Friday, November 27, 2015

Jewish veterans of honor: Horrors of WWII spurred decades of Jewish communal service

Next up in our series profiling soldiers named on JNF's Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill, Judy Levin remembers her dad, who left a lasting mark on the Jewish community of Columbus, Ohio, and beyond. 

My father's name is Ben M. Mandelkorn. He was born in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1914 to Russian immigrant parents. He worked his way through Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina Graduate School of Social Work.

Upon completing his education, my father enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II, attaining the rank of captain. He attended the Army Officer Candidate School and commanded a mobile military hospital, a forerunner of the MASH units of today. He was stationed in North Africa, Marseille, and Germany. After the Battle of the Bulge, he went with the generals to liberate the concentration camps. It was then that he decided to devote his life to his fellow Jews.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

U.S. teen finds new purpose 6,000 miles from home: 'I plan to make aliyah one day'

Noelle Chin-Vance says her six weeks studying in Israel changed her. "I am no longer afraid to walk into the world
and be myself," she says.  

Noelle Chin-Vance reflects below on the life-changing experience that was her time at Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Read on to find out how this American teen connected to her roots during her six weeks at the study-abroad program for high-schoolers. .

At a Save A Child's Heart Event. 
Every life is filled with unique events and experiences that shape each individual. Those who are lucky can identify a defining experience that had the most impact. I count myself among the lucky ones. Though I literally started life in a box in Dianbai, China, way back in 1998, there is at least one event that defined me even more. 

There were certainly a lot of important moments along the way, like when I was adopted in May of 2000, at the age of 2, by my loving parents. I met many influential people throughout my educational adventures at Assurant Satellite Learning Center, Arvida Middle School, and finally at Terra Environmental Research Institute. I had many formative experiences during my summers at Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia. All of these experiences helped make me who I am today. 

But one life-changing experience stands out above all the rest. It began when I stepped onto a plane to Israel to join the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program.

Friday, November 20, 2015

'You have to dream big': Meet Myron Stayman, a man on a (mega) mission

Myron Stayman.jpg
Myron Stayman
Myron D. Stayman is many things. He is a husband, father, and grandfather. He is a top wealth management professional with Merrill Lynch. He is also a Jewish communal lay leader involved in the Dade and Broward County Jewish federations in Florida, as well as his synagogue and Jewish National Fund. 

But mostly, he is a man on a mission.

"Who am I? I am a Jew. The Jewish people will survive without me. 
But maybe they will survive better if I am a part of them. That is who I am. That is tikkun olam," Stayman says during a recent interview in a Jerusalem coffee shop.

With passion and poignancy, Stayman recalls the first time he witnessed JNF's work. It was on a solidarity mission to southern Israel during the 2008-2009 Gaza war, also known as Operation Cast Lead. He says he saw then -- and continues to believe -- that the work JNF does in Israel is "important, vital, and necessary."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jewish veterans of honor: From WWII army medic to trial attorney, she always had a sense of humor

Dinah M. Selvin worked as an army 
medic during WWII. 
This story in our series profiling soldiers named on JNF's Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill recalls a woman who dedicated her life to public service. 

Dinah M. Selvin wore many hats during her 90 years, among them first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, physical therapist, public defender, and supporter of Jewish National Fund. 

Her executor, Norman Friedman, who worked with Dinah and was her close personal friend for 40 years, said Dinah should be remembered for a lifetime of public service. 

Born in 1920, Dinah was raised in Springfield, Mass., by parents Ira and Ida, who immigrated from Russia and believed strongly in education. Dinah graduated from Smith College. Dinah’s late sister, Dr. Beatrice L. Selvin, was an anesthesiologist and University of Maryland medical school professor.

During her army service, Dinah went overseas to England and served in a medical clinic there, helping wounded soldiers. After the war, she returned to the U.S., where she worked as a physical therapist. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Jewish veterans of honor: Bronze Star WWII flyer hatched creative scheme to sell war bonds

Charles Blumenfeld (left) poses with a bomb labeled Harry Bunderoff, 
the name of a cousin who purchased a war bond. 
We continue our series profiling the soldiers named on JNF's Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill with Charles Blumenfeld. Plaques on the wall pay tribute to Jewish military veterans worldwide who have served their countries.

Before the U.S. entered World War II, Charles "Red" Blumenfeld heard rumors of the horrors Jews were facing in Europe. This spurred the American to enlist in the Canadian Royal Air Force, and he graduated flight school with honors. Once the U.S. entered the war, Blumenfeld flew for the U.S. Air Force, 42 missions, returning home with his entire crew and going on to win military honors including the Bronze Star.  

"Dad was one of many true patriots, and a hero," says his son Alan Blumenfeld, shown in the photo below dedicating a plaque at Ammunition Hill in his father's memory in 2011.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Jewish veterans of honor: West Point, WWII and a desk at the Pentagon

Irving Schoenberg in 1960 at his desk in the Pentagon. He served as executive assistant to undersecretary of the Air Force, after which he was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Next up in our series profiling the soldiers named on JNF's Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill is a proud military veteran and Jewish National Fund donor who just turned 90. 

Irving Schoenberg grew up in St. Joseph, Missouri, born into a family with a strong love for the Jewish people and Israel. He had an interest in going to the military throughout high school, even participating in a cadet program during his formative years. He graduated Central High School in 1943, in the middle of World War II, so he knew he was going straight to the army ("everyone old enough to walk was going to the military," he says). 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Jewish veterans of honor: 'Regular guy from the Bronx' whose unit liberated a concentration camp

Lester Mintz, in his U.S. Army days.
Next up in our series on soldiers honored at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, Estelle Mintz remembers her husband Lester. JNF's Wall of Honor pays tribute to the courage and heroism of Jewish soldiers worldwide who have fought in defense of their countries in numbers disproportionately high considering their representation in the general population.

By Estelle Mintz

Lester was a sweet, friendly, funny, and sometimes silly and corny, regular guy from the Bronx. He was drafted into the army when he was only 18 years old and it was the first time he had ever traveled. That army time was the experience of his lifetime. He was eternally fascinated with everything World War II-related.

His unit (the 104th Infantry Division, or Timberwolves) liberated the Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany on April 12, 1945. He almost never spoke of it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Jewish veterans of honor: Top doctor modeled U.S. medical care for nations devastated by war

Dr. Edward Diamond (left, pictured in Jerusalem 
in 1968), felt a strong connection to Israel. 
This is the third story in our series about the soldiers named on JNF's Wall of Honor, which pays tribute to Jewish military veterans worldwide. Today, on Veterans Day, we remember the late Dr. Edward Diamond, a leading American obstetrician and gynecologist with a strong connection to Israel. 

Dr. Edward Diamond, who served as a captain in the the U.S. Army and was discharged as a major, entered the army after the Korean War, when compulsory military service was on its way out. Some of his major achievements included perfecting microsurgical techniques in reproductive medicine and developing patented surgical tools and techniques still in use today.

Diamond, who served in the army from 1955-1958, chose to enlist both out of a conviction for serving his country and a desire to improve medical services for the army, particularly ob-gyn care for enlisted women or wives of enlisted men. Having recently finished his ob-gyn residency, he viewed serving as both a challenge and an opportunity to enlarge the scope of his medical experience.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Jewish veterans of honor: Rebbe's lawyer owes his life to pork chops

Jerome Shestack and his little sister Louise Dabrow.
This is the second in our series telling the stories behind the names on JNF's Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. Plaques on the wall pay tribute to Jewish military veterans worldwide who have served their countries.

Jerome Shestack, born in 1923, was a Philadelphia lawyer and human-rights activist. Shestack served in the United States Navy as a first lieutenant from 1943-1946.

"I could not have found a more appropriate place to honor him," his sister Louise Dabrow said of dedicating a plaque at the Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill in Shestack’s memory. "He served his country and he would have been so proud to be remembered at Ammunition Hill, a place that pays tribute to all who fought for their countries."

Before he left to serve in the navy, Shestack, a grandson of rabbis, asked his own rabbi how he could keep kosher while at sea. The rabbi told him he had to eat whatever he was given to keep up his strength as he was serving his country. One day, while on the American aircraft carrier Ticonderoga, the mess hall served pork chops. Shestack couldn't bring himself to eat them, so he skipped the meal and stayed on the upper deck. The ship was bombed that day, and 75 officers who were in the mess hall died.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Jewish veterans of honor: Balloon sniper on the frozen tundra

Russell Robinson, CEO of Jewish National Fund, stands beside the plaque honoring his father Richard
at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. 

At Ammunition Hill, site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Six Day War and today a historical preservation and memorial site, visitors will see a wall of plaques. It's Jewish National Fund's Wall of Honor, which pays tribute to the courage and heroism of Jewish soldiers worldwide who have fought in defense of their countries in numbers disproportionately high considering their representation in the general population. Throughout November, in honor of Veterans Day, we'll share stories of the soldiers honored on these plaques in Jerusalem. We start with Richard Robinson, father of JNF CEO Russell Robinson.

By Russell Robinson

My father, Richard Robinson, had a heart as big as the state of Texas, yet he was tough, worked hard all of his life, provided for his family, and gave generously of himself whenever he was needed or asked.
Richard Robinson with his wife, Ruth. 
My family traces its heritage back to one of the first Jewish settlers of Virginia, with military roots -- my great-grandfather fought in the Civil War and my grandfather, in World War I. When my father was young, the family moved to Canada to start a line of haberdashery stores, but my grandfather had always retained his American citizenship and once a year would bring his family back to the United States just so no one would ever question that they were American citizens.

When World War II broke, my father was attending McGill University in Montreal. He also happened to be playing professional football for the Montreal Aquenots! But witnessing the horrors of World War II, and hearing the stories of our Jewish people, he felt impassioned to defend democracy and join the army in some way. The United States was not entering the war at the time, but Canada was. So he enlisted and became a member of the Canadian Royal Air Force.

Friday, November 6, 2015

In the JNF Kitchen: Heavenly hummus

Ah, hummus. It's not only the heavenly spread that makes its appearance at almost every meal in Israel, it's also the dish that unites Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, because everyone loves it equally. It is at the heart of a shared food culture that goes beyond nationality and politics.

There are many variations of the dish, but this hummus recipe is brought to us by Chef Uri Arnon, who owns restaurant Arnold's in Moshav Nativ Hashayara, voted one of Israel's 10 best kosher gourmet restaurants!

Uri opened Arnold's to shatter the myth of "kosher or delicious." Arnold's is a Galilee bistro menu with French and Mediterranean touches and it features a wide-ranging list of Israeli wines that mesh perfectly with the atmosphere and the dishes presented, as well as fine-quality draft beer, and excellent desserts, including homemade sorbets.

Uri is a member of JNF partner organization Western Galilee Now, a consortium of small businesses in the region. See our gallery below for more scenes from the area.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Green dreams: Innovative urban farm in Negev wins environmental prize

JNF Wire Earths Promise Pic4.jpg
An Earth's Promise member works with 
Ethiopian children at a Be'er Sheva urban farm. 
By June Glazer

In keeping with Jewish National Fund's Blueprint Negev initiative, which aims to revitalize Israel’s southern region, the country’s environmental ministry last week awarded its prestigious Environmental Prize of the Negev to Earth’s Promise. Earth’s Promise, a JNF partner, is an organization that promotes environmental sustainability and urban agriculture in Be'er Sheva and other Israeli cities. 

Be'er Sheva, once a sleepy, dusty desert town, today is a sprawling, bustling city that is often referred to as the "capital of the Negev." It is the seventh most populous city in Israel, and in recent years, has become home to a large influx of Ethiopian immigrants. It is for them that Earth’s Promise was started in 2007. 

"The idea behind it was to help make our city green, but to do it in a community fashion,” said Ethelea Katzenell, an Earth's Promise founding board member, who recounted how a committee was formed to work with the Kalisher Absorption Center, where many Ethiopians lived. "Since their background was mostly agrarian, we thought we could help them to literally sink new roots into their new country by starting a community garden with them," she said. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

U.S. high school students run Tel Aviv race, discover their Jewish selves

AMHSI Tel Aviv Night Run.jpg
AMHSI students gather for a photo after the Tel Aviv Night Run.

By Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Hannah and Beatrice have travelled a long way from Boston to run through the normally crowded streets of Tel Aviv in the city’s seventh annual Tel Aviv Night Race. In the minutes before the race, they're dancing and screaming, along with a crowd of school friends and 20,000 others participants.

AMHSI Tel Aviv Night Run pic2.jpgBeatrice Fellman and Hannah Avery Peck, 16 and 17 years old (pictured right) are in Israel for a semester at Alexander Muss High School in Israel, which offers its students high school credits along with a taste of "authentic Israeli life," according to Mordechai Cohen, AMHSI's head of school. 

This was the school's third year bringing students to participate in the Tel Aviv Night Run, which this year started at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday night in late October. As motorists across the city honked, cyclists swore and buses swerved around complicated detours leading up to the race, some 20,000 participants armed themselves against the night with glow sticks, brightly colored racing vests, and the roaring, pulsing beat of dance music.