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January 16, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 16, 2009 PAGE 11A BGU starts emergency fund, helps besieged Negev 00esidents American Associates; Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU)last week launched the BGU-Negev Emergency Fund to address the growing crisis at the university and surround- ing Beersheva community due to the escalating Gaza conflict. "For the first time in 60 years, Beersheva is in range of rockets fired from Gazaand has already been hit multiple times," explains Carol Saal, AABGU president. "Classes at Ben- Gurion University have been canceled indefinitely, while schools, day care pro- grams, clubs, and activities of all kinds are closed. As the American support arm for a renowned institution of higher education, I never imagined that we would be in the business of emergency relief." The BGU-Negev Emergen- cy Fund is urgently seeking to raise $10 million. BGU Board of Governors chair- man Roy Zuckerberg of New York and Carol Saal of Palo Alto, Calif. are leading the effort. The Emergency Fund will support critical needs in campus safety and security; distance learning; counsel- ing and psychological assis- tance; medical equipment; and community services, such as child care. Professor Rivka Carmi, president of the University, explains that "after years of providing refuge to our distraught neighbors in the Western Negev, we at BGU are suddenly faced with an entirely new reality in which the safety and security of our own faculty, staff, stu- dents, and families are now foremost in our minds. We have committed ourselves to doing what must be done by increasing security, pro- viding more social services and bringing long-distance and e-learning options on- line." BGU has already begun to augment the city's alert sys- tem, ensuring that the warn- ing siren is heard throughout every corner of BGU's three Beersheva campuses. Addi- tional equipment is needed to fight fires and carry out possible rescue operations. Facilities need to be adapted to safeguard flammable and combustible materials in laboratories. The fund will also support the hiring and training of ad- ditional security personnel to manage the movement of people and equipment in the event of a direct missile strike. Psychological ser- vices for students are being dramatically expanded, as is the University's capacity to support distance and e- learning opportunities. Some 2,000 students from Ben-Gurion University have been recalled for military service. Despite the grow- ing threat, many others, with just seconds to get to a shelter or safe room, have chosen to stay in Beersheva, bringing comfort and sup- port to the elderly, young children, disabled, and oth- ers in need. Ilan Kalgrad, the coor- dinator of the Open Apart- gency of ; t--I ments Project of BGU's Community Action Unit explained that the students who stayed in the neighbor- hoods around the University have received training on how to speak with children, calm their neighbors and otherwise help residents find the nearest bomb shelter or safe room. "The students live in the older and weaker neighbor- hoods," said Kalgrad. "They set an example all year round, but especially now, their presence is even more important. Several students helped their neighbors open the local bomb shelters, to arrange them - ensur- ing that the facilities are appropriate for children. Others went door-to-door, talking to their neighbors and allaying their fears. The students became the address for inquiries and questions, giving advice and helping residents with the city's hotline, the city council and other such matters. I think that the presence of the students in the neigh- borhoods at this time has helped to calm the residents and children, providing an address for their questions and a sympathetic ear." Faculty members have also volunteered to help residents, mainly treating the population in stressful situations. Members of the Charlotte B. and Jack J. Spitzer Department of Social Work, chaired by Prof. Lea Kacen, are actively manning a hotline for people suffer- ing from stress and anxiety. Photo Campus Student volunteers play with children at Ben-Gurion University's day care service. The program was created by the Beersheva city council together with the Ministry of Health and the Soroka University Medical Center. An international confer- ence on "Crisis as an Op- por tunity," which was due to take place last week at BGU, was relocated to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. BGU's student association has opened a "War Room" and has begun to recruit volunteers to help Beersheva residents. The Student Association assigns students to many activities, including a center for people recovering from shock; working in the local soup kitchen, Beer-Sova, where they are distributing food to the needy; and oper- ating activities for youth-at- risk and for those hospital- ized at the Soroka University Medical Center. "BGU's students are an inseparable part of the Beersheva community," said Amit Katzir, chairman of the Student Association. "There is no doubt that this is the time to volunteer, to strengthen the home front. The Student Association will continue to act during the military operation and afterwards for the good of the community in the city." BGU's Division of Human Resources has initiated a day care service for children of University employees on the Marcus Family Campus. More than 300 children aged 4 - 12 have registered for the service, which is being staffed by student volunteers. "BGU is in crisis and the time to act is now," Roy Zuckerberg said. "We look to our loyal and generous supporters, and to all who care about the safety of those living, working and studying in the Negev to join us in this time of need." For more information or to donate, visitwww.aabgu.org or call 800-962-2248. NOW ACCEPTI ICATIONS the 2009-2010 Year 13