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Yom Kippur and the Spirit of Healing

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The Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills has an unusual mission - to promote the spirit and teachings of Judaism through music, art, drama, dance and film. Founded in 1992 by Rabbi David Baron and a group of friends, the Temple of the Arts is the largest arts synagogue in the United States and has as its home the historic Art Deco Wilshire Theatre, renamed the Saban Theatre, which opened with the premiere of the Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers in 1930.

In addition to featuring notables from the world of the arts and presenting services that highlight first-class vocal and musical performances, the Temple of the Arts also honors the contributions of exemplary individuals at its High Holiday services each year. One of those exemplary individuals honored this year was Gal Lusky, founder of Israeli Flying Aid (IFA), which provides humanitarian aid and relief to people suffering from wars and natural disasters around the world.

What makes Israeli Flying Aid's humanitarian efforts extraordinary is that they often provide assistance to countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. IFA has undertaken difficult and often dangerous missions in in areas such as Darfur, Indonesia, the Kashmir region of Pakistan, and most recently, for relief of Syrian refugees. The organization provides a quick response team to the affected regions and relies on local resources to offer assistance. While the IFA sometimes identifies itself as an Israeli aid organization, it must often conceal its identity or offer a cover identity, such as posing as European volunteers. Even so, IFA volunteers have faced arrest and other dangers when operating in hostile territory.

Lusky founded IFA in 2005 partly in response to the wounding of her brother in the war with Lebanon. She believes the organization must transcend political and religious differences to provide life-saving aid, and by doing so, succeeds in building bridges between historic enemies. After a successful aid mission to Indonesia, for example, Lusky revealed to a group of local citizens who had received assistance that her organization was actually from Israel. She then asked them if, knowing who had helped, they would come to the aid of Israeli victims of a similar disaster. While none of the Indonesian adults present raised their hands, every single one of the children said they would help.

At the recent Yom Kippur service, Lusky cited the injunction of the Torah to bring about Tikkun Olam, the Jewish ideal of healing the world. As a citizen of Israel, as a Jew who feels the sorrows of the Holocaust, with a brother wounded in war and as a mother, Lusky feels the responsibility to spread tolerance through her own life and through the work of Israeli Flying Aid. On the holiest day of the Jewish year, Lusky's message is central not only to the theme of atonement, but also to the rekindling of the spirit of healing.