A Heart-Warming Holiday Season On Campus


‘Tis the season for peppermint hot chocolates, turkey gobbling, dizzying dreidels, red seas of Santa hats, lit Hanukkah sweaters, skyscraping Christmas trees and arguably most importantly, GW for Israel’s (GWI) annual “Humanitarian Holiday Campaign.” This month-long campaign on the George Washington University’s campus is dedicated to raising money and awareness to a chosen Israel-based non-profit.

This year’s initiative is particularly heartwarming as all proceeds fundraised will be donated to Save a Child’s Heart, which is based in Holon, Israel. With its ultimate goal of creating centers of medical competency in developing countries so that children in need of care are treated independently in their own communities, Save a Child’s Heart has been “doing what its name implies since 1995.” First-time Israeli recipient of this year’s UN ‘Population Award,’ this organization, also Israel’s largest international humanitarian non-profit, was presented the prize by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during an official ceremony at UN headquarters this past June.

Max Webb, Vice President of GW for Israel, first came up with the idea of creating a service-oriented holiday campaign after realizing that there is a “beacon of hope between Israelis and Palestinians as they work together every day under circumstances that are not often highlighted.” With the hope of educating and inspiring the GW community about Israeli humanitarian efforts to build bridges and mend relationships while also “allowing us to be active participants in tikkun olam, the Jewish notion of repairing the world,” this Holiday Campaign reaches Jewish and non-Jewish, politically-minded and apathetic students, faculty and D.C. residents alike.

GW for Israel, the largest pro-Israel student organization on campus—with over 200 active members—raises money by selling cookies, cupcakes and donuts early mornings outside the Foggy Bottom Metro and during lunch hours in main dining halls. While raising money is an essential part of the campaign, educational programming is always a top-priority for GWI. By hosting a representative from Save a Child’s Heart earlier this month, the GW community was invited to learn about the history, present-day reality, and successes of their mission.

“Last year, we raised over $600 to provide medical support to wounded Syrian civilians,” Webb explained, “but our goal this year has tripled. We are trying to raise $1,800, a multiple of 18, the number of chai (life) in Judaism.” That goal has long been surpassed, as this year’s initiative has already brought in $4,300.

GW for Israel has a particular interest in highlighting the work Israel does to help its neighbors. Often antagonized on the world stage, GWI decided to support the work of an Israeli organization whose main beneficiaries are Palestinian children, both from the West Bank and Gaza. These stories, often subdued from the popular headlines, are the very prospects for peace. Having treated over 4,900 children with congenital heart defects from 57 countries, Save a Child’s Heart also opens a medical clinic for Palestinian children every Tuesday, where between 20 to 30 children arrive to be examined in the cardiology clinic free of charge. They work out permits with the Israeli government to make sure only politics, not children, are pushed aside. They pride themselves on mending hearts regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality.

“Now more than ever, our student leaders are living in a polarized country that demands of them to see a wide world and what role they can play in making it a better place,” said Adena Kirstein, Executive Director of GW Hillel. “Initiatives like these not only support others abroad but also model for peers on campus easy ways to turn angst into action.”

Tali Edid is a junior at The George Washington University.

This piece is part of “The View From Campus” column written by students on campus. If you would like to contribute to it, email lily@jewishweek.org for more info. We are grateful to The Paul E. Singer Foundation for supporting the Write On For Israel Program.