Archive for April 19, 2010

Rooms of the Heart: The bridge between Yom HaShoah and Yom Hazikaron

April 19, 2010 4 comments


Mendel Flaster


 By Toby Klein Greenwald

GUSH ETZION, Israel — In his official Memorial Day speech at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu described how, as a young soldier, two of his fellow soldiers, 19 years old, were killed during a lethal military operation, and how one of them, David Ben Hamu, died in his arms in the army car on the way to the closest hospital.  The Prime Minister had been a member of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, the same unit which his brother Yonatan, led during the Entebbe rescue, during which Yonatan died.

Netanyahu described how, years later, when he went to visit Ben Hamu’s parents in Beer Sheva, his mother showed him David’s room. It was exactly how it looked the day he fell in battle, she said. Not one detail had been changed, not one item moved.

I remember once staying overnight at the home of a friend in another town, a friend whose son had also died in a battle against terrorists. She now uses his bedroom as the guest room. Her hospitality was effusive and generous, but I hardly slept all night. I was surrounded by army medals, photographs, items that had belonged to the courageous young soldier.

As I heard Netanyahu speak, and as I remembered the room of the son of my friend, and the rooms of so many other soldiers who die in battle and whose families maintain their bedrooms as shrines, where they are young forever, all I could think of were the words, “rooms of the heart”.

In English, the four different parts of the heart are called “chambers”. In Hebrew, they are called simply “rooms”.

The week that is, every year

Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers, and for those who have died at the hand of terrorist, come exactly one week apart. It is a week fraught with emotion and a deep clutching at the internal and collective spirit of the Jewish people in Israel. The two days are inexorably linked, for the event of the first day reminds us why we must have an army of our own, so a shoah will never happen again.

This year, on Yom Hashoah, I invited  Mendel Flaster of San Diego, who was visiting in Israel, to speak to the 9th grade class I teach in Yeshivat Makor Chaim in Gush Etzion. Many of the students have brothers who have been in the army, or fathers or grandfathers who have fought in Israel’s wars, or family members who endured the Shoah, or grandfathers who fought with the Allies during WWII.

Mendel, who is 90 years old, is lucid and articulate. He described how, as a 19-year-old, in 1939, he was taken to a Nazi labor camp in Poland. He eventually endured 14 camps in six years, the last one being Auschwitz-Birkenau.

When he was liberated, he was recruited by the American army to work for the CIC and the CID, organizations that tracked down and gathered information to prosecute Nazi war criminals. Mendel helped send 30 Nazi war criminals to prison. Twelve hours of his testimony were recorded for the project of Steven Spielberg, who also wrote him several personal letters.

Mendel’s scores of stories are replete with descriptions of the camps – onerous labor, hunger, filth, cruel punishments, debasement and death, and what the inmates did, not only to survive, but to maintain their personal dignity. The stories are numerous, chilling and inspiring, and hopefully one day will fill a book.

He told five especially mesmerizing stories that I’d like to relate, as they seem so unbelievable, given the context in which they occurred.

One was how Mendel galvanized around him a group of young men in one of the labor camps who, with him, went “on strike” and refused to work after their shoes had fallen apart and they had no other shoes to wear. They struck for several weeks, in spite of severe deprivations and punishments, knowing that they could be executed for their rebellion. Yet they held out, and eventually a truck arrived full of shoes, and they returned to work.

A second story was about how he did everything to keep a modicum of religious observance. He befriended and made deals with one camp cook so that, on Pesach, he could trade the portions of bread for potatoes, for himself and others. He described how he led the davening of Kol Nidre in their “barracks”, with the participation of all of the inmates, even though they knew that if the Nazi guards chose that moment to walk in, they would all be killed.

In a third story, he described how they would do anything in order to see their families, who were hours away. He used to sneak out and walk seven hours each way each week, , through forests and over mountains, in order to – surrealistically – spend Shabbat at home. Every time he reported back to the camp for work, he received 25 lashes, but he bore them bravely each week in order to see his family. When he was in yet another camp, several years later, and the time came that he and the other inmates knew the villages of the area would be sent away to their death, he arranged with a somewhat sympathetic Nazi guard that he and a group of his friends, be allowed to visit their families one last time. He had to explain to the men that if any of them used the opportunity to escape, all the rest would be executed.

He worked out a schedule, and the guard arranged it so that trucks that delivered goods in the area would take detours in order to drop the men off for short visits with their families, who were subsequently sent to their deaths. He left his own visit for the end. “As the leader,” he said, “I wanted to go last.” But there were no more deliveries, so he snuck out. When he arrived at his family’s home, at 1 o’clock in the morning, he didn’t want to knock on the locked door, so as not to awaken neighbors who might report him; rather, he just touched a window and his mother opened it immediately. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, and took him immediately into the home. An hour and a half later he left to return to the camp. He never saw anyone in his family again.

In a fourth story, Mendel described how the first two fingers of his left hand got caught in a machine and the tips were cut off. When he recuperated in the infirmary, he did everything to help people who were in a worse state than himself. When Mengele sent everyone from the infirmary to the gas chambers, the staff asked that Mendel be spared, as they needed his help.

Lastly, when Mendel was in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, he was asked to stay behind and help close the camp when all the others were sent on the infamous death march. But he refused to leave his comrades, even though he knew it could mean almost certain death. “Wherever they go,” he said, “I will go with them.”

Those who stayed behind were eventually shot. Mendel survived.

“All I did,” he told my students, “was try to help others, to not be selfish.”

“Be kind to each other.”

Just before he left the classroom, I photographed him with the boys. He looked them in the eye and said, “You are all good boys. Daven, learn Torah, and be kind to each other, because G-d loves that.”

When I asked the students to write what they received from Mendel’s talk, they wrote about faith, and human dignity, and the importance of not being selfish. One wrote, “Yom Hashoah was always a far nightmare…Mendel made my Yom Hashoah something deeper…Mendel describing his last moments with his family made me cry. Mendel describing Jewish people getting killed, in all kinds of ways, released a rope that was tied to my heart.”

We all hold someone special in the rooms of our heart. And some of those rooms are occupied by holy men and women who died for Kiddush Hashem.

Every year, for one week, in Israel, the entire country allows itself to tiptoe into those rooms, hand in hand, sit down quietly in the corners, weep, and remember.


The writer is a teacher, editor and educational theater director.


Memorial honors Jewish victims of terror abroad

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Jean Goldie Orta and Natan Sharansky

JERUSALEM (Press Release)–The Jewish Agency for Israel held a special ceremony on Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers Monday (April 19) to honor the memory of Diaspora Jews murdered in terrorist and anti-Semitic attacks abroad, as well as Jewish Agency emissaries killed while serving abroad.

Lighting this year’s torch in memory of the fallen was Jean Goldie Orta, daughter of the late Norma Rabinowich, who was murdered in the terror attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai in November 2008. Rabinowich, a Mexican citizen who had been traveling in India, had applied with the Jewish Agency representative in Mumbai to immigrate to Israel, where she planned to join her daughter.

“Both we and our enemies know that our strength comes from the Israel Defense Forces — and from the entire Jewish people who identify with the State of Israel,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky at the ceremony. “In the war against the State of Israel and the Jewish People there are no boundaries. Our enemies attack us not just in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but in Argentina, France, Britain and Mumbai.”

In all, some 200 Diaspora Jews were murdered in anti-Semitic attacks abroad since the founding of the State.

Preceding provided by the Jewish Agency for Israel

World should recognize Lebanon as state sponsor of terrorism

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — General Petraeus’s widely remarked-upon but little-read testimony before Congress made note of: “Ungoverned, poorly governed and alternatively governed spaces. Weak civil and security institutions and the inability of certain governments in the region to exert full control over their territories and conditions that insurgent groups can exploit to create physical safe havens in which they can plan, train for, and launch operations, or pursue narco-criminal activities. We have seen these groups develop, or attempt to develop, what might be termed sub-states.”

He cited Lebanon.
For years, the Government of Lebanon has cried to the world that it is abused by Israel because it is too weak to control its territory (as if no fault accrues to that). And the world reliably denounces Israel’s efforts to protect its own population from the depredations, first of the PLO and then of Hezbollah, emanating from Lebanese territory. And even when it was understood that Israel had been provoked beyond reason (2006), the Government of Lebanon was treated as if it was twice a victim-first of Hezbollah and then of Israel.
That’s not quite the case. Lebanon, like the Palestinian Authority, is both terrorist and state sponsor of terrorists. There are those who consider Hezbollah to be the army of Lebanon, allowing Lebanon to be a confrontation state without taking the responsibility for being one. Lebanon claims victim status when it is convenient, but provides money, territory, and diplomatic and political support to terrorist groups the rest of the time. Hezbollah’s politicians are in the Lebanese parliament and hold a “blocking third” in the cabinet (enough to veto policies of the elected government). Hezbollah’s army operates with the express permission of the Lebanese government and a good case can be made-and Israelis have made it-that Hezbollah is actually the armed force of Lebanon. 
Part of Lebanon is Hezbollah-land, with an army financed, armed and trained by Syria and Iran. Part is occupied by 450,000 Palestinian refugees in fenced camps that are separated from Lebanese society, governed by armed Palestinian militias that have made veritable “no-go zones” for the Lebanese government. Syrian troops bring reinforcements to both at will; no one controls the border. UNIFL troops wander around the south, while the Druze and Christian communities lay low.
The United States is financing, arming and training the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), spending more than $500 million since 2005 and providing aircraft, tanks, artillery, small boats, infantry weapons, ammunition, Humvees, cargo trucks and unmanned reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft. Our policy is that the Government of Lebanon needs to be “strengthened” in order to put a break on the activities of Hezbollah in the name of “peace” and its own security. (It is the same logic by which we finance, arm and train the Palestinian Authority army.) But why would the Lebanese government send its army to destroy Hezbollah, a member of the government itself and an integrated part of the Lebanese political system?  
If indeed, as it has been reported, Syria transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah-or plans to-either they did it without the knowledge of the Lebanese government, or they did it with Lebanese government complicity. If the former, the Obama Administration should seriously rethink its overtures to Damascus. If the latter, the United States should seriously rethink its relationship to Beirut.
Israel has already contemplated what another war with Hezbollah would mean, for Israel and for Lebanon. The United States should not be surprised if Lebanon gets called on the double game it has been playing for years.
Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member

El Al names jet aircraft for Daliat El Carmel

April 19, 2010 2 comments

 NEW YORK (Press Release) – EL AL Airlines recently announced the re-naming of an EL AL Boeing 767 aircraft Daliat El Carmel in honor of the largest Druze community in Israel in time for Israel Independence Day.  As part of Israel’s holiday celebration, this aircraft has been selected to participate in an EL AL fly-over covering Acco, then south via Daliat El Carmel along the coastline in the direction of Ashkelon, over Tel Aviv and on to Jerusalem.

At the aircraft naming ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, EL AL President Elyezer Shkedy noted, “EL AL is saluting the Druze community in Israel on the 62nd Independence Day of the State of Israel. The Boeing 767 aircraft that is taking part in the flyover of Israel’s skies is named after the Druze community to symbolize the true partnership and deep esteem that is felt by EL AL personnel and the citizens of the State of Israel.”

The leader of the Druze community in Israel and the Chairman of the Daliat El Carmel city council conveyed their appreciation and immense pride for this initiative, which symbolizes the pact-of-life between the Druze community and the people of Israel.”  Shkedy awarded the Druze leaders with a model of the Daliat El Carmel.

For more information about EL AL Israel Airlines, please visit, contact EL AL directly at (800) 223-6700, or follow the EL AL USA blog at

Preceding provided by El Al

‘Secret Lives of Games’ will be featured at Museum of Man

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–Starting June 11, the Museum of Man is getting serious about playing.  Their new exhibit, Counter Cultures: The Secret Lives of Games will feature games from around the world that will give visitors insight into various cultures, in addition to American favorites that have surprising origins. (Chutes and Ladders, for example, was originally Snakes and Ladders from India). Children will be delighted to see contemporary favorites on display and parents will see classics that they grew up playing. 

Games relating to different religions and ethnicities, such as the Jewish dreidel game, also will be on exhibit.

There are many reasons why we do and don’t play games, some of which will be highlighted in the exhibit.  Visitors will be able to identify with some of these reasons or think up some of their own.  One of the reasons we use games is to learn through play, and hands on displays will allow visitors an opportunity to do this as they learn about games while playing them or watch demonstrators and ask questions.  The new exhibit will help us learn how games reflect our cultural values and teach us about ourselves.
The Museum is hosting a game design contest for the general public and two contests for kids  to help get in the spirit of game playing. Full contest rules are available at Winners will have their game displayed in the exhibition. The deadline is July 1, 2010.

The Museum’s collection will be supply some of the games, including Native American stick dice, hand-game sticks, gaming counters, a huge Inuit cribbage board, Mexican games, and a rare handmade chess set from colonial times. Special events will include Game Day in the Plaza, Identify-Your-Game Day, game demonstrations by local groups, mini-tournaments, game design contests, and a lecture series. There is also a summer camp for 3rd through 6th graders, August 23-27.

Counter Cultures: The Secret Lives of Games, is the newest in a series of special exhibitions featured in the Museum of Man.  The Museum also hosts Gods & Gold: Ancient Treasures From Mexico to Peru and The Genographic Project.  These special exhibits complement the Museum’s five permanent exhibits which explore the Maya, ancient Egypt, the Kumeyaay Indians of San Diego County, Human Evolution, and the Human Life Cycle.

For more information about Counter Cultures: The Secret Lives of Games or other exhibits in the Museum, visit or call (619) 239-2001. 

Preceding provided by the Museum of Man in San Diego

Edith Taylor, philanthropist, dies in Rancho Santa Fe

April 19, 2010 4 comments

Edith Taylor

RANCHO SANTA FE, California (Press Release)–Edith Lee Taylor, a renowned philanthropist, supporter of the arts and leader in advancing psychiatric care, in the company of her family on April 17,  died at 83 years old of complications of a stroke in a hospital near her home in Rancho Santa Fe, California. 

She was born to Rose and Jack Goodman in Philadelphia and raised in Elizabeth, N.J.  Edith and her mother spent a year in Israel in 1934 and later moved to Pasadena where she fell in love with the mountains of California as she completed her last year of high school.  Even though the Pasadena Junior College marching band had only one instrument available, the drums, she was not deterred and joined as its only female member.  She also was a cheerleader at the Rose Bowl. 

Her husband, Dr. Irving Taylor,  recalls learning that she did many special projects to earn extra credit at school as she was determined to excel.  Edith  entered the West Baltimore General Hospital school of nursing, where as a cadet nurse she had the responsibility to care for a ward of 60 medical patients at night.  It was here that she met her husband to be, who was then a medical resident; they married on May 2, 1946 after a short engagement.  Edith left her training program to re-locate with her husband who was stationed as a Captain in the Army medical corps, first in western North Carolina and then Coral Gables, Florida during World War II.  The couple returned to Baltimore in 1947 so that Irving could complete his psychiatric training at Perry Point and Spring Grove Hospitals, moving to Catonsville for two years. 

Edith became the Executive Director of the family’s private psychiatric hospital in Ellicott City in 1949.  The growing family of four moved to a new permanent home which Edith helped to design with her signature color, turquoise, in northwest Baltimore in 1950.  Edith was active with the Maryland branch of Israel Bonds and the medical society.  From 1952-1954 she wrote, produced and acted in two musicals to help raise funds and morale for the Maryland State Medical Society Auxiliary. 

In addition to raising her two children, Edith worked tirelessly to improve hospital facilities as well as the care and treatment of the mentally ill for the next 30 years, from sewing curtains and designing new buildings to creating and implementing unique educational opportunities and new treatment services at Taylor Manor Hospital.  She spearheaded the hospital’s achieving and maintaining its top Joint Commission Accreditation status starting in the mid 1960’s.  Edith received a Baltimore Artist Equity award, the first to a non-artist, for her work in bringing the community to the hospital for local artists’ shows and for integrating original art into the décor of the patient areas.  She was part of the drive and inspiration behind the hospital’s ground-breaking education series, started in 1966.  These symposia, developed before continuing education was a requirement, were open to mental health professionals and the public, and developed national and international acclaim for annually bringing in experts to educate the community on the latest advances in psychiatric care. 

Beginning in 1964 she and her husband worked with architects to design and build an advanced hospital building; on its completion in 1968, it was ahead of its time in functionality and safety; meeting the needs of patients, family and staff in an atmosphere of beauty and openness despite being a secure psychiatric facility.   Each room and private bath was lovingly planned by Edith and fitted with unique artwork and décor to create a home-like atmosphere.  Edith helped to hire, train and supervise many of the staff and also filled in as hospital administrator when her father-in-law, Isaac, took his almost annual trips to Israel. A skilled designer and writer, she won an international MacEachern marketing competition for the hospital’s brochures and educational materials that were sent to professionals throughout the United States.  For many years she was active with her husband in the National Association of Private Psychiatric Hospitals.   Together with her son she helped develop the first hospital direct advertising program in the state of Maryland.  Because of these significant contributions Edith and Irving received a unique award from the National Institute of Mental Health to recognize their work on many fronts in de-stigmatizing mental illness.

In 1979 Edith and Irving moved to California, first to Palm Springs and then in 1989 to Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego.  With retirement she was able to devote more time to her love of people, animals, education and charitable causes.  She was a board member of several charitable organizations, including the Delta Society, ardently contributing to and supporting their recognition of the importance of the animal-human bond.  She became the lead donor in the re-development of the small animal wing of the only veterinary hospital in the Middle East, part of the Hebrew University. These and other efforts were recognized with a number of awards for her service to these institutions and the community.

Edith is survived by her husband of 64 years, Dr. Irving J. Taylor; her daughter Stephanie (Ryah) L. Taylor, her daughter-in law and son, Drs. Ellen and Bruce Taylor; grandchildren Martin Taylor and his wife Dr. Cristin Taylor, Ross Taylor, Julie Taylor and Lisa Taylor; and numerous loving cousins.  

Services will be at Sol Levinson Funeral Home at 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, MD, 21208 on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 1P.M.  The family will be in mourning at the home of Dr. Irving J. Taylor at 3500 Southvale Road, Pikesville, Md. 21208, at 7PM on Wednesday and Thursday, April 21 & 22, 2010.  

Contributions may be sent to the Delta Society, 875 124th Ave NE, Suite 101, Bellevue, WA 98005 or the American Friends of Hebrew University, 5335 Wisconsin Ave, NW, Suite 440, Washington, DC 20015.

Preceding provided by the Taylor family

Hebrew Day student honored by Legislature for her essay on Survivor Gussie Zaks

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Celia Benchetrit

SACRAMENTO (Press Release)– Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School 7th student Celia Benchetrit was an honoree Monday at the state capital for her essay (printed below) on Holocaust survivor Gussie Zaks.

The essay on Zaks, who lives today in San Diego,  is printed in a book that was presented at the annual Holocaust Memorial Project and distributed to survivors and veterans, legislators, libraries and community organizations. 

Celia gathered with Holocaust survivors and WWII veterans who helped liberate concentration camps for the Sacramento ceremony at 12 p.m. Monday, April 19.  The occasion was  co-hosted by San Diego State Assembly member Marty Block of the 78th District.

Survivors, veterans and their guests from around the state attended, sharing stories of survival and memorializing those who lost their lives. During the event in the Capitol, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 31, which formally proclaims April 12 to April 18 as California Holocaust Memorial Week, was presented on the Assembly floor.

As part of the state Assembly’s annual Holocaust Memorial Project, the ceremony was hosted by Assemblymembers Marty Block (D-San Diego) and Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City).


Gussie Zaks – Miracles at the Right Place at the Right Time

By Celia Benchetrit

 Gussie Zaks was from the first generation of the holocaust survivors and was born in Poland in 1926. She lived her whole life in Poland with her family in a city called Klobuck. Klobuck was the city with the highest orthodox Jewish population in Poland. Gussie had lots of siblings. Her father owned a butcher shop and all the kids helped with the work. Both of her parents were born in Poland and their last name was Ungik.

Gussie Zaks experienced many situations during the holocaust where she felt she was saved by being in the right place at the right time.  Those miracles that were given to her, gave her the feeling she was saved by Hashem. She felt that Hashem was always watching over her, giving her hope, much the same as Elie Wiesel wrote about in his book, Night.

On the day that the Germans came to Gussie Zak’s house to pick up her family, she wasn’t home. It so happens that on this particular day Gussie had told her mom in the morning that she wanted to go and do some volunteer work because she was bored at home. Her whole family was sent to a camp on that day. Several of her family members did not survive that camp. However Gussie was sent later to another camp, a work camp. This is one of the ways that Gussie felt helped her survive the holocaust.

During the time she spent in the work camp, she had a reputation for being a good, hard worker and was liked by the “Chief” of the camp.  One Friday, going back to camp from the fields where they worked, she saw some potatoes growing nearby.  “A raw potato to eat was better than an apple today.”  She told herself that on Monday she was going to get those potatoes.  At lunchtime on Monday, with five armed SS women watching her, she went to get the potatoes while the SS women were resting.  Gussie got lost and couldn’t find them.  She became very anxious and started running down a hill with the five SS women watching her.  A train passed by and the guards started shooting at her, thinking she was trying to escape.  She was only fifteen years old and “didn’t understand what escape means at that time.”  

She came back to where the SS guards were and they beat her up. They told her that, when they got back to the camp, the chief SS woman was going to read her number and she would be sent to Auschwitz.  All the other girls said goodbye.  The “Chief” of the camp told her he was very disappointed that she would do this.  While he was telling her this, she was thinking “who cares what he thinks, I am going to die anyhow.”  But he saved her life. He talked to the head woman of the SS and told her what a good worker she was and they never called her number.  The other girls in the camp waited for a week for her to be killed. They wouldn’t look at her or speak to her, and they did not want to be associated with her for fear of being killed themselves.

During the interview Gussie told me; “The holocaust can’t be told one hundred percent. You had to live through it to understand.”  Those words really penetrated my body and made me think how true it was. After each of the amazing stories she shared, she said she had her mother to thank for teaching her how to be strong and to always think of others before herself. She said if her mother did not teach her those things, she did not believe she would be in this world today.  Her mother told her; “You cannot live through yourself; you have to do mitzvoth in order to survive.” 

She told me an account of how her mother lived her life and what she taught Gussie. One day Gussie was sitting on her doorstep, and saw a poor family sitting on the ground across the street from her. Gussie’s mother came out, pulled some money from her pocket, and gave the money to Gussie.  Her mother told her, “go and give the money to this poor family, you will save the girl’s life.”

The oldest daughter was ill with tuberculosis but they did not have the money to take her to the hospital for treatment. When Gussie handed the money to the family, their eyes opened wide and they thanked her. The family was able to take their daughter to the hospital, although it was too late to save her.

Gussie Zaks told me how her mother used to tell her you may not be rewarded right away for what you’ve done, but you will be rewarded later on in life or in the world to come.  Gussie believes the only reason she survived was because of the kindness her mother taught her.

There are many other stories that she told me. I chose these to be the ones that really had a true meaning to me as thirteen-year-old girl. After hearing all of her stories, it took awhile before I could say anything. I was just thinking about how it was possible for such a young girl to experience so much ugliness and whether I would’ve been able to survive and handle the situations as well as she did. I was not able to talk or express my feelings for a while. It was too much to digest.

Every story she told me was so amazing that all I was able to say afterwards were words like “wow” and “I’m impressed.”

Gussie Zaks is an amazing person because of what she has been through and what she still accomplishes today. I am so impressed that she remembers everything so well, and is able to talk to teenagers the way she would talk to her own children.

 Today, Gussie is eighty five years old and does volunteer work for several organizations, giving freely of her time.  She has always given to charities.  Gussie Zaks survived the holocaust, this remarkable woman now gives so much of herself.  She lived, and has made a difference in people’s lives. 

She volunteers her time to talk about her experiences with middle and high school students.  She has had many mothers of students she has spoken to call her and thank her for being the person that changed the direction of their lives. 

Preceding press release and copy of Celia Benchetrit’s essay provided by Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School