Chairperson of the World WIZO , Professor Rivka Lazovsky: “Our mission is not yet completed, we continue our vigorous activities, as were laid out in the vision of those
This year, WIZO marks 100 years of continuous activity. In this special interview, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, who has served as the chairperson of the World WIZO Executive for the past eight years, talks about her life’s work and the organization’s vision.
When did your association with WIZO begin?
WIZO has been a part of life ever since I can remember. My grandmother, Helena Adler Schutz, was active in WIZO in Vienna and then became one of the founders of the WIZO movement in Uruguay. My mother, Anita Jamitovsky, became president of the WIZO Federation in Uruguay.
From the early days of my childhood I [was] imbued [with] their WIZO values, and at a very young age I began to see a role in the movement. When I made aliyah as a young woman, there was no doubt in my mind that I would join WIZO Israel, which I did just two weeks after my aliyah. From then till now – WIZO and I are inseparable!
WIZO is celebrating its 100th anniversary. What does WIZO do on a daily basis?
The WIZO movement is made up of generations of women who fought and are still fighting every day to advance the status of women and to improve the education and social welfare of women, children and youth in Israel.
From advancing legislation in the Knesset to social confrontations, promoting equal opportunities in education for all, from birth (daycare centers) and throughout life (schools, youth villages, dormitories, warm homes, etc.) – all this is made possible thanks to the ongoing efforts of our partners in our WIZO federations around the world. Today, as we celebrate WIZO’s centenary, we are proud of our amazing achievements. WIZO is the biggest social movement in Israel. WIZO is active in 50 countries around the world, and WIZO numbers 250,000 volunteers. Although we look back on 100 years of hard work, our mission is not yet completed, and we continue and maintain our vigorous activities as were laid out in the vision of those founders in 1920.
What are the achievements and activities of WIZO that have brought you the most pride during your term as chairperson of World WIZO?
In my eyes, the most important events in my term were saving the WIZO College in Haifa from hands of parties interested in taking it from WIZO. We were then able to revive and strengthen the college. I am also proud of my role in saving the WIZO Parent’s Home from closure. The Parents Home continues to flourish, filled to capacity, with an experienced and caring staff.
Another significant milestone was the establishment of the WIZO Graduates Association, for WIZO graduates from throughout the decades. The association continues to link us with our WIZO graduates – our grateful volunteer partners – as we look forward to the future.
In addition, I am very proud that we are one of the biggest and most significant movements to have established a Code of Ethics. Accordingly, the movement operates with full transparency, thus earning the trust of donors from around the world.
While talking of achievements, WIZO Hadassim Youth Village was awarded the Prize for Education on Israel’s 70th anniversary. How did you feel when you were presented with the prize?
This event was one of the most exciting events that I have celebrated in my many years at WIZO. I always believed that the Hadassim Youth Village, which took so many children and youngsters under its wings, completely turned their lives around.
These children are from all segments of the population, and despite the many challenges, they graduate with high levels of success, both academic and on the personal level. The prize is an acknowledgment of these successes.
This year has seen more than a few violent attacks against women. What do you say about this situation?
Violence against women is a scourge of the State of Israel. According to the women’s organizations, approximately 20 women are murdered each year; 550 women are attacked in Israel every day by their partners; 274 women are sexually harassed every day; 16 women are hospitalized in hospitals every day after being attacked. Many women think, ‘It will not happen to me.’ But the monster can raise its ugly head any day and any time.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of women in Israel who face this alone, and it is our duty in WIZO to make sure that they are not alone and are not lost in the system. WIZO is very active on this front, continually challenging the government, aiming to reduce these difficult statistics to minimal and thus improving the status of women in Israel.