A hug for Merle Guttmann from Freda Lanesman


All smiles from Chana Lugassi             Dina Keusch, overcome with emotion

Joan Weisman goes for her award


Dror Aloni, Major of Kfar Shmaryahu and Col. (Res.) Miri Eisen-Speakers at the Award Ceremony


Every two years, ESRA honors the best of the best of its volunteers. With almost 800 volunteers to its credit, ESRA remains a unique volunteer organization for Anglos. The organization takes pride in the fact that these volunteers epitomize what ESRA is about –    men and women who are prepared to give of themselves to help others. 

Among ESRA’s volunteers are some 300 who regularly go into high schools to assist the matriculation (bagrut) students with their forthcoming English oral examinations; a group of professionally trained counselors who support those who have suffered the loss of a dear one or any other kind of loss; some who volunteer in one of ESRA’s many projects geared specifically to help the child or youngster at risk and others who are active on one of the ESRA committees or the Magazine.

The 2012 Volunteer Award Committee was headed by Adele Hunter, who explained that it was a challenge to choose a limited number of awardees from the numerous nominations, each one of whom has given and continues to give dedicated hours of volunteer service with a total commitment. In the end, sixteen individuals were chosen, with two of them being the first ever to receive a Lifetime Award.

More than 200 guests filled the Beit Weil auditorium on the award night.  Excitement was high, especially among the family and friends of those who received an award. 

The evening opened with greetings from our founder and Life President Merle Guttmann, who described how International Volunteers’ Day was celebrated throughout the world.  This was particularly appropriate as the event itself took place exactly on that day. We then had the pleasure of hearing the greetings of the Mayor of Kfar Shmaryahu, Dror Aloni. ESRA is fortunate to be in partnership with the municipality of Kfar Shmaryahu and Dror Aloni in particular, who has made a room available in Beit Weil each week specifically for the ESRA-supported project for disabled young people.  It was an opportunity to pay tribute to the mayor and thank him for this contribution which makes the lives of these youngsters that much more enjoyable.

The moment had arrived for the main focus of the evening – the presentation of the award certificates. Maddy Levine of ESRAvision had visited every award recipient, and made a short film clip showing each one in action. This formed a lively backdrop to the words I spoke about each recipient as they came up to the stage. (A fuller biography on every honoree is printed on pages….) Merle made the presentations. The recipients were Cynthia Barmor and Jackie Klein – dynamic co-chairwomen of ESRA Modiin (Jackie’s daughter, Georgia Daniel, stood in for her as Jackie was in South Africa); Glenis Bertfield, coordinator of  the Befrienders; Myra Olswang and Frank Kalie for the Magazine website;  Jane Kessler for the Raanana Knitting Group;  Dina Keusch for the Welfare Committee;  Chana Lugassi for the Kfar Saba Shop;  Isabel Morris for the Raanana Shop; Denise Silverman for the  Ethiopian Embroidery Project; Esther Tolkin for Bayit Cham in Netanya; Lorna Toube and Shirley Frankel for Rishon Lezion Knitting Group; Joan Stein Weisman for Hefzibah Girls’ Choir and the Dance Group.

The final two awards were the ESRA Lifetime Awards. The first went to Barbara Blum, who brings music wherever she goes.  A retired dentist by profession, she has entertained numerous ESRA groups with her talks on Danny Kaye and Frank Sinatra (amongst others), illustrated with recordings of their songs.  

The second was a bittersweet award as. The recipient – Ralph Lanesman – sadly passed away a few months ago. Ralph, a retired accountant, gave invaluable service to ESRA’s Community Fund and was the chairperson of ESRA’s Control Committee. Freda, his wife, received the award on his behalf. Ralph was told of his award prior to his  death and was both moved by and delighted with the news.

The evening concluded with an outstanding address by Col. (Res.) Miri Eisen on the challenges facing Israel in a hanging Middle East. Miri is the daughter of ESRA’s superb database volunteer Annette Bode, who is herself a past recipient of an ESRA Volunteer Award.

This was indeed a memorable event.

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Brenda Katten

Brenda Katten was born and educated in London, UK.  She was a member of Bnei Akiva and the Federation of Zionist Youth (FZY). Professionally she worked as a Relationship and Educational C...

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