Betina Salmun is a mother, textile designer, JWRP sister, and a community leader. After her MOMentum experience, Betina created both an arts and crafts class and a monthly food delivery service for impoverished elderly Jews in the Buenos Aires community. A day after sharing her experiences at the JWRP’s Latin American Conference, Betina spoke with us about the enormous power of women.
What inspired you to travel to Israel with the JWRP?
I had seen many of Lori Palatnik’s videos online and thought that it would be wonderful to travel to Israel with her. I was looking to be inspired — by Jewish values, Jewish women from all over the world, and Israel — and I got all of that and more!
How did MOMentum impact you?
MOMentum showed me that when women get together, they can do amazing things. I saw that during our first night when hundreds of JWRP sisters danced and sang together on the Kinneret. And I experienced it again when the women we met at the mikvah in Tzfat embraced us with so much warmth. And once again when Pamela Claman opened her home and heart to us, as she does for so many Israeli soldiers. MOMentum showed me the power of women and inspired me to apply my strengths to making a difference in my community.
Tell us about the volunteer work you do for the elderly in your community.
When an economic crisis hit Argentina in 2001, my synagogue began offering meals for poor elderly Jews in our community. I often visited these individuals at home and brought them food, but after my MOMentum experience, I felt motivated to do more for them. I decided to merge two of my passions, and I created an arts and crafts class for elderly community members. We meet twice a month and 25 to 30 people attend each class. Aside from creating beautiful handcrafts, including challah plates and menorahs, we provide each other with warmth and support.
During one class, an elderly woman started to cry because she had nothing to eat at home. That’s when I decided to launch Yachad. Once a month, about 20 women from my community — including my three daughters and many JWRP sisters — and I deliver 250 packages of kosher canned food and dry goods to our elderly community members. Before Rosh Hashanah, we include meat and challah, and before Passover, we deliver matzah. We call ourselves the Ladies of Ahava, meaning, the Ladies of Love.
People are shocked to learn that there is poverty in the Jewish community, and my family, friends, and community members have been very generous in providing funds to support the elderly. Together, we have been able to make a real difference in their lives.
What advice would you give to JWRP sisters who want to launch volunteer projects in their communities?
First, just take the first step. Doing something small can make a big difference in someone’s life. Second, find people to work with. When we work together, we can do so much more. Be transparent about your work and build trust among your community. My family and friends feel comfortable donating to Yachad because they know exactly what their funds will be used for — to purchase food for our community’s elderly, to help them pay their rent, and to subsidize their transportation to our synagogue where they can enjoy hot meals. Finally, know that when we give, we receive just as much in return. If you are blessed enough to give, share what you have with others.
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