New Jersey lawyer honors father and supports the next generation of Israeli pioneers.
By Mara Fahl | March 30, 2023
For Michele Waldman-Wegodsky of Highland Park, the recent dedication at a new day care center in the Israeli desert town of Halutza was a moment much larger than herself. Her commitment to this town, located in a remote pocket of Israel just between the Egyptian and Gaza borders, represents a true love and dedication from the Waldman-Wegodsky family to the people of the community.
Halutza is an affiliate of Jewish National Fund-USA, which works to support growth and development on Israel’s frontiers, the remote southern and northern regions. For Waldman-Wegodsky, the daughter of Ben Waldman, a past Jewish National Fund-USA New Jersey director in the Teaneck office, supporting one of the organization’s initiatives was a natural fit. Speaking of the impact of her father’s work, Waldman-Wegodsky remembered growing up in a home infused with a deep love for Israel. “It wasn’t just a job for him,” she recalled, “it was the source of a lot of happiness and pride.”
In honor of her generosity and in memory of her parents, Benjamin and Annette Waldman of New Milford, New Jersey a plaque now adorns the outside of the day care proudly displaying their names. “People sacrifice a lot to live here,” Waldman-Wegodsky said, describing her admiration for Halutza. “I feel very proud to be supporting Halutza.” In fact, the next generation of the family is already taking up the torch, having celebrated gap year Shabbats hosted by Halutza families, and with her daughter Melanie embarking on her own career at Jewish National Fund-USA.
The day care center is much more than a place for children to grow and learn; it also provides a safe haven in the conflict-laden region. Indiscriminate rocket fire and incendiary devices launched by Gaza during times of conflict are an ever-present threat, and residents have just seconds to run for shelter. The day care includes fortified space where children and teachers can take refuge quickly.
“Michele’s generosity is coming from a beautiful place of honoring her father’s love for education and for empowering the next generation of the Jewish people,” said Anna Millstein, Jewish National Fund-USA director, Central New Jersey. She explained, “This partnership with the people of Halutza reminds our brothers and sisters there that we are always there for them, in good times and bad, that the Jewish people worldwide share our love and help each other with our burdens. Michele’s commitment to Halutza extends beyond this day care into a real love for the community and this plaque finally provides a physical and visible testament to that.”
With welcoming arms, the people of Halutza have embraced the Waldman-Wegodsky family, and now a reminder of that mutual care stands to welcome Halutza’s children in return.
By Mara Fahl