy into assisting the fraught community. Kedma Student Organization created the “Sderot Committee”, a committee consisting of dedicated students who are willing to take a big chunk of their time to help Sderot. The committee organizes projects that aim at raising the morale of the people and helping struggling businesses.
Miriam Trent from the Sderot committee worked initiated a program to sell cookies from a Sderot bakery in various Seminaries in Jerusalem. The students in the Seminaries buy the cookies for families they go to for Shabbat. Cards are placed in each box of cookies that explain what is going on in Sderot and how to help. “It was very successful so far”, said Miriam. “It is very convenient because girls need something to buy for their families. At the same time it raises awareness about the situation.”
Another project being organized by the Sderot Committee is an arts and crafts supplies drive. Students in various Seminaries have put up posters and are creating fundraising activities to raise money to buy supplies for the children’s centers in Sderot.
Victoria, a student in Midreshet Harova who is co-organizing the project said, “We want to let people know that these people are living in the Land we were promised and it is amazing that they are there. Everyone should help them out.”
On Friday February 1st, the top three choirs from the kol Chatan choir competition visited the elderly at the Beit Tovei Hair retirement home. Shira Zimmerman, Kedma’s projects coordinator said: “We felt there was a need for the students to not just make money with their talents, but to learn how to make people happy. What better way to do that then to sing and bring the Shabbat spirit into a home for the elderly.”
And they did just that. The students came with musical instruments and a lot of good will. The choir sang songs from the competition as well as other favorites. The residents even requested a few or their own including Yerushalaim shal Zahav and heveinu shalom alechem. The students sang and danced for over an hour. Even those who could hardly move still raised their hands to clap and sway along with the tunes.
The students felt that they gave a lot and gained a lot from coming to the program. They arrived in the middle of snack time and the place was completely quiet. Normal sounds of talk and laughter could not be heard. By the time the choir was ready to leave there were smiles all over and requests for even more songs.
On Friday January the 25th Kedma volunteers with a talent for beauty tracked out to Talpiyot, to an out of the way old age home to give the women there a day they would not soon forget. Many people would not think that an old age home is an appropriate venue for a spa. Kochava, the activities director of pinat shloshet haavot old age home, disagrees. She thought of the idea when she saw Kedma doing a similar spa program for a women’s shelter on Chanuka. It is not just young women that need pampering and reminding that they should take time out for themselves. This is common among women of all ages and especially for the elderly who have seen their looks fade over the years.
The students set up stations for hair, massage, makeup, facials, manicures and even pedicures! Many of the residents did not speak English or Hebrew, but through hand motions and body language the girls and the women understood each other. The residents were very happy with their new look and the girls left with a feeling of having made a difference. Girls commented that "when we first came in the place looked dull and the elderly bored. However, once we started setting up, they got interested and excited. The male residents were even jealous...!".
22 of January 2008- Tu Bishvat Planting at Herzog Psychiatric Ward
This Tu Bishvat a group of female psychiatric patients in Jerusalem’s Herzog Hospital participated in the festivities. Kedma student volunteers, equipped with pots, seeds and soil, came to sing and plant flowers with the patients. The planting was done in mostly one on one with the volunteers encouraging the patients to work independently.
“We worked specifically with patients who are often ‘forgotten’ by the general population and encouraged the volunteers to overcome their ‘fear of the other “said Batya Zamshtein Health Projects Coordinator for Kedma.” We wanted to get the patients to do something where they put in effort and have something lasting of their own.”
A few of the volunteers are in Kedma’s medical clowning internship program and arrived at the program dressed up.
“We got as many patients involved as we could, spent time with them afterwards, and let them do as much as possible. Tried to make them work independently “said Danielle Spizlinger, a medical clown in Sha'alvim for Women. “It was a nice change for them to have people come visit. It doesn’t seem like they get that many visitors.
“It was exciting for them to see us dressed up”, said Rachel Stern, one of the medical clowns from Be’er Miriam, “We had a good connection with the patients. They were singing with us. It was really amazing to see how happy it made them. It was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had.”
Jerusalem's beautiful Pavillion hall will be echoing the melodious harmonies of 18 different seminaries Saturday night January 19th. Songs of varying styles, tempos and themes are scheduled to be preformed by the musically inclined of the young women spending their year studying in Israel. The students have tirelessly been preparing for months for the annual inter-seminary choir competition coordinated by Kedma, an international student organization, and Yeshiva University.
"There are so many musical girls but even girls who don't have much musical background are very enthusiastic and come to all the practices." said Freddy Laury, student choir head for Midreshet Yeud, "There's a piano in the basement. We have practices every day for the different parts and different times. We've even downloaded a computer program that helps us write our own sheet music."
The choir competition, which began almost 10 years ago, is a highlight for many female students here on one year programs. Most religious women don't have many opportunities to perform due to restrictions from Jewish Law. The competition is a platform for the students to express their talents in from of a large audience. They have a lot of fun, cheer on their friends, and root for their own schools all while helping a good cause.
The competition, called "Kol Chatan v' Kol Kallah" donates all of the proceeds to underprivileged women. Part of the money goes to Rabbanit Kapach for brides who can't afford a wedding through her "Hachasat Kallah" fund. Rabbanit Kapach, winner of the Israel Prize, founded the fund in order to help needy brides with wedding dresses and household necessities. The rest of the money goes to various chesed projects assisting battered women, mothers who can't afford baby supplies, and women who are elderly or have been hospitalized.
The money is collected by the students both by selling tickets and through fundraising done by each participating school. Among other projects, students make raffles, sell breakfasts, and even design cookbooks in order to raise money for the event.
The event will take place Saturday night January 19th at the Pavillion hall in Talipot, Jerusalem.
A group of students from Midreshet Harova and Midreshet Yeud spent last Friday morning in Ashkelon lending a helping hand to former Gush Katif farmer, Ronit Balaban. The disengagement has cost her 5 million shekels, as she did not even receive half of the compensations promised by the Israeli government.
“She told us about her huge farm and her home that she worked so hard on,” said Lauren, a student volunteer, “and how now she has no home, just a caravan which she may not even have for long.”
The 12 volunteers helped Ronit move plants from smaller pots to bigger ones, a job that would have already been accomplished if she had all the help that she needed.
“My feeling is that we were forgotten by the government.” said Ronit to Kedma, “The students really helped me, both by helping with the physical work and by lifting my moral and reminding me that we have not been completely forgotten by the Jewish nation.”
Sunday morning, the 5th day of Chanukah about 20 Kedma students put together a Spa for women who had been victims of domestic violence. The hall in Har Nof was transformed into relaxing and fun Spa with student-run booths offering different services. The 40 women who came were able to get massages, facials, manicures, have their hair styled and get a makeover. In addition, a booth was set up selling beauty care products that the women could purchase using a gift certificate they were given.
The activity was run by Kedma in conjunction with “Bat Melech”, a non-profit organization which operates shelters for religious women who are forced to leave their homes due to domestic violence. Twice a year Bat Melech organized a day for women who had been in the shelter and left. Rikki, coordinator for Bat Melech, explained that their organization tries to help the women reclaim their sense of self. Before the shelter they had lost themselves altogether and days like these are part of the rehabilitation process. “The women don’t have this.”, said Rikki referring to Kedma's Spa ativity, “they neither have the money for such a thing nor the very idea of treating themselves.” Regarding the success of the activity RIkki said, “It was amazing. It was the highlight of their day. The students were wonderful- both in the warm and friendly way they related to the women and in their professional attitude,
Yael Katzeff, a student participant in Sunday’s activity said that initially she was nervous that the women would feel they were being pitied but during the activity saw that they enjoyed it a lot. “It was a great opportunity to connect with different people in Israel, said Yael, “and it was wonderful to see that a little hairdo and a chat could help. You can make someone’s day in such a small way.”
The night before Chanukah, 200 students came to help support Gush Katif start-up businesses. The students, full of energy and enthusiasm, bought from the several businesses that arrived and some helped sell items with “Gush Katif” emblems.
For Monday’s event, Kedma worked in conjunction with “JobKatif”: an organization dedicated to rebuilding the lives of former Gush Katif residents by assisting them in gaining employment. Together several businesses were brought to Michlalah in Bayit Vegan selling jewelry, books, natural herbs, house ware, clothing, sweets, art and more. The event was organized both to support the new businesses and to raise awareness amongst the student public regarding the former Gush Katif residents’ current situation.
“It was very nice…” said Elinor Salomon from Shaalvim for Women, “…there were many different types of things to buy and it was informative in a way that we could see how businesses from there were trying to start up again.”
Contact sheets were distributed so that the students and their families could continue supporting Gush Katif businesses.
By Rivkah Rogawski , KEDMA Volunteer
Most Americans visiting Israel absorb the ever-present soldiers merely as a facet of Israeli life, without considering them as individuals with families and lives of their own. On Friday, November 9th, though, I got a chance to glimpse the lives of soldiers in Israel, and appreciate how much they do to ensure the security of the Jewish homeland. This Friday was the day that I participated in Kedma's baking contest at the Pinah Chamah.
The Pinah Chamah is a small building, cobbled together from trailers and miscellaneous parts, that provides hot drinks, baked goods, and a friendly smile to all the soldiers of the Gush Etzion area. I and about twenty other volunteers from various seminaries went there bearing trays of our best cakes and cookies for a baking contest that would be judged by the soldiers of the Pinah Chamah. We also brought extra batches of everything that could be frozen and served to the soldiers later.
Not exactly sure what to expect, I was totally unprepared for the gratitude of the soldiers who came to judge our contest. The main judge was an army general, and he told us that after serving in the army for ten years, rarely does he see something that arouses his emotions; yet the seeing American girls extend themselves for the baking contest was something that really registered in his heart. He explained that soldiers often feel unappreciated, but that we had really helped make him feel needed and valued.
As we mingled with the soldiers and the people of Pinah Chamah, sampling the delicious treats, I think that we all felt amazed by the chessed at Pinah Chamah, and honored that our small gesture had made a difference in the lives of these soldiers.