WIZO Dallas chapter debuts
Photo: Malke Brookler
WIZO Dallas Vice-chair Kelsey Grinstein moderated a panel including, from left, Rachie Shnay, Sarit Shaer and Joyce Azria, May 29, 2024.

Zionist group aims to capture women’s passion for Israel

By Deb Silverthorn

More than 105 years after the Women’s International Zionist Organization was founded, Dallas has launched a chapter.

Over 140 women celebrated, and were educated about, the organization at its May 29 WIZO Dallas launch party. The event was hosted at Cantoni furnishings, featuring Promised Land mojitos, Spicy Zionista cocktails and other specialties catered and sponsored by A Taste of the World.

“Community is everything to me and reaching out to make things happen for the Jewish people and Israel is what motivates me,” said Susan Hollander, the founding chair of WIZO Dallas. “I was chair of the renovation of Mikvah Israel Dallas, working with an amazing group of people; I started the Purim Seudah and carnival at Shaare Tefilla; and it was time for something else. Hashem directs me and I follow His lead.

“I was walking on Shabbos, just after Oct. 7, and Brooke Bloomberg approached me and asked what I thought about starting a local WIZO chapter. For me and for Dallas, it was the right time,” she said. “I saw opportunities and found a group of women with a passion for Israel.” Hollander said that that core group made the chapter a reality.

WIZO, the largest education and social welfare nonprofit organization in Israel, serves tens of thousands of children, youth and families. More than 250,000 members and supporters, in 38 countries, assist 158 daycare centers, eight youth education institutes, two battered women’s shelters and a home for elderly residents.

In war times, over the decades and now since the Oct. 7 massacres, WIZO is on the ground providing direct aid by responding to critical needs, housing displaced families, operating 11 day-care centers in hospitals, activating support hotlines, supplying food packages, providing food vouchers and more.

A Jan. 11 “Night in Solidarity with Israel” evening, hosted by Hollander, her husband Jeremy and Brooke and Ari Bloomberg, assessed interest in forming a local chapter.

That evening, Mireille Manocherian, WIZO USA co-president, addressed the guests and shared the history — and the hoped-for future — of the organization.

“I was introduced to WIZO 37 years ago and thought it was a good way to meet people. Many years later, I am still close to some of those friends I made at the beginning. Like-minded, like-caring, we’ve done so much good,” said Manocherian. “WIZO is an extraordinary connection to Israel from wherever we are. For me, it’s like my fourth child.”

Manocherian is based in New York and co-leads WIZO USA with Ruthy Benoliel, who is based in Florida.

“Women in Dallas are dedicating their time, resources and energy. They can’t even know yet the impact they will make,” Manocherian said, “but I know it will be an amazing success.”

For Susan and Jeremy Hollander, WIZO is a generational tradition.

Photo: Courtesy Susan Hollander
Mireille Manocherian, co-president, Women’s International Zionist Organization USA, spoke to a group of prospective Dallas members, Jan. 11, 2024.

Susan’s great-grandmother was a member and her grandmother and mother each served as chapter presidents in Barranquilla, Colombia. Her mother was also a founding member of Miami’s WIZO Aviv chapter. Jeremy’s grandmother and mother were each chapter presidents of the Belgium-Luxembourg chapter.

The Hollanders are parents of four children: Ilana, Gabriel, Eli and Adina. Hollander’s intention is to prepare a fifth generation supporting Israel from the diaspora.

“Our children are all over whatever we are doing for the community. I took them to meetings and to check on the mikvah during construction and now they are up front hearing and learning about WIZO, the same as Jeremy and I did as children,” she said. “Most of the Jewish values, our connection to Israel, our Zionist identity and our dedication to giving back, came from the strong women before us.”

Susan Hollander said that in 2012, she went to a WIZO conference with her mother-in-law in Israel. She is back there this week to see how WIZO is making a difference.

“It is so meaningful, so fulfilling,” she said. “WIZO has had chapters in California, Florida, New Jersey and New York. I’m proud Dallas, the first chapter in Texas, is now a reality,” Hollander said.

Photo: Courtesy Susan Hollander
For Susan, Hollander, WIZO has been a multigenerational family affair. From left, standing: WIZO Dallas Chair Susan Hollander; Susan’s mother, Malke Wiesenberg Bejman. Seated: Susan’s grandmother Margarita Bejman Besalel; Susan’s children, from left, Adina, Ilana, Gabriel and Eli, in Panama, 2022. (Not shown: Hollander’s great-grandmother Shoshana Besalel, of blessed memory.)

In May, attendees heard Kelsey Grinstein, vice-chair of WIZO Dallas, moderate a conversation with Joyce Azria, former creative director at BCBGeneration and founder of Avec Les Filles and Rohb on Amazon; Sarit Shaer, world-renowned energy healer and coach, who has helped thousands of people heal and find their unique path to fulfillment; and Rachie Shnay, jewelry designer of The Mazel Collection, member of WIZO-New York’s governing board and former co-chair of World WIZO Aviv.

The trio, founders of The Healers Collection, are Zionist entrepreneurs who fuse their passion for jewelry and healing with their strong love and support for Israel. Proceeds from donations, and 15% of all sales during the Cantoni-hosted event, will support the WIZO Food Voucher Program to provide families in need with meals during the High Holy Days, as well as the organization’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah Heritage Program.

On tap for WIZO Dallas beginning in the fall are: a community baking event; programs for couples, families and children; and an evening for WIZO participants to hear from a graduate of a WIZO center in Israel, who will share how the organization has impacted their life.

Growing the local chapter has meant putting a board in place. At press time, Hollander has secured Brooke Bloomberg, Malke Brookler, Roxy Diamond, Carol Findling, Abi Frankel, Kelsey Grinstein, Dara Nathan, Carolyn Nosnik, Sarah Pailet, Renee Palombo, Robyn Radusky, Marcy Rhoads, Sarina Schick, Debbie Tobias and Stephanie Vidikan to join her on Dallas’ founding board.

“My motto for life is to take the talents that Hashem gives to each of us and use them to light up the world,” says Hollander. “Every Jew has a mission to help another and this is a beautiful unification for our community.

“For all of us and anyone who joins us as we grow, we will prosper,” she added. “We will prosper in our homes here in Dallas, in Israel and around the world because we are motivated, we are caring and we are — from generation to generation — holding on as we give to others.”

For information about WIZO Dallas or to make a donation, follow on Instagram at @wizodallas or email wizodallas@gmail.com.

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