Selma Mosgin has one distinct memory that exemplifies why she has volunteered with Amit for more than 50 years.
On a trip to Israel in 1993, she visited several of the organization’s facilities, including a family residence where 11 troubled boys lived with a young couple. She remembers a peaceful scene with dinner preparations under way.
“The husband was talking to us and his little boy was standing there with his arms around his father’s side, and he was telling us about this particular group of boys that were so disturbed that they could not be in an apartment with the other children,” she said. “What they do with them is they save their lives. They give them special attention.”
Since 1925, Amit has been helping needy children in Israel with education, housing and other necessities. The organization operates 110 schools, youth villages and family residences along with many programs; it will help 26,000 children this year.
“We enable Israel’s youth to realize their potential,” said Robbie Pearlstein, Amit’s mid-Atlantic regional director.
On Sunday, Nov. 17, the organization honored several of its volunteers, some posthumously, at a gala at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion.
“We’ve had so many wonderful ladies who volunteered, and I felt like it was time to pay tribute, even to the ones who have gone,” said Sonia Greenspon, who organized the gala. She has been volunteering with the group for decades and was also honored.
Many volunteers, including Greenspon, got involved with Amit, which has had many names over the years, through other family members.
“[My mother] sat on the phone for hours every time there was a function, trying to get people to come and contribute,” Greenspon said. “My picture of her is sitting on the telephone.”
Greenspon, who has two grandchildren who attend Amit schools, has a similar story to Mosgin’s about a serene scene she once saw when there was a measles epidemic. Children who normally would have been in school were home in bed, but rather than complain, they seemed happy and content.
“They really give each child what they need — individual attention,” she said. “Seventy percent of the kids Amit helps live below the poverty line, and the organization’s alumni number more than 100,000.
Mosgin said the Israeli government turns failing schools over to Amit, and the organization brings in its own principals, teachers and curriculum. She said Amit’s schools produce top students.
“We get them prepared to go to college,” she said. “We just do miracles.”
Mosgin, 85, got involved in her 30s. Her grandmothers, mother, aunts and cousins were all involved. She’s served as president, and now co-president, since the early 1990s.
“So many of us are there because our parents or grandparents were there, and so it [was] passed on l’dor v’dor,” she said. “It’s a great honor, and I’m proud to have any part in what Amit does.”
Pearlstein said Amit volunteers, who span the age spectrum, truly feel connected to the organization’s work.
“They feel that they’re their kids, they feel ownership toward them,” she said. “It’s all about the kids and their love for Israel.”
She hopes that the gala served as a call to action.
“What hopefully will come out of this event [is that] the children of these women, who have worked their entire lives for the organization, will step up to the plate,” Pearlstein said.
Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter — firstname.lastname@example.org