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Susan Inhaber has risen through the ranks of Zionist women’s leadership

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Calgary's Susan Inhaber has been elected VP of Na'amat Canada. She is pictured above reading with a child at Ramat Eliyahu Daycare in Israel. (Photo Supplied).

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(AJNews) – There is much cause for celebration amongst members and supporters of Na’amat Canada in Calgary and Edmonton as they bask in the afterglow of the organization’s November election when Susan Inhaber made history, becoming the first known Albertan to ascend to the national vice presidency of Na’amat (formerly Pioneer Women).

Like Na’amat organizations around the globe, Na’amat Canada and its affiliates in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal support projects in Israel that strengthen women and families. Alberta chapters mirror those projects locally helping to strengthen similar good works here at home.

Notably, says Inhaber, Na’amat, an acronym for Nashim Ovdot U’Mitnadvot – Movement of Working Women and Volunteers – is the largest Jewish women’s organization in Israel. One of its early founders was Golda Myerson – later known as Golda Meir –  who served as secretary general of the organization and went on to become Israel’s first and only woman prime minister. According to documents in the archives of the Jewish Archives and Historical Society of Edmonton and Southern Alberta (JAHSENA) members of the first Edmonton chapter were inspired by Meir whom they met when she visited the city in 1936.

Na’amat is deeply rooted in Labour Zionism and remains a force to be reckoned with on women’s rights in Israel. Representatives of Na’amat Israel regularly liaise with Members of the Knesset, advocate for fair labour laws for Israeli women and provide leadership in the fight against domestic violence. Na’amat chapters are currently active in Israel, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay and Belgium.

In approximately three years, Inhaber will ascend to the national presidency marking another important first for Alberta. Only one other Western Canadian has presided over the organization – Eva Natch, of Winnipeg, served as Na’amat Canada president during the mid-1970s.

Physician Sandi Seigel, who became the organization’s national president in November, hails from Hamilton, Ontario.

Susan Inhaber first joined Na’amat Canada Calgary in 2000. Soon after, she took on the presidency of the Keshet Hatikvah chapter. Following the merger of Keshet Hatikvah with Ariel chapter, Inhaber became president of the successor Yachad chapter.

As chapter president, Inhaber began attending national board meetings as Calgary representative. In 2011, she became a member-at-large on the national board. She has been there ever since, spending the last term chairing the national education committee.

In addition to other responsibilities as national VP, Inhaber currently serves as the national chair of membership engagement and leadership development. One of her biggest priorities is to grow the organization. As has been the case with other Jewish membership organizations, Na’amat numbers have dwindled in recent years. Inhaber says that national membership is approximately 400 with the majority of members residing in the East. The organization once boasted a national membership of at least 400,000, according to archives at the Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta.

At 18 or 19 members, the Calgary chapter – currently presided over by veteran Na’amat volunteer Stephanie Sacks – is small but mighty. Recognizing that the future of the organization relies upon the engagement of young women, Sacks – a previous Na’amat Calgary president – has made significant efforts over recent years to appeal to that demographic and further plans are afoot, Inhaber said.

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Na’amat Canada Edmonton has three chapters: Aviva (Barbara Wiseman, president) Tikvah (Maya Feldman, president), and Chevra (Yuliya Massarsky and Caitlin Bar-Nur, co-presidents). There are about 35 members.

The president of Na’amat Canada Edmonton, Darlene Bushewsky, expressed delight at Inhaber’s election as a national vice president.  “We’ve never had a VP or president from Alberta,” Bushewsky said. “We are excited for the future of Na’amat.  Both Susan and Sandi have a vision during this time of change.”

Pioneer Women programs in Edmonton include Hamentaschen for Seniors and financial support for seniors’ programs provided by Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Drop-In Centre. Na’amat Edmonton participates in the Basically Babies program, providing donations of baby items, financial support and hands-on volunteering in support of mothers in need who are referred by a variety of local social services organizations. A much-loved tradition within the Jewish community is Na’amat Edmonton’s annual Sukkah Hop. According to Bushewsky, there are approximately 35 Na’amat members in Edmonton.

A nice synergy has been developing between the Edmonto and Calgary chapters, aided in large part by the need of both organizations to pivot to online activities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has blurred borders somewhat, easing endeavours such as a Western Leadership Seminar that took place via Zoom last month, bringing Na’amat members in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary together in shared activities.

Susan Inhaber first joined Na’amat Canada Calgary in 2000

Na’amat supports an astonishing number of projects in Israel, including the Shalom Day Care in Jaffa – one of 200 Na’amat sponsored daycares in the country. True to its name, the facility cares for both Arab and Jewish children, says Inhaber. Students learn in both Hebrew and Arabic and their holidays are equally observed.

PJs to PJs programs in 24 multi-purpose Na’amat daycares means that parents who are having difficulty coping with parenting can bring their children in their pyjamas during the early morning and pick them up the same way in the evening, knowing that they will be clothed, fed, nurtured and changed back into their pyjamas in time for pickup and bedtime. The multi-purpose centres provide additional support for parents who are struggling, including the provision of counselling and even take-away meals.

Inhaber has been to Israel four times with Na’amat, each time gaining more insight into the projects supported by Na’amat members in Alberta and across Canada. Examples include the Glickman Centre for the Prevention of Domestic Violence in Israel, the Kanot Youth Village, legal counselling centres, and 17 technological high schools, eight of which serve Arab villages.

In her capacity as national vice president, Susan Inhaber has some ambitious goals. She is seeking to increase Na’amat’s membership across the country and plans include growing the donor base and increasing overall exposure to the impressive work done by Na’amat both in Canada and in Israel.

“I’m blown away by the dedication of Na’amat members,” says Inhaber. “I’ve learned so much by becoming part of the leadership.”

(The full version of this story was first published in Alberta Jewish News.)

Maxine Fischbein is a local journalism initiative reporter for Alberta Jewish News.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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