THE KOL NIDREI APPEAL 5781/2020
Our three Kol Nidrei Appeal charities this year are the Centre for Creativity in Education and Cultural Heritage (CCECH), Generation to Generation (G2G), and of course Kol Nefesh. See the video for a recording of Howard Feldman's Appeal delivery via Zoom on Sunday the 27th of September, before Yom Kippur. Howard's letter is reproduced below.
This year’s Kol Nidre appeal looks to three charities – The Centre for Creativity in Education and Cultural Heritage, Generation to Generation, and our own shul, Kol Nefesh. Let me tell you about what these charities do, why their work is important, and exactly how your donations will help.
Firstly, the Centre for Creativity in Education and Cultural Heritage, commonly referred to as the Centre or CCECH, is based in Jerusalem. It brings Jewish and Arab children together to learn about their cultures.
The importance of Jews and Arabs getting to know each other, on a personal level, was illuminated in Apeirogon, the book selected this year for our Yom Kippur discussion. Jews and Arabs in Israel live in separate towns and villages, come from different cultures, and speak different languages; they use different hotels, restaurants, and shops, and they send their children to different schools. It is rare that they come into contact with one another; rarer still that they do so in a way that they get to understand each other’s lives. This lack of understanding, combined with living cheek-by-jowl in a tiny land area, creates huge stresses and tensions and misunderstandings. It impedes the peace process. Each side depersonalises and demonises the other. And the government, the Army, and Israeli and Arab institutions exacerbate the situation.
The Centre works with schools, parents, and teachers to bring Arab and Jewish children together in joint activities to learn about their own, and each other’s’ cultures, and to allow personal relationships between Arabs and Jews to develop. When he was 10, Yair Cohen was lucky enough to go to a school in central Jerusalem which participated. One autumn day, Yair went to school to find a facilitator from the Centre working together with his teacher in class. They spent an hour discussing the backgrounds of the children, and he was given homework to learn stories from his parents about their childhood, and games they played as children. The next week, the facilitator from the Centre again appeared in class and Yair and his classmates spent an hour sharing their stories and games. This continued every week until a few months later, a bus full of children his age from an Arab school in Abu Ghosh arrived at his school. The two classes, Jewish and Arab, along with their teachers and as many parents as were able to attend, exchanged their stories and played the games together. A few months later, Yair and his classmates went to Abu Ghosh to visit his new friends at their school. For the rest of that year, every couple of months the two classes met for a half-day session, alternating between the two schools.
The next year when Yair was 11, the relationship with the Arab school continued. But this year was focused on food and home recipes. When the two schools met they made their family recipes together. They also made joint trips to a mosque and a synagogue, and once to a park just to have a bit of fun.
Years later, Yair joined the IDF, became an officer, and was stationed at a checkpoint in the separation barrier. His commander once remarked that Yair’s team was far more respectful than his fellow officers in how they treated the Arabs who passed through. Yair had instilled in his team the importance of treating everyone as an individual, with the right to be treated humanely. When his commanding officer asked him one day why he was so sensitive to the Arabs, he pointed out a woman in Arab dress and hijab who was waiting patiently in the queue at the checkpoint. “Do you see that woman?”, he remarked. “She makes great pickles, and I have her recipe.”
Mariam El-Hariri lived in the West Bank, but went to a school in an Arab village on the Israeli side of the Green Line. She, too, was lucky enough to be in a class that worked with the Centre and was paired with a Jewish school, and went through the two-year programme. After a few sessions, she remarked, “I was brought up to believe that Jews hate us and just want to kill us. I understand this is not the case. Now I need to go back home and tell my parents.”
Over the past 29 years, the Centre for Creativity in Education and Cultural Heritage has taken many thousands of children through this and similar programmes, and does teacher training with Arab/Jewish teacher groups, creating professional and social ties between them. This year, when Israeli schools are closed for much of the time, the Centre is focused on finding new schools who might be willing to participate, so they can expand. But they need additional funding, for transport for the schools’ visits and for staff salaries, to continue this valuable work.
The second charity I would like to talk about is Generation to Generation, or G2G.
We’ve all heard the stories of our parents or grandparents, or our friends’ grandparents, who escaped the Holocaust. Some lived through the rise of Hitler in Germany, life under the oppressive Nuremberg laws, and the horrors of Kristallnacht before escaping to Britain – like Helen Stone’s mother Emmy Golding, who arrived with a domestic service visa, or Eva Wohl, who came on the Kindertransport with her young sister. Alice Svarin fled to the mountains of Slovakia where she hid through the war. Eva Cato lived by her wits, stayed under the radar, moving from place to place, and always managed to stay one step ahead of the Nazis. And most horrifying of all was the experience of Naomi Zissi, who survived the evils of Auschwitz. These survivors, and others, have told us their stories, and over the years related their experiences to a great many audiences of children, and adults, riveting their listeners with their first-hand accounts.
But over the years, a few things have changed. Few survivors are still alive, and few that remain are strong enough to continue to address audiences. And, the explosion of social media and fake news has given Holocaust-deniers a huge boost, putting these stories in question in many minds. Meanwhile, the iPhone generation is no longer able to sit for an hour and listen to a history lecture, no matter how interesting, without pictures and video clips to stimulate them.
G2G works with the children of these survivors, sending them to classrooms and other groups who want to hear about the Holocaust. The second generation can’t give first-hand accounts, but at least they can describe the events in terms of what their mother or father experienced and related to them.
Most of these groups and classes are not Jewish, but are open to and interested in the stories. There are huge numbers from the 2nd, and even 3rd generation willing to relate the stories of their parents and grandparents. And there is no shortage of classrooms and groups who are willing to listen. The bottleneck is in doing the background research, and in creating compelling presentations. Although G2G is staffed by volunteers, a great deal of professional help is needed in researching the stories and creating factual and gripping multimedia presentations. It is for the research and presentation that your funds are badly needed.
Our third charity this year is Kol Nefesh.
In this corona year, our costs have actually increased. Although we can’t meet at Leonard Sainer Centre, the rent for the building must still be paid. There has been no reduction in costs. Yet this year Rabbi Joel has been far more active than in previous years, and we have benefitted with increased activities such as Kabbalat Shabbat services every single Friday and Havdalah every Saturday night, with shiurim and learning online during the week, creating a wonderful sense of community; all the more important in these difficult times.
Your annual dues don’t cover all of the costs we incur in doing what we do. Without the benefit of the funds from the Kol Nidre appeal, we couldn’t balance the books. Short of that, we would have to reduce our activities.
My intention in this letter was to pull on your heartstrings and open your pockets for these three worthy causes. I hope you will give generously.
Thank you, and Shana Tova,