‘Human Bonds’ Cheered at Annual Israel Bonds Dinner



If Frieda Lefeber has a problem, it's this: She's been characterized her whole life with boundless energy.

Half a century ago, all her efforts were focused on simple survival. After being persecuted under the Nazi regime in Germany, Lefeber, now 92, managed to escape to the United States with her husband, while other family members fled to what was then Palestine.

She's led a full life in her new homeland. She worked as a nurse, raised a daughter, and now has two grandchildren — all that without slowing her pace.

After graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 83 — almost a decade ago — she now studies world religions at Rosemont College, and is learning Hebrew in her spare time.

The one constant in her life — aside from devotion to family and a desire to learn — has been her steadfast backing of the Jewish state. "Without our support, the future of Israel is in great danger," she declared. "It's our solemn obligation to support this cause."

Last week, the State of Israel Bonds annual "Evening of Honor" recognized nine women, including Lefeber, who excel in their work with the Jewish community.

The women represented an array of active groups, including Parents of North American Israelis; Israel Bonds; the National Council of Jewish Women; Hadassah of Greater Philadelphia; AMIT; ORT America (both the Main Line Area and the Philadelphia Region); Women's League for Conservative Judaism; and American Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The nine groups represented at the elegant dinner held at Adath Israel in Merion Station support different communal goals. But two common bonds tie them together: the exceptional service of their members, and the unwavering resolve with which they support Israel.

The event has been honoring remarkable women for more than 25 years now, noted Lynne Gorson Cohen, director of the Women's Division of Israel Bonds, adding that it works to "acknowledge that we are one community."

Israel Bonds, an organization that sells investment securities that go directly to developing the infrastructure of the Jewish nation, has also instituted a socio-economic program that seeks to "bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots" by creating jobs that provide employment to recent immigrants, explained executive director Lenard Zimmerman.

Events like the "Evening of Honor" demonstrate great love for Israel — and its care — within the Jewish community, said Zimmerman. For these women, aiding Israel is nothing new — "it's something that they've done their whole lives."

Cohen attested that the honorees have not slowed down one bit in their accomplishments, "starting new things" all the time and taking on new challenges, despite all they have already achieved. She added: "We should all be like that."

Rabbi Steven C. Wernick of Adath Israel said that the event was especially appropriate for its timeliness to Yom Ha'atzmaut. He added that "we're the only people in the world that have reclaimed their ancestral homeland."

Nevertheless, conflict has continued.

He noted that 25 percent of Israelis live close enough to combat areas to hear bomb explosions and gunfire.

Despite threats of war — or perhaps in spite of them — Israel has prospered. More scientific papers come out of the country, per capita, than any other in the world, stated the rabbi, and Israel is the only country to start the 21st century with more trees than in the 20th.

Those achievements are part of what has been created by Israel Bonds. "The human bonds," said the rabbi, are why such integral ties "mean so much."

For Bobbie Morgenstern, Israel Bonds National Women's Division chair, a special joy comes from being involved with the health and development of the Jewish state. She spoke of the pride she feels knowing that she is part of everyday necessities in Israel.

Uriel Palti, Israel's consul general in Philadelphia, noted that when Israel began, many people in the fledgling state had nothing, and the government had little as well. Foreign banks and governments were skeptical about helping the newly formed nation. "Without the United States of America, we would not be the way we are today," he said. "We do not take it for granted."

The women present felt the same way: "Every time I go to Israel," said Lefeber, "I feel like I'm going home."



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