Three special Youth Aliyah guests from Ramat Hadassah Szold were hosted by the Hadassah National Convention in New York in July. Teenage students Genya Kandrashtina and Liora Israel and Resource Center Director Michal Stern won the hearts of delegates and strengthened the connection between Hadassah and Youth Aliyah. They appeared before the plenary chaired by Leah Reicin. The Convention was built around the theme of peoplehood and Hadassah´s partnership with Youth Aliyah was praised as an example of peoplehood in action.
Genya, 16, a new immigrant from Russia, told the delegates her life story. “Most kids my age,” she said, “had a house to come home to and a fridge filled with food. Many times I returned home from school to find my mother sitting on the front steps because we had been evicted again. The fridge, if we had one, was rarely full, and if there was food in it, it was usually rotten fruit and vegetables that my father and I would collect from the markets after closing time. The stench of rotten food every time I opened the fridge is one I will never forget.”
“I never dreamed that my life would change so drastically at Ramat Hadassah Szold,” she continued. We were helped to cope, face challenges and learn responsibility by caring for a pet. My pet rabbit, Puna, was there with me through the tough times. I would pet her and talk to her, and her warmth would fill me with new courage to face life.
Thank you for building a place where we learn responsibility and respect, where we find love, security and stability – a home.” Liora, 17, recalled that she had little confidence when she arrived at the village. “But the staff there taught me how to tame my wild side,” she explained, "and channel my energies into my talents and newfound abilities.”
Today Liora is a soloist in the band, a lead actress in the drama group, a jazz dancer, and is studying to become an aircraft mechanic. “Your help has allowed me to see myself in a new light. You have given me a future I never knew
I could have or make for myself.” Michal Stern spoke of her 22 years at Ramat Hadassah Szold. “I have a very strong Israeli identity and had a very weak Jewish identity,” she said. “I am a 13th generation Israeli but the Eshet Hayil program funded by Hadassah for the girls has created deep connections for me to Judaism and Jewish life.”
At the Convention June Walker was elected National President of Hadassah and Ruth B. Hurwitz was chosen as National Treasurer, while Bonnie Lipton completed her term of office as President. Youth Aliyah looks forward to continued close cooperation and support with the new Hadassah leadership.
Heshvan 5764 - November 2003