Thursday, February 10, 2011

EFRATONE in English

Efrat's Hebrew-language magazine, The Efratone, wrote a story about me! It's interesting to be on the other side of the interview.
And no, that's not me in the picture. That's an Efrat sailor that we're all very proud of.

The title of the article was cute, Heiveinu Sharon Aleichem. A play on words of the popular hora song, Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem. (We bring you peace.)
The article consisted of a short bio and then a stream of consciousness piece. The magazine asked me to give them two or three sentences about a list of varied topics. Of course, the story was in Hebrew. This is Israel, after all. I gave my answers in English, and I hope the two versions are pretty similar.
Now, through the advent of the internet, for folks like me, who'd be happy to read the Efratone story in English, here's "WE BRING YOU SHARON."
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Having worked for many years in journalism and publicity in fast-paced pressured-filled New York City, Sharon Katz moved to Israel 18 years ago with her husband Israel and five children to have a quiet life. Sadly leaving behind her mother, sister and close friends, she came kicking and screaming! After living in Efrat for six months, she came to realize that she was living a blessing, not even allowed to Moshe Rabbeinu, and since then, she has dedicated much of her time to deserving the gift of "living the dream".
For 18 years, Sharon has looked for the good in Israel and its people, and when she finds something negative, instead of kvetching about it, she works to fix the problem. When she saw that her children's school had nothing above the basic essentials, she used her decade of American PTA experience to found in 1993 the Orot Etzion Women's League (and remained at its head for eight years), creating fundraising programs (like the Chinese Auction) and involving other mothers to support their children's school.
As Efrat grew so quickly that many residents were strangers to one another, Sharon founded in 1993 the Efrat Chat Email List (with 1539 members today) to help Efratians stay connected to one another.
When Arab terror rose after Oslo began, Sharon co-founded the Shomrei Efrat organization in 1994 to give classes in security, self-defense and first-aid. Before Bethlehem was to be turned over to the Palestinian Authority in July 1995, Sharon co-founded an organization that brought speakers to Kever Rachel and supported a short-term kollel in Kever Rachel to ensure that the status quo of Kever Rachel would be daily Torah study. She chaired the Committee for Rachel's Tomb for five years.
When the municipal boundaries of Efrat were threatened by the Oslo Accords in 1995, she and three friends – Marilyn Adler, Eve Harow, Nadia Matar – led other women and later hundreds of Efratians and supporters up to Givat HaDagan, Efrat's northernmost hill, to hold on to the land. (B"H, today the Dagan is home to Yeshivat Siach.)
When it seemed that news from Israel couldn't get more negative and when English speaking Israelis felt disconnected from the media here, in 1997 Sharon returned to her keyboard. As editor of VOICES Magazine (and today on the web, through a blog and hundreds of videos –, Sharon writes and edits stories and photo essays, to show the world what's right about living in Israel.
When our region (like the rest of the country) was rocked by terror in 2001, Sharon founded Raise Your Spirits, Teatron Romemut. It performed Biblical musicals with a message of hope, belief and courage in order to raise the spirits of women/girls who performed and all those in audiences from throughout the country. Forty-thousand women have seen Teatron Romemut's six productions. Sharon has been on stage in all six, produced four, and co-wrote three with founding choreographer Arlene Chertoff and founding-director Toby Klein Greenwald. She is currently Senior Production Advisor off stage and Eim Sisera on stage of the latest show, Judge! The Song of Devora.When she heard that many bomb shelters in the Negev were nonfunctional, even as Gazan kassams were endangering Jewish lives daily, she produced a concert in 2007, "Sderot, We Care!" to finance a shelter in the chiloni kibbutz of Nir Am and to help fund a sheltered park in Sderot.
When Gush Katif was destroyed and its families were expelled to temporary shelters, Sharon co-founded the Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers in 2006 to help the young couples (thus far 575 couples) of Gush Katif begin positive new futures with a hug from women throughout the world, who make them bridal showers, and provide the basic necessities needed to start their new homes.
When Sharon heard that 350 families in our region are living below the poverty line, she founded DAMES of the Dance, a mega-dance spectacular to raise money for Kimcha D'Pischa in Efrat and Gush Etzion. Sharon has produced the DAMES shows and performed along with her daughter and 100 other women since 2008. DAMES has thus far donated 120,000 NIS to feed the needy of our region. Sharon is in rehearsal now for DAMES 4, "Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael", set to perform on March 22, 27 and 30.
Sharon is a very devoted wife, mother and grandmother and tries never to miss any of her grandchildren's gan parties.
Sharon said she never would have been able to accomplish any of the above without the total support of her husband, Israel, her mother, her children and her dear friends who really have worked just as hard, but have rarely been thanked in public. Sharon insists, they are the real heroes of this story.
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My Judaism ...: I feel the Torah alive and pulsating through every action and thought in my life. The foundation of my life is to serve Hashem and give Him nachas.
Model: The most positive person I know - my dearest mother ad 120. Widowed before she was 40, my mother dedicated her life to her family, and has a close relationship with everyone down to her youngest great grandchild. She helped build her shul, served as president of its sisterhood for 40 years and still demonstrates for Israel.
State of Israel: A daily miracle that could be even greater with faith, a pure dedication to its people, and ahavat chinam. When a dignitary comes from chutz la'aretz, we should show him our proudest Jewish and national achievements of the past present and future – the model of the Bet HaMikdash, a giant yeshiva bet midrash and a successful hi-tech plant.
Religious: Datiim should show their excitement every day to keep Torah and mitzvoth, thereby energizing and encouraging those around them to follow in G-d's path.
Secular: May all secular Jews be blessed with the curiosity to find out more about their roots in Judaism and in the land.
VOICES-MAGAZINE.COM I love the people and sites of Israel. I find life here fascinating, and I have been spending the past 14 years in print, and for the past two years on the internet, writing about those people who make a positive difference here, and those place and events that form our Jewish identity.
Love about Efrat: This is a biggie! Most of Efrat's residents "take nice pills." I want to hug them all. I also love the Matnas. It has top notch instructors teaching a more varied selection of chugim than I have seen anywhere. I tap twice a week and cartoon there weekly. I wish we could come up with a way to help all families afford to participate. I love the weekly chayal bus, the Yad B'Yad and all its chesed organizations, plus the schools with their quality and creative education.
Do not like about Efrat: A laissez faire attitude toward children. Figuring that Efrat's such a nice place, some people feel they don't have to worry about their children when they walk out the front door.
New York: In New York City I learned to become a crackerjack reporter, discovered my love of theater, learned to see through a false fa├žade and to be unimpressed by big shots.
Efrat Chat: I get so excited whenever I meet someone whose name I've seen on the Efrat list. I feel like s/he's my old friend. And that's exactly why I created the list, to keep all of us connected. I'm proud that Efrat's list has inspired many other communities to do the same.
Raise Your Spirits: I have become addicted to the spotlight. Founding RYS (Teatron Romemut), creating some of its productions and performing on stage in all of them have given me some of my greatest moments of joy. The women/girls of Teatron Romemut have supported one other and given chizuk to their audiences through tumultuous times over the past nine years. I look forward to our performing for women during the opening events of the Third Bet HaMikdash.
Dames of the Dance: Few things are as fun and exciting as mastering a new dance step, sharing it with hundreds of women who think you're cool, no matter how old you are, and then knowing that it's helping to feed the hungry. B"H, Wow!
Pina Chama: I love my Pina Chama mornings. I like schmoozing with the soldiers, telling them the history of Gush Etzion and the ahavat achim behind the Pina Chama. I make a great cup of coffee.
Shop Sderot: Shop Sderot was a perfect example of how we can help our brethren with a little creativity. Our residents felt great shopping at Sderot businesses right near home, and the shopkeepers were so moved by the outpouring of support, love and caring they felt here.
1995 Co-Founder & Chairman (until 2000), Committee for Rachel's Tomb, Bethlehem: B"H, Jews all over the world contributed so that our kollel could learn daily for three years in Kever Rachel to keep a Jewish presence in Bethlehem (1995-1998). Then, B"H, it was taken over by the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva. Today Merkaz HaRav independently runs a yeshiva in Kever Rachel, and over the years more kollelim have joined in learning in Kever Rachel day and night.
1995 A Mother of the Dagan Hill: When I look back at this spoiled Five Towns girl sleeping on a then-isolated hill, sometimes on the bare ground, I can't believe it was me. Yet it was one of the proudest moments of my life and the defining moment when I knew there was hope for the future. Thousands of people joined us on the Dagan out of pure honest love of Eretz Yisrael. No agenda – just unity, love, dedication to the land. Whenever I pass the Dagan and see the yeshiva community there, I thank Hashem for having played my part. I'll thank Him even more when we have houses there. :)
Committee for Gush Katif Bridal Showers: Since the expulsion of our brethren from Gush Katif, women from every single hill of Efrat have participated in showers for young GK couples, helping them build a new future. Just as we were with them in times of sorrow, we are with our brethren at the time of their greatest joy – the next generation's building of their batim ne'emanim b'yisrael.If I were mayor ...: I would encourage every resident to become involved in at least one community/school/synagogue/charity project. Olam chesed yibaneh. Efrat is a natural place to lead that building. I would open an Efrat museum immediately (we could even begin it today in a caravan).I would give each young person a half dunam of land to cultivate – to return them to their roots in the earth and learn to appreciate Eretz Yisrael.
Year 2048: 5808 in the Jewish Calendar. Jewish children skip joyously along the hills of Israel. Jerusalem is bigger than ever, and mass transit runs smoothly to Bet HaMikdash, where Jonathan Pollard is the candy man between services.
Annoying that ....: The majority of Gush Katif expellees are still living in temporary dwellings unemployed or underemployed, and that they are still treated so horribly.
Concerned: That people in our 21st century, even religious people, don't really believe literally in the words of the Torah, like "If you hearken to my commandments…I will give you rain in the proper time." There are so many prayers and lessons we learn in Tanach, gemara, etc. that are not just stories, they are lessons we should incorporate into our lives.
Hopes: Unity for the Jewish people, brotherly love, peace and security, Meshiach, Bet HaMikdash, a proud Israel, nachas, many Torani grandchildren for everyone, a healthy nation, an end to poverty, and a government that cares about its own people above all else.
The performing photos are by Rebecca Flash Kowalsky, .


  1. Darling, wow, you're really something!!

  2. I am just blown away by how amazing you are Sharon. You see the need & take action! Kol Hakavod. May Hashem continue to grant you the strength and wisdom to do all the wonderful things you do. Love,Yehudit