Getting to Know Us…An Interview with Donna Grushka

Thanks to volunteer, Irv Cantor, we present this second installment of our new “Getting to Know Us” blog series which began in December with an interview with Executive Director, David London. Watch this space for further articles acquainting you with the many members, employees, volunteers and donors who make AACI the place for English-Speakers in Israel.


Interview with Donna Grushka Donna at AACI  early 2000's

The world-famous anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The gentle force of her words can be heard in the  recollections and thoughts of Donna Grushka, an AACI volunteer. She has a  unique history with AACI, and we appreciate her taking the time to share her  insights with our blog readers.

Donna, thank you for agreeing to respond to our questions. Let’s start with how you came to AACI.

Let me start before that. In 1976, my husband Eli, who was born in Israel, was teaching chemistry at the State University of NY at Buffalo, when he received an invitation to be a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. We were here for nine months and I fell in love with the country, fell in love with being here. We went back to Buffalo, right into the Great Blizzard of 1977, which was a shock after being in Israel for nine months! We returned to Israel in the Spring of 1978. Eli is still teaching at Hebrew University, and is also busy with research and consulting.

I took an intensive ulpan and worked as a research assistant at Hebrew University and elsewhere. In the spring of 1983 I was looking for a new job. I had the idea that I wanted to do something with English-speaking olim, but I didn’t know exactly what. I saw an ad for a temporary job as a counselor at AACI. At the time, I knew very little about AACI.  My husband was an Israeli – if there was something to be done involving forms or procedures, my husband was my “in house” expert. But I responded to the ad, and even though I was not a social worker and had never been a direct service provider, AACI decided to take a chance with me. Luckily, the temporary job became permanent.  I was always grateful for that decision: working at AACI was the job of a lifetime for me!

I was intensively trained, which is important to note. AACI counselors are given in-depth training in order to accumulate the knowledge needed to be effective.

What is your academic background?

I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. But I knew already when I came to Israel that I did not want to work in the politically confrontational field of labor relations in Israel.

Although you’re not a counselor now, do you see a difference between being a counselor now and what you did as a counselor in the 1980’s?

Yes, there’s a definite difference. The organization was larger then, and there were more counselors. I became the third full-time counselor in the Jerusalem office. We were booked several weeks in advance with appointments. There were many new olim coming to the Jerusalem area. In the absorption center in Mevasseret Tzion, we had 50 families from North America. And in Beit Canada in East Talpiot, we also had about 50 singles and couples and young families. We were very busy, and, of course, there was no email or internet.

Visiting the absorption centers to greet olim and to provide counseling services was a very special part of AACI in those days. Volunteers went with the counselors to provide a personal connection. New neighborhoods were opening up, like Har Nof, and parts of Beit Shemesh, and AACI sent counselors to those areas to assist new immigrants.

Today, the counseling staff is much smaller. People have new resources, and sometimes rely on online information. However, when people have questions about their personal situation, they still need the individualized, specific hands-on advice and assistance that can only be provided by a real live person in a one-on-one setting. This is one of the most valuable benefits AACI provides to our members – to make an appointment and see a counselor in our offices (Sheila Bauman in Jerusalem, Miriam Green in the South Branch in Beer Sheva, Yanina Musnikow in the Central Branch in Tel Aviv, Netanya, and the North Branch in Haifa and other locations; and Helen Har Tal for employment counseling.)

None of us had computers in those days. We didn’t even have typewriters. I remember a counselors’ meeting where we were asked what our vision was for AACI. I responded that I had a dream that each counselor would have a computer on their desk. It seemed very far-fetched at the time.

Did your relationships with new olim extend beyond the initial weeks and months?

In many cases they did. People would come back months later, saying that they had accomplished certain goals and now wanted to move on to another set of goals. Education issues with children might not emerge until months later.

How long did you have this role? 

I began as a counselor in April 1983 and continued for about ten years. In 1993, I became the Assistant Director for the Jerusalem branch of AACI. There was a full time Director at the time just for the Jerusalem branch. The National office was separate. We shared the same building in the Talbieh neighborhood, with “downstairs” meaning National, and “upstairs” meaning the Jerusalem branch.

What were your responsibilities?

As Assistant Director, my main focus was on programs. I filled in for the Director when she was not around. I managed the production of the Jerusalem Voice magazine. I dealt with some outside organizations, and worked intensively with the Seniors group, as well as coordinating many of the volunteer activities such as the front desk.

What types of programs was AACI running back then?

We had presentations on the rights of olim, for example. The art class that is given today is a twenty-year-old program. There were music programs in the evenings. The old building was smaller, so we could not run many programs during the day. The Wednesday morning program for seniors (RAPS) is also one that has been in existence for a long time.

One of my most enjoyable activities at that time was working with the seniors. We had a nice garden outside our building. We had an end of season luncheon there every June.

Also, we held large yard sales in the garden area where we could accommodate 70 or 80 sellers and regularly attracted several thousand buyers.

The travel program started in the late 80’s and grew to the significant program that it is today.

For how long were you in this management role and what did you do after leaving?

I was in that role for about four or five years, and then at the end of 1997 I said I had to get out of the “ivory tower”. With some trepidation, I left AACI. I did a bunch of other things. I spent a year working for Birthright, when it was just a dream. It was a very small, modest role, similar to a secretary. The program was just being created, there was no real infrastructure. It was fun to support the dreamers.

After a short time working for Hadassah Women in Israel, I worked with Evie Weidenbaum, who had been the Director of the AACI Jerusalem office while I was at AACI, and who had become a close friend. We set up a small company which provided support services to families with elderly parents or spouses needing care. Then in 2004, I went to work, on a temporary basis that stretched into five years, for the Israel Government Coins and Medals Corporation. My job was to translate their public relations materials from Hebrew into English. I loved that job. The exposure to Jewish history and tradition was so interesting.  And after those five years, I retired.

When did you come back to AACI as a volunteer? How did that occur?

I have been active at AACI as a volunteer for about ten years, doing more and more as the years passed. Currently, I am Co-Chair of the Jerusalem Branch of AACI. Belle Fine-Cohen and I have just begun our second terms as Co-Chairs. We work closely with the AACI staff and other volunteers on programs and what goes on in this building. We sit on the National Board and also focus on cooperation with other organizations.

Towards the end of the ceremonyFor almost ten years, I have also been the Co-Chair of the National Memorial Ceremony that takes place in the Fall. I think that we, as the North American community in Israel, owe a debt of gratitude to our fellow countrymen who have come here and fallen, as members of the IDF or in other positions of service, or as victims of terror. We owe it to them, to remember them, to honor their memory once a year. So I have helped organize the ceremony along with my Co-Chair, Rabbi Jay Karzen.

On a totally different note, for three years I have been in charge of the art gallery shows in our building. It’s been a fun part of my work here, because I love seeing the artwork on the walls around our offices.

Visit our facebook album to view the rest of the photos. This is just a sample.

Visit our facebook album to view the rest of the photos. This is just a sample.

And I must mention the Children & Teen Art Exhibition which has attracted entries from kids around the country – English speakers, Hebrew speakers, and even international students.

I have worked on the amutot, the independent funds associated with AACI. Perhaps you are not aware, but AACI has three independent funds, including one that gives very small scholarships to school children in Jerusalem.

What skills do you think are necessary to be successful in these types of roles?

I think the essential skill is being able to get along with people who are very different from one another, and to be able to convince them to do things that need to be done. As a volunteer, you do not have authority to compel cooperation, so you have to use skills that convince and persuade.

What do you value most about the work you do and what AACI represents?

What I have always felt about AACI, and it is now thirty years that I am associated with the organization, is that we bridge the gaps between individuals. What do I mean by that? I mean that in this organization we have people from almost every part of the spectrum – politically, religiously, or any dimension you can think of. We are a diverse group. AACI looks to what unites us, as English-speakers in Israel. This is aside from all of the good work that we do, the support to olim, and the outreach to the community.

Does anything stand out as particularly rewarding?

This is not my project, so I cannot claim credit for it, but it reflects how special AACI can be. There was a project that Murray Safran z”l began over 20 years ago when there was the large Russian aliyah. He began a tutoring project to match up English speakers with these olim who needed to learn English, mostly for work. It was a huge project, and he did it as a volunteer. He did not have a computer – he had index cards with hundreds of volunteers and hundreds of students. It was a beautiful example of how AACI members reached out to the community.

It is rewarding when things you did many years ago have become the standard way of doing things for many other organizations. For example, AACI initiated a “Yom Aliyah”, bringing representatives from different government offices, from banks, and from the kupot cholim to talk to new olim individually, in one place at one time. Today, other organizations now consider this activity as the default for providing olim with needed information. I remember organizing the first one, when people came to the old building – some representatives even sat outside in the garden.

In the early 90’s we were all searching for ways to reach out to the Ethiopian olim. We invited Ethiopian children from the absorption center to come to a Hannuka party at AACI. We thought perhaps 20 or 30 children would come. Close to 100 excited kids came, many of whom spoke little Hebrew and obviously no English. It was a bit chaotic! But they sat on the floor next to North American olim children – and we lit candles, and sang songs.  I was very proud to be part of AACI that day.

During the Gulf War, when people were staying in their apartments, AACI volunteers living near the office, on their own volition, came in to the office and made phone calls to members who were living alone, to make sure they were okay, if they needed training on their gas masks, if they needed windows sealed with tape, if they needed medications from their kupat cholim, or had other concerns.

Let’s turn to the challenges. What challenges confront AACI as it supports its community of English-speakers in Israel?

I think the biggest challenge is always the financial one. We simply need more money to do all of the good things we want to do.

With the appearance of new organizations over the years that are addressing aliyah and klitah, we need to address our position relative to those organizations and what makes us unique. We need to communicate what we offer that cannot be found elsewhere.

We don’t have a timeline for our services. We don’t walk away when a new oleh has become “settled”. Yet many of our members, after two or three years, when they feel comfortable, let their membership lapse. When we contact them, we try to let them know that there are still many opportunities to work together, and that we understand that Aliyah Never Stops.  Our message is:  “We need you. We need your input. We need your time as a volunteer. We need your financial support.” It is interesting that we hear from members years later, when their circumstances change or they become elderly. The issues surrounding growing old in Israel can be difficult ones. We need to maintain an interested and supportive membership during that gap between growing comfortable in Israel and growing old in Israel.

Another challenge is to grow the number of young people to our organization. The J-Town Playhouse Theater is an effort in that direction. There is tremendous potential for young people to make a major contribution to AACI and support English-Speakers in Israel. And they can have a lot of fun at the same time. We need to develop ideas that will attract more young olim to AACI.

Are there parts of your work and volunteering that you would describe as fun?

I am not sure I am going to answer that question directly, but there is an important point I want to make. I think one of the nicest parts of being at AACI has been the friendships that I have made over the years. Some of these friends are former colleagues, and some are people who were “my” olim when I was a counselor. It is very rewarding – personally – when people say to me “ I remember when you were my aliyah counselor and you helped me settle in Israel”. To have helped people fulfill a dream is a wonderful feeling.

In the last year there were two events that brought together people who have worked for AACI in different eras. One was a birthday party for the former director of klitah and national executive director, Olga Rachmilevitch. A group of about 25 former employees went up to Netanya, where Olga lives, to celebrate. It was a great reunion. Second, AACI recently honored two people who have been working for the organization for 25 years, Carole Kremer and Helen Har Tal. Again, people spanning many years came together in this building to honor them. AACI has been extremely lucky that, despite modest salaries, the people who work at AACI have always been dedicated, caring, serious professionals. It has been a privilege to have known and worked with them.

What about your life outside AACI? Hobbies, interests…can you describe them?

My husband and I have been blessed with three wonderful daughters. One lives in the States and teaches as the University of Virginia. The other two live in Tel Aviv. We have three grandchildren, two of them in the States. Family is very important to us.

My husband and I are antique enthusiasts. We are especially interested in Israeli antiques and Judaica. We have collections of different things, for example old chanukiot. Not the fancy silver ones that came out of Europe, but Israeli ones from the 50’s and 60’s. We have old newspapers, and some framed newspaper stories for particular milestones, like the morning of May 14, 1948 saying the country would be established.

And we love Israeli art. We go to auctions and enjoy them. We don’t buy the big, famous names, but enjoy what we have. We also like going to concerts, theater, and the opera.  One more thing: we love watching sports on television, especially winter sports such as skiing and ice skating, as well as tennis and baseball.

Donna, thank you for taking the time to share your rich history at AACI with our readers, along with your ideas and insights. You should be an inspiration to readers to become part of the AACI family, to be members, to be volunteers, and to sponsor the remarkable work of AACI. Thanks, again.

To our readers, below are links to the services and programs mentioned by Donna during the interview:

Employment Counseling
Art Class
National Memorial Ceremony
Art Gallery Shows

AACI is the home for English Speakers in Israel with offices in

Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv,  Beer Sheva and Haifa.

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center

Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)  Talpiot, Jerusalem


Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.

(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.



Live from Jerusalem! It’s Avraham Avinu!

So by now, if you are a member of AACI, you have received a letter in the mail. And if you receive our free enewsletter, or if you are like us on facebook, or follow us on twitter, then you may know that Avraham Avinu was recently sighted in our Jerusalem office in Talpiot.

Here are some highlights of his visit.

Please like and share the video. And of course, you can donate by clicking here.

AACI is the home for English Speakers in Israel with offices in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Haifa.
AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall) Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.

Sneak Preview of Photos from Children’s and Teen’s Art Show – With Brush and Pen – April 11 2013

Last Thursday, April 11th AACI hosted the premiere of the 3rd Annual Children’s and Teen’s Art Show, with “Brush and Pen” thanks to a generous contribution by former AACI President, Gordon Sugarman (Betsy Sugarman ז”ל Memorial Fund) in memory of his beloved wife, Betsy z’l.

Kol HaKavod to all the kids and teens who participated…and their families…and of course, our beloved staff and volunteers who made this event happen!

In addition, Dr. Max & Gianna Glassman, whose generous gift has allowed us to thrive in our new facility in Talpiot were present and Dr. Max addressed the assembled crowd and Gianna assisted in the presentation of awards.

To say it was an amazing night barely describes the excitement, joy, enthusiasm and talent that we witnessed in a standing room only crowd.

We shot lots of photographs and even some video. The photos are up on our facebook page (please like us if you have not already done so) and even if you do not use facebook ordinarily, you can view them here.

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Here are just a few of the beautiful examples of talent demonstrated by our young artists. Please come to AACI-Dr. Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center to view the art and prose that is on display. And visit us on facebook to tag your work and photos of you.

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Enjoy the photos and please tag them and share them with your friends and family, and if you have more photos to add, please let us know so we can include your photos too.

Stay tuned for more to come… video, and photos of the entries.

If you are not already getting the AACI e-newsletter, sign up here so that you will be informed about other great events for the whole family happening at AACI.

Plans are already in the works for a great July 4th/Canada Day Celebration and you will surely want to join in for lots of fun!

If you would like to share in the excitement by sponsoring an event like this, or one that would be meaningful to a person you would like to remember or honor, please contact Bryna Lee at 02-566-1181 ext. 324 or bjacobson at aacidotorgdotil.

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.


Sarah Weinstein (this article originally appeared in the May-June 2011 edition of the VOICE)

Sarah Weinstein, former financial planner, current small business owner, full-time Mom and AACI volunteer, celebrated her 10th aliyah anniversary last June.

Sarah made aliyah June 21, 2001 from Mahattan New York. Her original plan, to join her parents who lived here, was disrupted by the death of her father, z”l, a few months before she came to Israel. Thus, when she got here, she found herself without a crucial pillar of support she had counted on.

Despite that, Sarah knew this was where she wanted to be. “This is the best place for me to raise Bonnie [her daughter], and I’ve always had a connection to Israel. I thought, if not now, when?” Bonnie was 4 and a half years old when they made aliyah, and has been thriving since. “My daughter is very comfortable. She loves it here. When she goes to America she says, ‘I’m ready to go back to Israel.'”

“It was crazy when I made aliyah, because I moved during the second intifada. It was a dream I had.”

Did you have a plan when you came?
I had absolutely no clue. My father died before I got here. I had been doing financial planning in America for 25 years, but I couldn’t keep my license once I moved to Israel.

What are the biggest challenges of living in Israel?
The language. The bureaucracy is the same all over the world, I don’t believe Israel is any worse when you have to wait online for something. You’d have the same problems in America. It’s no picnic there either!

What do you like best about living in Israel?
The friendships I’ve made are much deeper because everyone is in the same boat. Most people don’t have family here.  And I’m very blessed to have my mother here. And my friends have become my family.

Tell us about 4U Gifts.
6 years ago, a friend told me 4u was for sale, and a few weeks later, I bought it. A few months previous, I had gone to the AACI employment department. I had always wanted to own a boutique on Madison Avenue, but this is much better than being on Madison Avenue.

It’s a Gift Shop, housewares, and our primary business is bridal registrees. People can purchase online from all over the world. We import a lot of high-end brands, not like any other store in the country, customer service is just like America. People in the shop speak French, English and Hebrew.

I love buying, love being with people, love my clients, never two days that are the same. I loved financial planning because I was very much involved with peoples lives, but I was selling an abstract product. Now I see instant gratification. People generally come in happy and leave the same way.

How did you get involved with AACI?
I had known Josie (Arbel, director of Klitah Services and Programming). Josie had helped me before I made aliyah, and I knew that one lack I had was that I was heavily involved in the Jewish Community in America, but when I moved here, I was limited in what I could get involved with because of the language. I knew about AACI because my father, z”l, had wanted the AACI merger to happen. I had known about AACI for a long time, and I needed something to get involved with, so this was a logical place.

How did AACI help you when you first came to Israel?
AACI is always there as a sounding board. Any questions I have, I always talk to Sheila (Bauman, Klitah counselor in Jerusalem office) or Josie. I email Sheila, she gets back to me.
I sit on the Management Committee, was heavily involved in acquiring the building. I did the picking out of everything that’s in the offices. Chair of Development up until this year. Not involved in day-to-day operations, but in the overall where-we’re-going, what we’re doing, a board perspective, behind the scenes. Half the staff might not know who I am, and that’s fine, I don’t need to be known.
Loves AACI cruises – spends quality time with her mom, a very special time to be on that cruise.

4U Gifts – 41 Hebron Road, Jerusalem Tel. 02-671-8406 Email

Editor’s note:  Do you have an Israeli story — a personal story of life in Israel — that you would like to share with us? We are always interested in stories that will inform, uplift and inspire our readers. Of course, we reserve the sole right to publish or not, and to edit before publishing. Please submit your story, preferably including (non-copyright) photos as well, to forward to hearing from you!

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.

Expo Klita 2012: Back for a Second Year

Hear ye! Hear ye! Olim both chadashim and vatikim (how’s that for a lovely example of Heblish – Hebrew mixed with English?)!

Whether you have been in Israel a year or two or twenty, there is always something new to learn: about housing, jobs, health care, education, you name it. In fact, at times the sheer volume of information you need can be overwhelming, as you rush from one office to another, asking questions in your less-than-perfect Hebrew.

Wouldn’t it be great if all this information were gathered together under one roof, and available to you in English? Well, at Expo Klita 2012 you will find exactly that!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012, from noon until 8 PM is the date and Binyanei Ha’uma (the National Convention Center, across from the Central Bus Station) is the place.

Meet experts and see presentations on topics ranging from taking a mortgage on a home in Israel to buying a car, in English, the language you are probably most comfortable with.  Featuring incredible offers and discounts as well, this is a “don’t miss” occasion. Admission is free and childcare for ages 3 to 9 will be available on site.

As one of the co-sponsors of this second annual event, we at AACI are hoping to repeat last year’s success. Stop by our booth to say hi and meet some of our friendly employees. Don’t forget to bring your questions 🙂

Looking forward to seeing you!

For more information about Expo Klita 2012, please contact:

Einav 02-625-2933 OR

Liat 050-253-3315

To register for the Expo, click here.

AACI has worked with IMP Media to arrange subsidized buses for your convenience, from the following locations:
Tel Aviv              Haifa/Zichron Ya’acov                Netanya 
and  for the Beer Sheva bus and Tiyul, please email: Tamar Iancu at
Please go to for more details.

For more information about AACI’s services and programs for English speakers in Israel:

(02)566-1181 OR stop by:

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center, Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2, Talpiot    MAP

Buses # 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.

P as in Protekzia: AACI’s Navigational Series

The concept behind AACI’s popular Navigational Series is simple: putting those of us who don’t know together with someone who does. Both aliyah and what comes after – daily life in Israel – are quite challenging. All of us, no matter how long we have been in this country, still have many new things to learn. (TRUE STORY: Although I have lived in Israel for 20 years, I just found out a way to save money on my health care payments from someone who made aliyah last Tuesday.) Dealing with bureaucracy and solving problems require not only time, energy and money, but often something more.

The missing ingredient is what is referred to as Vitamin P, P as in protekzia, which can be defined as connections, pull, knowing the right people and the right procedure. Problem is, most of us olim haven’t got it. We are often somewhat isolated, without a solid grasp of the language or the strong family ties so important to native Israelis. Like the simple son in the Passover haggadah, we don’t know who or even what to ask.

That’s where AACI’s navigational series comes in.  It is a series of talks by English-speaking experts in fields such as housing, health care, banking, education, insurance, American citizenship/Social Security and much more. The subjects, which are generally repeated from year to year, stem from the questions most commonly asked by callers to AACI’s counseling hotline. (For short aliyah-related inquiries, call 02-566-1181 Sunday through Thursday from 12:15 to 1:15 PM.)  

Counselor Sheila Bauman, finding that the same topics came up again and again, decided that having those questions addressed in detail, by an experienced professional, would be   a great way to reach large numbers of olim.

And the response has been extremely positive. The lectures are well attended, by English speakers of a wide assortment of ages. Although each lecturer is a professional businessperson, they are donating their services and the purpose of the evening is not promotional, but informational.  The speaker tries to address the concerns of every person in the room. Sheila makes the impressive statement that no one leaves with his or her questions unanswered, whether in the public forum, or by speaking privately with the lecturer after the talk. And, knowing how many questions we puzzled Anglos can come up with, that is saying a lot.

Watch for the next Navigational Lecture on Monday, June 4, at 7 PM. Advocate Deanna Fein will discuss “Housing Contracts: Rental & Purchase.”

All Navigational Lectures take place at the AACI Jerusalem Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center. Cost is NIS 15 for AACI members/NIS 20 for non-members.  Please call 02-566-1181 to register.

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center, Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2, Talpiot    MAP
Buses # 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.

AACI has been “Welcoming Us Home” for many years… Remembering Lynn Davison z”l

As we celebrate AACI’s 60 year anniversary, we give tribute to the memory of a special woman who epitomized the activist, volunteer spirit of AACI’s founders  – Lynn Davison z”l.  Many of our members, including Executive Director David London, remember Lynn greeting them at the airport upon aliyah, with a warm “welcome home,” and assisting them in their first steps.

AACI was saddened by the death of Lynn Davison, who passed away on Oct 12, 2010, shortly before her 90th birthday.

Lynn grew up in New York at a time when ideologies were discussed, debated and argued with great intensity.  Lynn was a feminist long before it became fashionable, and was not afraid to speak up and fight for what she believed in.  In the US Lynn worked for the ILGWU, the dressmaker’s union, and she stood up to bosses who wanted to pay their workers as little as possible.  She picketed the White House when the Rosenbergs were sentenced to die in 1953.

Lynn made aliyah in 1970, even though the Shaliach told her to send her children, because Israel didn’t need people her age (she was a very sprightly 50 at the time).  She came anyway.  She worked for the Machon L’piriya V’Yitsur for a number of years and traveled around the country to help improve efficiency and working conditions in many garment industry factories.  When she sat down at the sewing machine and showed young workers how to do something, they immediately recognized that this woman was not a high and mighty manager, but one of them, who understood what it meant to sit bent over a machine without enough light to see what they were doing.

From 1980, Lynn was an active volunteer at AACI.  She was a board member of the Central Region (now Branch), Chairperson of the AACI Seniors and National Vice President for Klitah.  Her pet project however, was meeting new olim at the airport, helping them through all the paperwork and sending them and their luggage off to their destinations in their new home.  She loved to greet them with a big smile and a “Welcome home.”  For 13 years Lynn trained and organized the team of AACI volunteers, taking up the slack when no one else could meet a late flight, even in the middle of the night.  It was not unusual for Lynn to go to the airport up to three times the same day.  She was fierce in her conviction that this was THE most important service AACI offers, and it must be done properly!

On January 28, 2001 Lynn Davison was honored with a Volunteer Award by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.  Then-Minister of Klitah, Yuli Tamir, awarded the recognition, and Lynn was invited to the President’s house with other American immigrants who had made extraordinary contributions to Israel.

When she moved to Ra’anana and retired from those activities, she volunteered to tutor students in English, both for the bagrut (matriculation exams) at Ostrovsky High School and Bar Tov elementary school.

Lynn is survived by her daughter Judy Himmelfarb and son Michael Davison and 2 granddaughters.

As we witness the nation taking to the streets to fight for social justice, all of us at AACI who knew Lynn can imagine how she would approve.  This feisty, strong, determined, articulate, intelligent woman strongly believed in “social justice” and that government is obligated to take care of all its citizens equally.

Lynn’s daughter Judy said at the end of shiva: “I admired your courage, your integrity, your intelligence…I am thankful that you were the kind of person who deserves to be described with these adjectives.”

AACI thanks Judy Himmelfarb for sharing Lynn’s history and her memories with us.