Passport to Israel



I can’t remember exactly when I became a “volunteer” for Greater Detroit Section, but I was quite little.   My mother, Adele Sonenklar, loved our organization and our projects so much that she got me involved at a very young age.  I helped with mailings, table decorations, and whatever else I could do. As I grew older, the responsibilities grew greater.  For 3 or 4 summers, while I was a high school student and then a college student, I was the unpaid scheduler for the Thrift Shop’s pickup of donations. We had a truck that was contributed and maintained by an anonymous donor, and we had certain days of the week that a specific area would be visited by our driver.  Only one city would be serviced per day, but there was plenty of work for our driver who was paid to do the pickups.   The truck went out five days a week.

After I married, I went away from Council for awhile to become a volunteer for Federation because of my husband’s involvement there.   Eventually, my friend Terran Leemis, convinced me that it was time for me to return to our section.  She knew of my interest in Israel, and told me about a project called Passport to Israel that she thought would be great for me.  Ann Zousmer was our President, Marilyn Levine and I were the Co-Chairs and the fit was fine.   The goal was to educate elementary students about Israel and the diversity of the three main religions that lived together peacefully.  First, we had to meet with school superintendents to get their approval, and to get their agreement that we would refer to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.   We spoke to students in Detroit, Ferndale, West Bloomfield, and Bloomfield Hills and the sessions were very successful.  We had a giant map of the world to help the children better visualize the size of Israel.  We had a number of “busts” that we put appropriate headdresses on and draped appropriate clothing around so students could see what the various Israelis looked like.  We also applied the proper facial coloring.

Although our usual venues were the elementary schools, I got a call one day from the manager of the Dearborn Ritz Carlton Hotel.   He was in a bind because the hotel was sponsoring an International week with a different country featured each day.  Israel was to be one of the highlights; however, he didn’t have anyone to do a presentation and he was expecting 200 elementary students coming to the Ritz’s ballroom.  He called the Dearborn Superintendent of Schools, who referred him to me.  This was a huge number of kids and I could not find a partner to go with me so I enlisted my two daughters, 8th grade Rachel and 5th grade Jenny.  They found Israeli money, souvenirs and clothing they had collected from our trips to Israel.  I took the girls out of school for the session and they displayed their treasures, and carried the busts throughout the ballroom.   It was a great experience for all of us.