Hellers and Weiss Boost Bonds
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Hellers and Weiss Boost Bonds

Congregation B’nai Torah hosted over 330 for the Israel Bonds Atlanta Tribute Dinner honoring Wendy and Rabbi Josh Heller, with keynote speaker, Dana Weiss, Israeli journalist.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip). On the side, Marcia is Captain of the Senior Cheerleaders for the WNBA Atlanta Dream.

Wendy Heller, honoree, was delighted that her parents came from Detroit to celebrate. She is pictured here with her father, Ed Betel.
Wendy Heller, honoree, was delighted that her parents came from Detroit to celebrate. She is pictured here with her father, Ed Betel.

Congregation B’nai Torah hosted more than 330 for the Israel Bonds Atlanta Tribute Dinner honoring Wendy and Rabbi Josh Heller on Nov. 29. The keynote speaker was Israeli TV journalist Dana Weiss, who has reported on nine elections and hosts one of the most watched news shows in Israel.

During the cocktail hour, warmth and admiration radiated as the Hellers worked the room with greetings and hugs surrounded by family such as Josh’s mother, Lynne, who came from Boston, and Wendy’s parents, Ellen and Ed Betel, traveling from Detroit.

Enjoying the cocktail hour are, from left, Merrie Edelstein; Ron Lipsitz; Ed Goldberg, Israel Bonds Southeast chair; and Sarah Woelz, Rabbi Heller’s assistant.

Eve and Brian Frist are original B’nai Torah members. “We are grateful for Rabbi Heller’s ability to grow the congregation and continue to attract younger people.”

The rabbi’s assistant, Sarah Woelz, said, “He is challenging and interesting – exactly as a rabbi should be, ‘above and beyond.’”

To kick off the program, B’nai Torah president Michael Siegel said the full room was a testament to the Hellers’ leadership.

Maria Mendez and Terri Pesso

In addition to the Hellers, the focus of the evening was Israel. One of the country’s most visible journalists, Weiss is a reporter and legal expert for Channel 2, the largest television station in Israel, who has earned the nickname ‘Israel’s Diane Sawyer.’ Over her 20-year career in broadcast journalism, she has moderated Israeli prime minister debates and covered every war in the past two decades, as well as Rabin’s assassination.

Dana Weiss is known as the Diane Sawyer of Israel. Her talk was well-organized, real and optimistic.

Today, she anchors the prime-time evening news, “Saturday Night with Dana Weiss,” the top-rated news program in Israel.

Weiss was both optimistic and gutsy, giving perspective and not succumbing to Trump-bashing. She answered the provocative question, “Is time working for or against Israel?”  She concluded that Israel is making good use of passing time for the following reasons:

The Palestinian conflict doesn’t appear to be solvable. People are starting to realize “that there is no one there to talk to.” Israel has solutions to a better way of life, Weiss said.

Congregant Stewart Greenberg congratulated Rabbi Heller prior to the program.

Trump is the most influential player in the Middle East today. He is adored by Israelis, who feel he has their back. Trump and Netanyahu together have engendered relationships with Russia, Jordan, Chad, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, underscoring a common foe – Iran, she said.

Netanyahu has his political troubles but has provided 10 years of stability. He will face a nasty election, but the center/left has no viable candidate. The contest will be between the right and the far right, she said.

Weiss concluded by quoting her 98-year-old grandfather, “Each day is better than the day before.”

Weiss said, “After all, we have brought the world cherry tomatoes, movie star Gal Gadot, and hair removal systems. … I chose optimism.”

Aprio’s Richard Kopelman delivered the award presentation to the Hellers.

After Weiss concluded, Ed Goldberg, Southeast chair for Israel Bonds, related his 11 visits to Israel over the years as a witness to bonds paving the way for the impressive buildings and highways lining Israel today.

More than $1 billion in bonds sales have been raised in the past six years, said Executive Director Bradley Young. “We have a perfect repayment record.” (As noted by Warren Buffet in a video shown at the event). Young ended by thanking Fifth Third Bank for sponsoring the evening.

Bonds advocate Richard Kopelman made the award presentation to the Hellers. Having traveled together as families, he said, “Rabbi Heller has flawless conversational Hebrew and a photographic memory, but not so adept at driving directions.” He praised Wendy Heller’s tenacity and honesty.

Noting the Chanukah season, Rabbi Heller related the bravery of the Israel Defense Forces to that of the Maccabees in their defining struggles. He noted the day as the 71st anniversary of the United Nations voting to establish the State of Israel and said, “Bonds allows Israel to grow with dignity, not charity.”

Congregation B’nai Torah president Michael Siegel chats with Brad Young, Israel Bonds executive director.

Wendy Heller remembered her grandparents as Holocaust survivors, and that her grandfather fought in the Haganah. She recognized the congregation for becoming “like family” for more than 14 years.

Lowell Fine closed the evening by encouraging everyone to buy at least one bond, saying “Israel’s good record enhances our ties to the Jewish homeland.”

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