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KC Leadership Tomorrow gives summer interns valuable experience while helping nonprofits

KC Leadership Tomorrow gives summer interns valuable experience while helping nonprofits

Rae Pfau is the first paid employee the Mitzvah Garden has ever had. She serves this summer as the garden’s volunteer coordinator and is being paid through KC Leadership Tomorrow, a summer internship... Read more...

The Blue Card available to assist older Holocaust survivors; JFS makes local connection

The Blue Card available to assist older Holocaust survivors; JFS makes local connection

Every year, the number of Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle. Statistics indicate that of the 75,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States, about one-third live below poverty level. While... Read more...

B’nai Jehudah announces ‘interim’ year of music

Coleen Dieker The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah has announced to its congregation that it is embarking on a journey of musical exploration that they are calling “an interim year of music.”... Read more...

Listening Post

CDC teachers Barbara Abramowitz and Liz Bigus. STUDENT BECOMES CO-TEACHER — About 20 years ago Elizabeth Bigus was a 3-year-old preschool student in Barbara Abramowitz’s class at the Jewish Community... Read more...

Visitors, residents send K.C. folks messages they are safe

Members of the Jewish Federation’s Shorashim 2 mission visited an Iron Dome command center outside of Ashkelon in May 2014. Shorashim 2 was a mission for men only to learn about contemporary issues facing... Read more...

Special fundraising campaigns initiated: Israel needs you now

Late last week the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, through the Jewish Federations of North American, launched Operation Relief and Respite in response to the current tensions in Israel. Read more...

Survivorship courses to help cancer survivors incorporate ‘Back in the Swing’ lifestyle

Among other things, Barbara Unell spoke about the ‘Back in the Swing Cookbook’ at The Duke Cancer Center Survivorship Center in Durham, N.C., last fall. “This is a plan for wellness versus illness.”... Read more...

NCJW Back to School Store offers new clothing, school supplies to underprivileged kids

National Council of Jewish Women’s Back to School Store will impact 200 children living in poverty in the Kansas City metro area, primarily from Jackson County, Mo., and Johnson County, Kan. Read more...

Israeli Scouts to bring high-energy performance to Campus, B’nai Jehudah

Friendship Caravan Assif While things in their home country are a little tense, a group of young Israelis will be here to share their talents and their love of their country. On Friday, July 25, the Friendship... Read more...

Listening Post

Howard Haas (left) and Rabbi Morey Schwartz in Jerusalem. MELTON@HBHA — While traveling in Israel, Howard Haas, head of school at the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, met with Rabbi Morey Schwartz in Jerusalem... Read more...

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Letters to the Editor

Why can’t Jews speak Hebrew? How come so few Jews in North America know how to speak Hebrew? Sure a lot of them know how to read Hebrew from Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and there is a flowery English translation... Read more...

Why we’re letting our daughter stay in Israel in wartime

Let’s just say that missiles and bomb shelters were not on the itinerary of our 16-year-old daughter’s pilgrimage trip to Israel this summer. I spoke to her this morning. Yeah, the alarms are unnerving,... Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Half-truths and anti-Semitism I was irate after watching the late CNN news on July 10. Anderson Cooper pretended to deliver a factual report about Israel’s bombing of Arab residences, with a slight... Read more...

Amidst turmoil, life in Israel continues to be meaningful

My mother wants me to come home. I’ve been calling her every day, and she wants me on a plane immediately. She has been watching the news and following events as they unfold here in Israel and she is... Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Conference gives families hope My husband Harold and I were fortunate to attend the Mucolipidosis Type 4 (ML4) Foundation Family & Research Conference last month in Atlanta. ML4, a relatively unknown... Read more...

We mourn three senseless deaths caused by hate, again

Our Jewish community has held two memorial services in the last three months — 77 days apart to be exact. Thousands of people attended the first one, as the Jewish community grieved for the senseless... Read more...

‘Soul Encounters’ reminds us of Rebbe’s message

Rabbi Sholom Wineberg The name “Soul Encounters” appropriately identified the program at Chabad House Center, which took place Tuesday, July 1, 3rd of Tammuz. Nearly 100 people attended. Read more...

Letter to the Editor

No champion of Jewish values I cannot share Washington Jewish Week/JNS.orgreporter Dmitriy Shapiro’s lament for the demise of Eric Cantor’s political career (The Chronicle, June 19, or www.jns.org),... Read more...

Federation mission gives participants unique look at Eastern European Jews

Alan Widman (left) and Stacey Belzer (right) visit with Sybil Sylvian in June. Sylvian’s picture was featured on Page 1 of The Chronicle in January as part of a story about the KU Hillel European Leadership... Read more...

'State of Deception' exhibition should not be missed

“Propaganda is a truly terrible weapon in the hands of an expert.” — Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf,” 1924   I attended a press preview this week for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museums... Read more...

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Chase Bat Mitzvah

Chase Bat Mitzvah

Debbie and Jeff Chase announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Talia Faye, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, at Congregation Beth Torah. Read more...

Passer-Wolkofsky Engagement

Passer-Wolkofsky Engagement

Sandy and Steve Passer announce the engagement of their daughter, Emily Passer, to Peter Wolkofsky, son of Michael and Vicky Wolkofsky of Queens, N.Y. Read more...

Zwillenberg 50th Anniversary

Morris and Linda (Fein) Zwillenberg will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday, July 26. They were married at Beth Shalom Synagogue in Hartford, Conn., on July 26, 1964. Read more...

Halasz Birth

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz and Scott Halasz of Dayton, Ohio, announce the birth May 6 of a son, Ethan Falk Halasz. They are also the parents of another son, Jonah. Read more...

Unell Bat Mitzvah

Joe and Marcia Unell announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Alyssa Unell, on June 26 at Haas Promenade in Jerusalem. Read more...

Zeldin B'nai Mitzvah

Ashlyn and Alexis Zeldin celebrated their Bat Mitzvah commitment ceremony on June 6 in Santa Barbara, Calif. They are the daughters of Janine and Kevin Zeldin of St Louis, Mo. Read more...

Badzin-Fineman Engagement

Jim and Fern Badzin, Leawood, announce the engagement of their daughter, Brooke Michelle Badzin, to Nathan Gabriel Fineman, both of Chicago, son of Glen and Holly Fineman, Omaha, Neb. Read more...

Bergman-Kaplan Engagement

Victor and Susan Bergman announce the engagement of their daughter, Ruthie Bergman, to Asher Kaplan, son of Shlomo Kaplan, Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., and Judith Kaplan, Boca Raton, Fla. Read more...

Reidy Wedding

Jennifer Mayer and James Reidy were married Saturday, March 1, at the Overland Park Marriott. The ceremony was officiated by Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. Read more...

Alpert Birth

Jeremy and Ashley Alpert of Overland Park announce the birth May 28 of a son, Levi Caleb. Levi joins big brother Jonah Doni. Read more...

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Obituaries

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Silverman, Inge B.

Inge B. Silverman, 83, of Leawood, passed away Thursday, July 17, 2014, at Menorah Medical Center. Read more...

Warshawsky, Arnold

Warshawsky, Arnold

Arnold Warshawsky passed away on Friday, July 18, 2014, after a lengthy battle with health issues for almost a decade, including COPD. Read more...

Waxman, Michael Bernard

Michael Bernard Waxman, 63, passed away unexpectedly at his home in Baldwin City, Kan., on July 16, 2014. Read more...

Chick, Stephen

Stephen Bruce Chick of Prairie Village passed away peacefully on Monday, July 7, 2014. Read more...

Freed, Ronald

Ronald Lee Freed passed away on Monday, July 14, 2014. Read more...

Gladstone, Donald

Donald H. Gladstone, 93, of Overland Park, passed away Thursday, July 10, 2014. Read more...

Hammer, Robert L.

Robert L. Hammer, 73, passed away Tuesday, July 8, 2014. Read more...

Hoffman, Dorothy

Dorothy Lillian Hoffman, 91, of Leawood, passed away on Sunday, July 6, 2014, at Village Shalom. Read more...

Megerman, Charles

Charles Megerman, 67, of Overland Park, passed away Monday, July 14, 2014, at his home. Read more...

Plotsky, Edward

Edward Plotsky, 68, of Reno, Nev., passed away Tuesday, July 8, 2014, at his home. A private service and interment will be in Reno. Read more...

IDFWO helps widows and children cope and thrive after tragedy in Israel

By Barbara Bayer

Editor

 

Those who know Harvey Bodker understand that he can get very emotional about the causes he deeply believes in. His newest cause is the IDF Widows & Orphans Organization (IDFWO), and he learned about it by chance on an airplane last summer.

It all started in August when Bodker, who is an active alumnus of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, was on his way to the fraternity’s 100th anniversary celebration. His plane to New York was delayed for several reasons, one being that a group of foreign students was stuck in security.

“As it turned out, there were 42 youngsters and 10 adults from the Israel Defense Forces Widows & Orphans Organization,” he said.

During the flight he chatted with two of the young Israelis and one of the leaders. The group had been at a Jewish summer camp in the Wisconsin Dells and were planning to spend the remainder of their trip in the New York area.

Coincidentally, or maybe more appropriately luckily for the IDFWO, that group was also invited to attend AEPi’s Shabbos dinner event on the USS Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier now a museum in New York. 

When Bodker first met some members of the group on the plane, he didn’t know that all the teens on the trip were orphans, in the Israeli translation of the word. That means these teens had lost one parent — usually a father — who died while protecting Israel. 

“I went to pieces, when I heard that,” Bodker said. “From then on I was bound and determined I was going to get to know them and their cause better.”

Meeting these young people, was “mind-boggling and life-changing” for Bodker. It was such a moving experience that he brought a fundraiser and an “orphan” — Daniel Tuksar, director of resource development, and Roi Schiffenbauer — here to get the word out about their organization and help them raise money. He arranged speeches at Congregation Beth Shalom, Kehilath Israel Synagogue and with the ROMEOS (a group of retired Jewish men) and organized a private event for friends to hear their story.

Tuksar was thrilled to be here, saying “it’s not every day you meet a Zionist like Harvey.” He pointed out that during the beginning, the IDFWO was a part of the Israeli government, but since 1991 it has been independently run and funded completely by private donations.

Tuksar explained IDFWO works with more than 5,000 widows and about 3,000 boys and girls who are left without a parent. Only seven professionals run the organization along with a voluntary chairwoman — a widow herself who is democratically elected by her peers.

“The bottom line for the organization is for the widows to spend time together,” Tuksar said. “This is important to them, so it’s important to us. When they get together they are able to talk, to relate to each other, cry, laugh, hug and embrace each other. We do our best to keep them connected.”

IDFWO takes women on retreats, sends presents to the widows on Rosh Hashanah, connects widows with each other, offers classes and provides emergency medical and financial assistance.

“It’s just a warm, second home to them,” Tuksar said.

But the majority of the work IDFWO does is with the children. The children continue to live with their surviving parent.

“We are there for them whenever the father is supposed to be with them,” Tuksar explained. These times include the beginning of first grade — providing them with backpacks full of school supplies — Bar-Bat Mitzvah trip to North America to Jewish communities (this is where Bodker met the kids) and a Bar-Bat Mitzvah celebration at the Western Wall attended by Israeli dignitaries who embrace the children. Camps are also held during various times during the year especially Chanukah, Sukkot and Passover vacations. The camps are for kids between the ages of 12 to 18 from all over Israel.

“We do fun stuff but we also have therapy sessions,” Tuksar said. “They are usually the only kids in their schools who have lost a parent so you can imagine how important it is to spend time with each other.”

IDFWO also presents scholarships and wedding gifts to these now-grownup teens.

Roi was almost 13 when his father was killed in a helicopter training accident in Romania. He’s now a junior in high school and will join the IDF following his high school graduation. He was featured in story that aired on Israeli television, which was shown to those attending the private event. He spoke about his father, what it was like when the family heard about the accident, and why the IDFWO is important to him and his family.

“The only people that can understand my loss are the people who have experienced the same loss as me. So we have the same things in common and we can talk about our loss. It’s very nice to see someone who can understand you,” said Roi, who lives on Moshav Kidron, an area he described as “a very nice neighborhood near Tel Aviv.”

Roi explained that the organization’s activities for the widows, especially the vacations and camps for the children, are very important to them.

“It’s very hard for my mother to handle three kids during this vacation,” he said, explaining that while he and his older brother were on IDFWO-sponsored trips and activities, she could rest and care for only one child.

Roi’s older brother is now in the IDF. His younger brother just turned 12, making him eligible for IDFWO camps and trips.

“He can take the Passover trip and then the Bar and Bat Mitzvah trip to the USA,” Roi explained.

This is the second time Roi has been to the United States, the first time he came was on an IDFWO Bar-Bat Mitzvah trip. This fundraising trip lasted 10 days and took him to Key West, Fla., where they experienced “nice weather,” and here.

Roi said it was very generous of Bodker to host the Israelis in his home and called him a “very nice man.” They had a very busy few days here, visiting the Harry S. Truman Library, eating Jack’s Stack barbecue, and attending the Kansas City Symphony as well as making the four presentations. 

“This organization is very important for me and my friends. I hope people understand my needs because it’s very hard without our fathers and this organization really serves as a second home for us. It’s very, very nice to be there with my friends,” Roi said.

Tuksar pointed out that taking care of kids like Roi and their families takes money. For instance it costs $300 for first-grade supplies per child, $1,200 per child for the Bar-Bat Mitzvah celebration in Israel and $900 for the three annual retreats per child.

“If we don’t support them, who will,” Bodker notes.

Tax deductible donations may be sent to P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, Inc., 317 Madison Ave, Suite 607, New York, NY 10017. Make checks payable to: P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, stating in the memo section the donation is for IDFWO.