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December 01, 1989 - Image 51

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

COMMUNITY

Akiva's New Executive Director
Is Busy Putting The Word Out

SUSAN GRANT

Staff Writer

R

abbi Marc Volk isn't
shy when it comes to
talking about Akiva
Hebrew Day School.
As the school's new exec-
utive director, he realizes
many people don't know
about Akiva. It's his job to
tell them. And at the same
time if he can get them to
contribute money to the
school, he will not complain.
Getting the word out about
Akiva — not only to the
Detroit Jewish community,
but to Jews all over the
country - is one of Rabbi
Volk's ways of collecting
money for.the school.
"We have to expand our
resources because I believe

His efforts to raise
money are not
limited to public
relations and
speaking.

in this institution and what
it represents," Rabbi Volk
said. "Jewish education is
important at Akiva."
People will not contribute
money to a cause if they
know nothing about it, he
said. Making people aware
of Akiva is one of the best
ways of improving the
school's financial status.
The school's budget al-
ready has reached $1.2
million and includes the
salaries of more than 45
teachers, other educational,
office and maintenance staff,
but Rabbi Volk would like to
see it grow.
"We have to reach out to
the community to make
them realize what we do," he
said.
So Rabbi Volk, 39, has
been spending much of his
time in the past few months
talking to various groups
and individuals about the
school.
He speaks about Akiva's
success in giving students
from kindergarten to 12th
grade a Torah-based edu-
cation as well as a good
secular education.
Already many of Akiva's
graduates have gone on to
higher centers of Jewish
learning or prestigious
secular schools, Rtgobi Volk
said.
When traveling to
different American cities,
Rabbi Volk doesn't hesitate
to talk about Akiva.

On a recent plane ride
from Dallas, he was speak-
ing to a man seated next to
him. The man gave him
money for Akiva, along with
the names of others who
might be interested in do-
nating funds.
After working in various
Jewish communities for 13
years, Rabbi Volk has con-
tacts all over the country
willing to donate to the
school.
So far it has worked.
In the five months since he
was named executive direc-
tor to replace Phillip Ap-
plebaum, he has brought in
about $10,000 in new money
for operating expenses,
Rabbi Volk said.
His efforts to raise money
for the school are not limited
to public relations and
speaking engagements.
Although Akiva's biggest
fund-raising event remains
the annual dinner banquet
in May, Rabbi Volk has
revived the school's Tree of
Life and the Yahrtzeit
Memorial Tablet as ways to
raise funds as well as to
honor the living and the
dead.
Working at Akiva is just a
continuation of his previous
positions, he said.
After being ordained in
1976, Rabbi Volk served in
various educational posi-
tions. His last job before join-
ing Akiva in July was as
regional director of the
Union of Orthodox Jewish
Congregations of America
and the National Conference
of Synagogue Youth
Midwest Region in St. Louis.
Most of those three years
in St. Louis were spent
working with teen-agers in
nine Midwestern cities in Il-
linois, Kansas, Tennessee,

Shlichim Hold
Conference Here

"Building a Bridge Bet-
ween Israel and the
American Jewish Communi-
ty in the '90s" is the theme
for the Shlichim Conference
Dec. 8-13 at the Butzel Con-
ference Center and the
Jewish Community Center.
The conference will host 90
shlichim, Israeli represen-
tatives working with federa-
tions in communities across
the United States and
Canada, who will participate
in workshops and seminars
led by federation professional
staff, synagogue leaders and
laypeople from North
America.

Minnesota, Oklahoma and
in Canada. He coordinated
synagogue leadership con-
ferences for the first time in
that region's history and de-
veloped a fund-raising net-
work both inside and outside
St. Louis.
At Akiva, Rabbi Volk uses
his fund-raising skills and
rapport with students to
teach both children and
their parents the importance
of a strong Jewish education
based on the Torah.
Rabbi Volk credits his staff
for making his transition to
a new job easier. So far he's
pleased with his stay at
Akiva.
"It's exactly what I wanted
it to be."



Rabbi Volk is often in



and out of



the classroom.

Actress Wilner Brings ‘Senesh'
To Temple Beth El Dec. 9-10

WENDY ROLLIN

Special to The Jewish News

S

peaking long distance
from New York, Lori
Wilner's voice has
definite presence. The tone is
rich alto. She talks about
where she's going . . . and
where she's been.
Wilner will perform her
one-woman play, Hannah
Senesh, the compelling story
of a true World War II
heroine, Dec. 9-10 at Temple
Beth El. It is a role created
specifically for Wilner and a
piece of art that's become an
enduring part of her life.
The coming together of play
and player has an interesting
prologue.
Having grown up in
Queens, Wilner attended the
State University of New York,
in Binghamton. Wilner first
enrolled as a music major. But
as the semesters rolled by, she
had a change of heart.
"I'd always had such a
strong interest in theater,"
she says. "It finally occurred
to me that it was worth a try
to do the thing that I really
loved most?' There were no
other actors in Wilner's fami-
ly. "I made the pilgrimage
myself," she says.
After graduation, one of the
people with whom Wilner
met along her theater trails
was writer/director David
Schechter. She liked working
with him and approached
him with a desire to do a solo
piece.
Together, they discussed
various interesting women

from history whose lives they
might dramatize. "The one
we had the most passion for,"
says Wilner, "was Hannah
Senesh. I was very moved by
the story of this young woman
who risked her life for what
she believed in!'
Hannah Senesh, Wilner ex-
plains, grew up in a • fairly
wealthy family in Budapest,
the daughter of a playwright.
Attending school in the 30s
she was surrounded by in-
creasing anti-Semitism and
decided to learn more about
Judaism.
Joining the Zionist move-
ment, Senesh left Hungary
and setled in Palestine at age
18. When news of the war and
Nazi atrocities reached her,
she couldn't stand the
thought of being just a spec-
tator, saddened but safe at the
sidelines.
Senesh became part of a
special British corps,
parachuting into Yugoslavia
behind German lines to free
allies as well as rescue some
of her own people from
genocide. Eventually, she was
imprisoned in Hungary,
where she steadfastlyrefused
to divulge information to her
captors. She was executed by
the Nazis in her homeland in
1944.

Using Senesh's own poems
and diary excerpts, Schechter
and Wilner collaborated in
the creation of the play. They
hired two composers, Steven
Lutvak and Elizabeth
Swados, to write music and
put together a showcase in
1984. The show attracted the

attention of producers and
moved off Broadway fora suc-
cessful run in 1985.
Since then, Lori Wilner-as-
Hannah Senesh has been
quite a frequent flier. She per-
formed for four weeks in
Philadelphia last summer.
The play also ran for several
months in Los Angeles,
Toronto, Washington, D.C.,
and Chicago.
In 1986, in Haifa, Wilner
performed in Haifa, Israel, for
an audience that included
Hannah Senesh's mother and
brother.
"It was a very emotional
performance," she says. "They
were very moved!'
Wilner's identification with
her dramatic persona is in-
tense. "I feel it's very much a
part of me and who I am," she
says. "Now, it's become so
enmeshed with my own iden-
tity that I feel there's a Han-
nah Senesh part of me which
is very strong!'
It is not only the actor who
exits the theater somehow
transformed. Audiences, too,
Wilner says, have been
inspired.
"This piece is highly mov-
ing, not just an interesting
diversion. One comment that
I often hear from people is
that they feel motivated to
get up and take charge of
their lives in ways they hadn't
before.
"Seeing someone who went
beyond her own limitations
. . . who was that willing to
defend her ideals with action
. . . is something we're starv-
ed for. People don't have those
kinds of role models now." ❑

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

53

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