Anne Elaine Heyman (1961-2014) was born in South Africa and moved to the US with her family when she was 15. After doing a year of high school in Israel, she studied at the University of Pennsylvania, and then got a law degree from Columbia University. She was soon Manhattan’s assistant district attorney, focusing on fighting white-collar crime. In 1994, she began devoting her time to philanthropic causes, first volunteering with an organization that assists the elderly, as well as Hillel, Young Judea, and the Jewish Community Centers of America. In 2005, she learned that the Rwandan genocide left over a million orphans. Inspired to make a change, she realized she could apply the same model that Israel used in caring for orphans following the Holocaust. Heyman raised $12 million and convinced the Rwandan government to give her 144 acres of land on which she built a village for orphans (called Agahozo-Shalom). To power the village, Heyman built a solar plant – one of the largest in sub-Saharan Africa – which provides electricity for the rest of Rwanda as well. To help her, she brought in Israeli Ethiopian Jews to serve as councilors and teachers. The orphans, some of whom didn’t even know their names, were given a home, an education, a trade, and a new family. They affectionately called Heyman “Mom”, “Grandmother”, and “Angel”. Over 500 teenagers continue to live and prosper in Heyman’s village today. Sadly, Heyman passed away a year ago in a tragic horse-riding accident. Her husband and children are continuing her important work.
Words of the Week
I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world… as a marvelous example of what can be done… how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Shmuel Gompers (1850-1924) was born in London to a Jewish family that immigrated from the Netherlands. At age 10 he was taken out of school and sent to work as a cigarmaker to help his struggling family make a living. After a long day’s work, Gompers would continue his Jewish studies, focusing on the Talmud, which he later compared to studying civil law. Still struggling, the family moved again when Samuel was 13, to Manhattan. The childhood poverty he experienced inspired him to be a champion for the little guy. At 14 he joined the local cigarmakers’ union, while starting a debate club to hone his political skills. By age 25, Gompers was elected president of the local union, and later vice-president of the international union. Under his tenure, sick benefits and death benefits were introduced, along with a shorter (8 hour) work day, fair wages and safe working conditions. Gompers co-founded and headed the American Federation of Labor until his death, by which point it had over 3 million members, making it the largest such federation in the world. During this time, the AFL supported the implementation of a holiday for workers – now celebrated as Labor Day. For the first six years, he did not receive a salary for his work! His extensive knowledge got him appointed to the Council of National Defense during World War I, and in 1919 he participated in the post-war peace process as an official adviser on labor issues. At his death in 1924, Gompers was given a state funeral with thousands coming to mourn his passing. His life-long goal was giving every worker the opportunity for “a decent home, decent food and clothing, and money enough to educate their children”. He served as the central inspiration for generations of labor leaders after him. Across the US, countless streets, parks and squares are named after him, along with a class of navy ships. At his funeral it was said: “his idealism, his unfaltering courage, and love of his fellow-men were nurtured by his Jewish past… He was the pioneer of the American Labor movement and he played a great and honorable part in liberating men from bondage.”
Words of the Week
The desire to be good to all with no restrictions – not in the quantity of those to whom we are good, nor in the quality of the good we perform – that is the essence of the soul of Israel. – Rabbi Avraham Itzhak Kook
Karola Ruth Siegel was born in Germany to an Orthodox Jewish family. Orphaned by the Holocaust, she migrated to Israel at 17 and joined the Haganah defence force, fighting in the 1948 War of Independence as a sniper (“For some strange reason,” she says, “I can put five bullets into that red thing in the middle of the target.”) After recovering from injuries sustained by a nearby exploding shell, Ruth studied psychology at the University of Paris. From there she immigrated to the U.S., receiving a PhD in human sexuality. In 1980, she was invited to do a 15-minute radio segment discussing sex. That transformed into one of the most popular radio shows of all time, featuring “Dr. Ruth”, which quickly became a household name. Later a television program, Dr. Ruth remains the most well-known sex therapist in America. She wrote several popular books on the subject, taught at Princeton and Yale, won a Leo Baeck Medal for humanitarian work, and still belongs to two Manhattan synagogues.
Words of the Week
An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that, in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle.
– Francis Crick, Nobel Prize-winning discoverer of DNA structure