Israeli entrepreneur and author addresses women leaders

November 24, 2019

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So what do you think about letting your kindergartener play with a rusty old kitchen stove? How about old truck tires or a baby bathtub that’s seen better days? At first, you’re probably taken aback just thinking about that scenario…but to hear Israeli high-tech entrepreneur and author Inbal Arieli tell it…that’s part of the secret sauce that makes Israel so successful.

When asked what makes Israel so successful—especially in the area of high-tech development—many people naturally think about Israel’s policy of compulsory military service. Others think about an emphasis on STEM education throughout a young person’s life. Still others point to an abundance of research universities sprinkled throughout the tiny country.

These are all valid points, and “all of these experiences reinforce one another,” said Arieli in her remarks during the annual Lion Tikva Chai Luncheon, hosted on November 8 by the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Women’s Division. But the real secret in the secret sauce, claims Arieli, is allowing children from very young ages—preschool even —to experiment with real objects (not toy stoves, but real ones which have surpassed their useful lives; real tires that are worn out and no longer road worthy). These and other household items now sit in playgrounds across Israel—even in wealthy neighborhoods—alongside slides, swings, and monkey bars. They are there to allow the children to use their imaginations to build space ships, robots, and other still undiscovered creations. And all the while, the teachers and aides are observing and monitoring, but not interfering.

As a result, very young Israeli children find ways to dig into their creative minds; work collaboratively with their peers for help out of necessity (to move, for example, a heavy tire from here to there), and combine their ideas for an even better outcome. It’s true that they might get a scrape or a scratch in the process (after all, real life items are not built with child-friendly corners), but they quickly learn the best ways of handling these items. And they learn that a little scratch is not an excuse for quitting. It encourages them to take risks.

There are many other lessons to be learned on these Israeli playgrounds. But what quickly becomes clear is that these lessons are the ones that infuse both the sense of independence and that of interdependence within these children at a very young age, thus preparing them for IDF service and later in life when it is both necessary and natural for them to create, build, and offer their valued products and ideas to the world. This is the Start Up Nation of Israel.

The Lion Tikva Chai lunch was marked by a series of welcomes, thanks, and remembrances. Cabinet Chair Mona Flax welcomed all to the event and gave a brief update on the status of the 2020 Community Campaign. She then turned the program over to Barbara Dudley, vice chair/chair-elect and to Janet Mercadante, immediate past chair, to welcome the newest Lions, Tikvas, and Chais, and to remember the community’s Endowed Lions of Blessed Memory.

New milestone givers in the 2020 Women’s Campaign included: New Ruby Lions Wendy Konikoff and Annabel Sacks; New Lions Barbara Dudley and Barb Gelb; New Tikvas Ellen Hundley and Carin Leon; and new Chai Anne Kramer. New Endowed Lions (LOJE’s) included: Shari Friedman, Marcia Moss, and Renee Strelitz. In closing her remarks, Dudley thanked each of the newest milestone givers in the community, encouraging them “to continue to go from strength to strength in [their] philanthropy and [their] commitment.”

Mercadante then called the names of the community’s Endowed Lions of Blessed Memory, which included: Esther Fleder, Helen Gifford, Fay Halpern, Lee Jaffe, Sophia Konikoff, Alma Laderberg, Telsa Leon, Eleanor Rashkind, Annette Shore, Joyce Strelitz, and Sylvia Yavner. “May the memory of these wonderful women,” said Mercadante in closing her remarks, “Continue as a blessing for our community and for each of us as well.”

The Federation Women’s Division’s Lion Tikva Chai Lunch was a day of sisterhood and strength, as the community welcomed new leaders and remembered those whose hard work and dedication created a bedrock upon which to continue to build.

Inbal Areli was in town as part of the Simon Family JCC’s Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival through a partnership with the Jewish Book Council, and as part of the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Simon Family JCC, and community partners’ 9th annual Israel Today series.

Amy Zelenka, Campaign director

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