In closing the Heart Stirring Negev Event on Zoom, Ilan Pilo, executive director of JNF Pacific Region, talked about the important work done by Save a Child’s Heart, the organization at the centre of this year’s fundraising campaign. (screenshot)
Jewish National Fund of Canada, Pacific Region, held its first virtual Negev campaign event on Aug. 30. The original Zoom was recorded and shown again on Sept. 13 and 16. The object of the fundraising campaign is Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), an Israeli-based global organization with the mission of improving “the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children in developing countries.”
“This year, we’re collaborating with Save a Child’s Heart to build a treatment room in the pediatric surgical wing,” explained Lance Davis, chief executive officer of JNF Canada. “Thanks to your support, JNF can fund the bricks and mortar to house the wonderful doctors and staff who perform life-saving surgeries. JNF will literally fund the foundation of the [new children’s] hospital to provide the necessary facilities to advance this beautiful tikkun olam project. Together with you, our generous donors, we truly are building Israel.”
This tagline – “Building Israel Together” – forms part of the new logo for JNF Canada. The change comes in part because, while JNF Canada continues in its environmental mission, it has become more involved in social infrastructure projects, such as youth centres, playgrounds and healthcare facilities. The current Negev campaign is the latest example of this shift: the treatment room is one of possibly two that JNF Canada will fund (depending how much the campaign raises), which are being constructed in the International Pediatric Cardiac Centre at Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon, Israel.
After Ethan Doctor, a King David High School student, sang O Canada, and Beth Hamidrash’s Rabbi Shlomo Gabay sang Hatikvah, Bernice Carmeli, JNF Pacific Region president, welcomed everyone to the virtual Negev event, which was emceed by JNF Pacific Region past president David Goldman.
Dr. Saul and Lindsay Isserow were honourary chairs of the evening. “Our family became aware of Save a Child’s Heart when my oldest daughter, Jenna, volunteered there one summer,” said Lindsay Isserow. The chance to support an Israeli organization that highlights the contributions Israel makes to the world and to the region is another reason the family was part of this event, said her husband, who specializes in preventive cardiology, among other areas. “The cardiology [aspect] is important to me, obviously, because this is something that’s treatable,” he said.
A video showed some of the work SACH has done – it has saved the lives of more than 5,400 children from 62 countries.
Co-campaign chairs Lana and Doug Pulver first visited Wolfson Medical Centre years ago. “I was moved by the way that this organization takes care of children from all over the world regardless of their background, regardless of where they come from, and ensures that their lives are saved,” said Lana Pulver, who was so taken with SACH that she joined its national board a few years ago.
“Each child that is saved is a whole world – and those worlds learn of the compassion of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel,” said Dr. Lior Sasson, lead surgeon at SACH, in his remarks and thanks.
The remainder of the evening was spent with David Shore, one of the producers of The Good Doctor and of House, interviewing Israeli TV show Fauda’s co-author, Avi Issacharoff, and actor Itzik Cohen, who plays the character of Captain Ayub (Gabi). They talked about many topics, including Fauda’s international popularity; how Cohen, a comedian who does musicals, got his (very serious) part as an interrogator; some of Issacharoff’s and Cohen’s favourite scenes; and, of course, SACH.
Ilan Pilo, executive director of JNF Pacific Region, wound up the program by thanking all those who made the event possible: the donors, the boards, staff and others.
After the Sept. 16 streaming, Pilo spoke with the Independent. About 250 people viewed the event over its three nights, he said, noting that it was just the first of two main parts to the local Negev campaign. The next is called Join Us in the JNF Virtual Sukkah, on Oct. 8, 7pm. “It is a Jewish cardiologist panel,” said Pilo. Isserow will spearhead that conversation, and the cardiologists on the panel with him are Drs. Arthur Dodek, Zach Laksman and Joshua Wenner. For more information and registration, visit jnf.ca/vancouver/campaigns/negev-campaign.
The annual Negev Dinner would have normally taken place in the spring or summer. Looking back to March, when COVID hit in full force, Pilo said, “We had plans, and then we were thinking about doing something in April or May, but we realized that people were not going to leave their homes and we had to reconsider our plans…. We had to do everything very quickly. In a month we had to put together an event. And it’s different. On the one hand, it’s in a way easier because you don’t have to serve dinner. On the other hand, you have to be very creative and prepare everything in advance for the online campaign.
“For instance, we have made videos of local young Vancouverites who had volunteered in the past for SACH,” he said. To do this, the former volunteers had to be tracked down and convinced to record themselves. “This way,” said Pilo, “they became part of the online campaign…. You need to get people’s attention and interest and this was a great way [to do that].”
He hoped that the Heart Stirring Negev events would inspire people to contribute to the SACH’s project, “a cause that brings so much pride to the Jewish people everywhere.” Donations are still being accepted at vannegevdinner.ca, 604-257-5155 and [email protected].