Rank and File: Legendary Educator Mel Reisfield Celebrated by Young Judaea

Elaine Solowey and David Faiman honored for their environmental work; A musical performance about the biblical couple Abraham and Sarah goes up in Jerusalem.

Mel Reisfield, Young Judaea’s legendary educator.
My Israel Photos

YOUNG JUDAEA CELEBRATES 60: Young Judaea, the Zionist youth movement, celebrated 60 years of its Year Course in Israel program with a gala event in Tel Aviv last Thursday.

Over 350 alumni, former and current staffers and Year Course participants mingled and reconnected with one another. Representatives from each decade of Year Course spoke at the gathering: Steve Friedman, Avi Mendolowitz, Leah Kayman, Ilan Wagner, Toby Galili, Steve Miller and Hannah Abelman.

Also, tribute was paid to legendary educator Mel Reisfield, 88, who taught the first Year Course on Kibbutz HaSolelim in 1956.

Presidential historian Gil Troy demonstrated the impact of Mel’s pedagogic skills, saying the phrase “Ani is I” to spark the packed hall to burst out singing one of Reisfield’s trademark songs from Camp Tel Yehudah, which many knew by heart without realizing it.

Reisfield, a New York native, received an honorary plaque with one of his typical, endearing expletives, but was visibly moved as he acknowledged the audience, most of whom had been his students either in New Jersey, camp or the Year Course Ulpan.

DESERT PIONEERS HONORED: Native English-speakers swept the David Ben-Gurion award ceremony this year, when Elaine Solowey and David Faiman were honored for their environmental work, at Tel Aviv’s Dan Hotel on Sunday.

Physicist Faiman, who moved from London in the 1970s to become head of Ben-Gurion University’s Desert Research Institute, is a pioneer in solar energy and other forms of renewable energy. He is Israel’s representative at the International Energy Agency.

Horticulturalist Solowey is the director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at the Arava Institute, located on Kibbutz Ketura. A researcher on endangered medicinal herbs, she searches for plants that can be grown in marginal and arid areas. A decade ago she managed to sprout a date-producing palm tree called “Methuselah” from a 2,000-year-old seed.

ABRAHAM AND SARAH ON STAGE IN JERUSALEM: A motley crew of 70 women and children has banded together to put on a musical performance about the biblical couple Abraham and Sarah.

The Women’s Performance Center Jerusalem and the OU Israel Youth Centers are co-producing “Count the Stars,” which opens at the Gerard Behar Theater on Monday and runs through December 6. Sharon Katz and Avital Macales, two of the founders of WPC Jerusalem, co-authored and co-composed the musical, which they have brought to the stage in collaboration with Shifra Penkower and Bati Katz.

WPC Jerusalem, which aims to empower and unite women in Jerusalem through the performing arts, stated that proceeds from the show would benefit at-risk young women in periphery communities around Israel. For more info, call the Zone at (054) 446-7240.

Rank and File was compiled by Steven Klein.

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