A special buzz trip

November 15, 2017 by Hayley Hadassin
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Fourteen young Jewish adults with intellectual/ cognitive disabilities will leave Australia on a unique Taglit Birthright-Israel trip. 

John and Pauline Gandel with the Melbourne group


The pre-departure sessions for Buzz took place in Sydney and Melbourne recently. Buzz is the very first Australian trip of its kind. The groups of participants, their buddies, group leaders and nurses gathered on the weekend to discuss logistics and to connect and to plan for their departure on Sunday 19 November.

A spokesperson for the Zionist Federation of Australia told J-Wire: “It was an incredible afternoon in both locations with a truly special energy.

The program, organised by the ZFA in partnership with Friendship Circle Sydney, Flying Fox and Access Inc. has been 18 months in development. The excitement as we count down to the 19 November departure is palpable.”

John and Pauline Gandel present sweaters to Harley Rose and Rami Maserow

John and Pauline Gandel of Gandel Philanthropy are the principal Australian supporters of Taglit and have been for six years.

The spokesperson added: “We are delighted that they saw the significance of the Buzz Special needs Taglit trip and again came on board as the principal Australian Partner. They also attended the Melbourne pre-departure session to personally present each participant and buddy with their trip sweater and to wish them all a wonderful trip.”

This program is unique, not only by virtue of the nature of the group attending, but also in the level and calibre of young volunteers associated with it. Ginette Searle, ZFA Executive Director noted: “Key in the Buzz team are the buddies – and it’s important to realise that for the 15 available places, we had over 60 applications from young people who are committed, compassionate and experienced volunteers. Our team represents the cream of our community’s young volunteers – including group leaders Dean Cohen and Shoshi Lazarus, nurses Ella Holcdorf from Melbourne and Mica Haneman from Sydney, together with Psychologist Talia Hymans – each of whom has volunteered their time and expertise to ensure the trip will be programmatically excellent, logistically smooth and of course, safe and healthy.”

Representatives of the buddy group spoke at both events:

Sydney contingent

Maxine Lorge, 22 is a buddy to participant Jaime-Lee Pashut and says: – “I feel honoured to be part of this experience, especially as it’s the first. I believe that everyone should have access to the same experience that all Jewish teenagers are provided with. I want that to happen for all these adults who have special needs and I want them to be able to connect with other Jews who have had this experience.”

Ben de Winter from Melbourne described his journey to becoming a Buzz buddy, explaining that from signing up to assist at Camp Sababa, he’s found meaning and satisfaction, culminating in him being a buddy coordinator for Flying Fox and this incredible opportunity to accompany the Buzz trip.

Sydney-based Michael Sarif, 23 is one of the Buzz participants. He has never been to Israel and cannot wait for the adventure; he said: – “I am looking forward to the experience, to seeing the Wailing Wall. I think it’s good that people with disabilities have a chance to go on Birthright, it’s a once in a lifetime experience for us and I thank everyone who has made this possible.”

Michael or Mikey as he is better known is teamed up with his buddy Ricky Glezerson, 26. Ricky went on a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip last summer and knows the impact it can have. He said: – “I want success, I want to see it happen again and again, it’s a fantastic opportunity and I want Mikey to have the most fantastic time.”

The Buzz group will experience ten remarkable days of touring and discovering Israel with their group of peers, building Jewish identity, and connection with Israel.

Chana Kavka, from Friendship Circle in Sydney highlighted the importance of community, she said: – “As a community we need to recognise that every single person in our community adds value. Every single person in our community is important and every single person in our community should have opportunities. We should never say that because you have a disability you are not afforded the same Birthright that all other young people in the community receive.”

Lyndi Adler worked tirelessly together with the partner organisations to make Buzz happen, and is delighted that her daughter Romi will be one of the participants on the bus. She says: – “It was important for Romi to experience a similar program that her siblings did and now they all get that opportunity. To see the look on their faces makes it all worth it.”

ZFA President, Dr Danny Lamm, expressed his pride in this inaugural trip, saying:

“First and foremost, I’d like to thank Mr and Mrs Gandel, who, through their visionary leadership have enabled 720 young adults to experience transformative Taglit Birthright Israel programs over the past six years. Their further generosity in supporting Buzz exemplifies their commitment to Jewish continuity, Israel and community.

For the ZFA, Buzz has presented a unique opportunity – it’s where the community meets Israel in a real and tangible way. We are confident that every participant on this trip – the chanichim, the buddies and the staff, will return enriched and with a stronger connection to their Jewish identity, to Israel and to their own local Jewish community”.

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