One of my proudest achievements has been the opportunity to give back to New York City through the Chartan/Holm Family Foundation, which I established with Steve Holm in the mid-1990s to aid and grow local charities. We’ve put our core values of community, culture, clarity, and care at the forefront. These are the elements in many successful and impactful missions. They are in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and are themes in every work of literature. For a society to be healthy, people need their health, creative inspiration, and support from other human beings.
I’m not just thinking of New York, or my neighbors. The impact of good work and positive intentions is always more than your immediate surroundings. For the charities we support, local progress translates to national and global impact. Our work at Chartan/Holm Family Foundation is centered in four areas: The arts, medical care, elderly/disabled/youth care, and Jewish initiatives.
The Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) is an excellent example of a charity with local branches and huge international impact. We selected to support WIZO because of its extensive and complete reach across many areas community and personal growth. WIZO improves lives by providing social service programs and educational facilities in Israel, with a focus on women, family, and community welfare. Their projects touch people at all stages of life, including schools, child care, safe homes for girls, shelters for women escaping domestic abuse, women’s advancement projects, and services for the elderly.
The emphasis WIZO places on education is something that resonates with me and my personal journey. I put myself through college working as a secretary and property manager, and went on to found and grow Bach Realty with an all-woman sales team. Our success over the years wasn’t easy. The 80’s was a time when women were pushing hard to be recognized. Even today, women earn less than men. No matter the obstacles, the ability to pull oneself up is essential. WIZO’s programs are a direct effort to remove people from the cycle of poverty through academic, vocational, and agricultural training.
There is a long history of success behind WIZO. After its establishment in Great Britain in 1920, it was recognized as a NGO by the United Nations in 1959, and became the first Zionist organization to achieve consultative status for the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). WIZO USA has two representatives to the United Nations and an operating budget of $100 million. With this, it operates over 800 programs. It is second only to the Israeli government in providing for women, children, and the elderly, and is also one of the largest employers in Israel.
For children, this work is especially important. WIZO provides more than 900,000 meals to people in need in Israel each month, many of them malnourished children. At Nir Haemek High School & Youth Village in the northern city Afula, there are dormitories and facilities for 175 children from dysfunctional homes. Many of these students have Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) which they are finally able to overcome with the safe, caring environment and professional help that Nir Haemek provides. Children also learn about growing plants, a cheese factory, holocaust studies, and animals.
I’m especially amazed by the transformation of women who are served by the WIZO shelters. Battered women come to WIZO in collaboration with the police, hospitals and the local family welfare centers. In Israel, 12 shelters provide safe harbor for women and children for up to six months, or longer in special cases. After the women join the home, social workers meet with them and the children to plan for their rehabilitation and safe future. Children attend school within the shelter or in the neighborhood nearby.
The shelters at WIZO are not just places of safety, but also for growth and opportunity. There is a lawyer who ensures the women receive assistance with needs such as separation orders. Women are also given control to decide activities and rules in the homes as a group. Each of them goes through a process of meetings, interviews, workshops, and advice to emerge empowered, prepared, and independent for her next steps, both emotionally and financially. Finally, WIZO provides a support network in the community, and daycare so the mother can work.
A holistic view is what sets WIZO apart. Each project focuses on the individual’s potential, and sees them through from beginning to end. There is no point where WIZO leaves people by themselves, it cares for the whole person throughout their lifecycle. There is a message of hope and perseverance here that many people will recognize in their own lives.
Are you ready to ask me how you can get involved? In the US, there are seven chapters of WIZO USA, including New York, New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester, and the New York Young Leadership chapter. Each of these has meetings, donation events, and community events. Those interested in volunteering can attend one of the planning meetings to learn what activities are coming up. College students can also volunteer in Israel at the communities.
I’ve been fortunate to succeed, and I’ve also worked hard for my success. It’s a pleasure to know that I can now help others on their path to realizing their greatest selves.