Two weeks ago, Nina Ormonde, the woman responsible for all the unique occasions at the Beit Elazraki Children’s Home in Netanya, one of four such institutions in Israel run by Emunah, passed away. Among the events she organized was the bar and bat mitzvah celebrations.
Nina would oversee every detail of the elegant annual bar and bat mitzvah, a grand affair attended by a thousand guests. Although actively involved in a multiplicity of charitable works, Nina was Bet Elazraki’s mother and grandmother rolled into one.
“Nina knew every child in our Home by his or her name,” one of the caretakers confides, “and was always asking Yehuda Kohn, the director, what the children needed and what she could do to help.” And help she did, focusing her maternal concern and considerable talents for organization and fund-raising with remarkable results.
Born Nina Raphael in London, the pert, vivacious woman with a quick, intelligent smile, met Mark (Uhrmacher) Ormonde, her husband of nearly 50 years in 1948. He had been on one of the Kindertransport. In 1982, they made aliyah with their three children. Nina immediately began working for Emunah as she had done in England.
When, at the suggestion of a colleague, she visited the children’s home in Netanya, she was appalled at the state of the building. “The living room had no roof,” she related in amazement. “Have you ever seen a building where the central living area has no roof, and children play in the pouring rain?” she asked, and the initial shock still registered on her face. Nina resolved to have the area covered, renovated, and made into a cozy living area. She undertook to raise funds by organizing a gala dinner, and inviting Dr. Josef Burg, her husband’s former teacher, as speaker. The dinner was a success, the necessary funds were raised, and Nina’s dream of a spacious, eventually spectacular atrium where holiday celebrations can take place, became a reality. Other renovation and maintenance projects and fund-raising successes followed.
However, as we said, the bar and bat mitzvah event was her “baby.” Despite its grand scale, there was an individual, loving focus on every girl and boy.
“This is the key to our philosophy,” Yehuda Kohn, director of Bet Elazraki explains. “Emunah’s mission is to give each child a sense of self-worth, to help each child develop his or her full potential. To break the cycle of distress. Emunah’s mission is that the child we take in should be the last child of the family in a children’s home.”
“The children in the Home come from families in distress, where one or both parents, are on drugs, in a mental institution or in prison. Did you know that in Israel there are now third generation children in children’s homes? That means that their grandparents and then their parents were residents in a children’s home. And when they grew up and reached adulthood, they were not capable of establishing functional families. Our aim is to break that vicious cycle, to bring up children who will establish stable families and themselves will be good, supportive parents.”
Besides the children of Bet Elazraki, hundreds of new immigrants in Netanya benefited from Nina Ormonde’s largesse. During the Gulf War when the great wave of immigration from the former USSR was at its height, Nina made it her habit to visit Netanya’s Laniado Hospital to inquire whether the new olim admitted for treatment had transportation to return home. She especially focused on the large number of men undergoing circumcision upon arrival. Do they have a home to return to? Do they have anyone to care for them? Nina organized a group of volunteers to provide the transportation and post-op care.
Next, Nina and her volunteers started a food parcel project. After obtaining the names of needy immigrants from municipal social workers, and receiving funds from Emunah in Britain, the women purchased the food items and put together the parcels at the local Co-Op, which then would send the parcels out.
When other organizations began doing food parcels, notably Judy and Moshe Shamir’s “This Is My Land” (the subject of a former column), Nina and her friends organized the “Brothers and Sisters’ Club” to help new olim integrate into Israeli society. She supervised the Ulpan classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, and actively participated in the social programs – singing, dancing, conversation on Wednesdays – all parts of Nina’s remarkable routine of dedication.
May her memory become an inspiration for the future.