September 2019
Rosh HaShana Greetings
& Kol Nidre Appeal
Dear Friends of Soroka,

It is our pleasure to wish our friends and supporters a happy and healthy New Year and extend our warm wishes for a year filled with accomplishment and fulfillment, enjoyed in peace and good health. We are so grateful for the steadfast support of Friends of Soroka: your support over the years and spirit of caring means so much and helps Soroka fulfill its lifesaving mission.

In early summer, Southern Israel, including Be’er Sheva, was again under missile attacks. Once again, Soroka is in the spotlight as Israel’s Iron Dome for Health. Over 500 missiles were directed into Southern Israel from Gaza, compelling Soroka to relocate the fragile Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to a sheltered ward. We received so many caring messages and donations toward our Emergency Preparation fund. Soroka is ever-vigilant in maintaining the highest levels of readiness, across all of our departments and especially the Emergency and Trauma centers. This underscores the urgent need at Soroka for an expanded and enhanced Emergency Room and Trauma Center – and we are proud to announce the groundbreaking for the Frances and Nathan Kirsh Emergency Department, an expanded facility to meet the needs of the region and assure that there is adequate space and resources for all emergencies.

In preparation for Rosh Hashana and the High Holy days ahead, we reflect on the amazing and inspirational accomplishments of the past year at Soroka. Highlights from recent events are detailed within this newsletter, as well as save-the-dates for important future events. We hope to see you soon,

With Best Wishes for a Sweet New Year,
Jay E. Selman, MS, MD
Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld
Executive Director
And the American Friends of Soroka Medical Center Board of Directors
We Wish you a Happy & Healthy & Sweet New Year!
Upcoming Events
Israeli Fashion Soirée
December 10
Miami, FL
Mission to Israel
July 2 - 9, 2020
Learn more
1st Annual Golf Outing
Purchase, NY
Learn more
Help Make The Desert Bloom!
American Friends of Soroka Medical Center is planting a Flower Garden to be dedicated in the Healing Garden of the Legacy Heritage Oncology Center and Dr. Larry Norton Institute. A flower can be planted for a contribution of $360. Proceeds support pediatric cancer care. In addition, you will receive a beautiful certificate perfect for commemorating lifecycle events.

National Autism Research Center Opens
Soroka proudly announces the opening of the National Autism Research Center. The Center, in collaboration with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, is funded in part by the Ministries of Health and of Science and Technology. It is headed by Prof. Ilan Dinstein, Dr. Gal Meiri, Dr. Idan Menashe and Dr. Hava Golan and will serve as Israel's leading autism information and research center, fostering advances in understanding and treating autism.

The Center will provide access to research and data to scholars, create shared national databases and distribute information to decision makers, healthcare professionals and the general public. "The decision to upgrade the Negev Autism Center from a regional to a national body is a gratifying vote of confidence in the research we've done here, and especially in our multi-disciplinary approach to treating autism," says Prof. Dinstein.

"Since we founded the Center in 2015 we've encouraged scientists and clinicians from a variety of different fields including pediatrics, neurology, psychiatry, genetics, neuroscience, developmental psychology, molecular biology and biomedical engineering to share their findings. The results of that collaboration forms the basis of the first database of its kind in Israel with a variety of clinical, behavioral, and biological measurements, gathered from hundreds of children with autism and their families. The breadth and depth of the data we've collected is an invaluable tool both for theoretical research and treatment applications".

Israeli Technology Ministry Director General Ran Bar noted "The first nation-wide conference on autism, which took place with funding from the ministry of technology, was a platform for scholars and practitioners from all the bodies that are active in this area in Israel to meet, coordinate and to swap ideas. In addition, this Center will foster research collaboration on an international level."

“I grew up in the Negev, so I am deeply familiar with the area”. Codish said. “Soroka is a leading medical center in Israel with exceptional achievements. Our devoted staff are the backbone of the health system in the Negev. I am proud to have been chosen to join this leadership, and look forward to the growth and challenges ahead.”

Gala 2019 – The Spirit of Innovation at Soroka
Over 320 people attended the April 3rd Gala at The Pierre Hotel in New York City. Ed Oates, co-founder of Oracle Corporation received the Visionary Award for Technology & Innovation, an important theme at Soroka, which is raising money for the groundbreaking Negev BioBank. Orna Simkhai, founder of Shema-Or Jewelry, was given the Inspired Leadership Award. Her business was sparked by her compassion for the welfare of wounded Israeli soldiers. Julie Ratner was awarded the Healthcare Champion Medal of Honor in recognition of her dedication to breast cancer prevention and screenings as co-founder and chairwoman of The Ellen Hermanson Foundation.

Caroline Freidfertig, Orna Simkhai and David Kimia
Co-Chair Gillian Harding, Julie Ratner and Co-Chair Carlos Gutierrez jr.
Danielle Goz
David Serero
Cocktails and silent auction display
Edward Oates, Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld & Dr. Shlomi Codish
"It is inspiring to see business, medical, community, and religious leaders come together to support Soroka and recognize the breakthrough research, cutting edge medicine, and vital and compassionate care that we offer in the fastest growing region of Israel," said Dr. Shlomi Codish, CEO of Soroka Medical Center. "American support of the healthcare we deliver at Soroka is of critical importance. It allows us to fulfill our mission, saving lives every day in Israel, developing innovative treatments and medical technologies with global impact." Broadcast journalist and Israeli born Michelle Divon was the master of ceremonies. Ed Oates' band CHOC'D and DJ Hannah Bronfman performed at the fabulous After Party.

Soroka's Galas are elegant and entertaining, yet profound: “We always ensure that Gala attendees understand that the mission of our organization is very serious," said Ruth Steinberg, President Emeritus of the Board of American Friends of Soroka. "Every dollar we raise helps people in the Negev of all backgrounds--Jewish, Arab, and Bedouins."

The list of Soroka's achievements is impressive. "Soroka delivered over 17,000 babies last year. The new Legacy Heritage Oncology Center offers state-of-the-art cancer treatment and care. The new BioBank will be a database of tissue and blood samples of patients that will enable medical treatments that are personalized and previously not possible," said Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld, Executive Director of the organization.

"It was David Ben Gurion's dream to build a hospital in the Negev desert. The dream has become a reality," said Ruth Steinberg, and Soroka has kept pace with the growth and development of the Negev to provide outstanding care for all the residents of Israel’s South. Please contact us to join the committee for Gala 2020.

Dr. Yasmeen Abu Fraiha
Michal Divon
Ruth and Jeffrey Steinberg
Edward Oates
Michal Divon with family and friends
DJ Hannah Bronfman
Saul & Orly Maslavi
Dancing the night away
Ed Oates and CHOC'D

Fashion & Philanthropy at the Shore
Our second annual summer event in Deal, NJ was a resounding success! Thank you to all those who came to support clinical research at Soroka at our amazing fashion show featuring MARGIT DAVID Couture! It was a magical soirée featuring exquisite fashions, modeled by spectacular models from the community. Thank you to everyone who came out and made this fundraiser a success. A warm thank you to our wonderful host Rochelle Dweck for her gracious hospitality as she opened her Allenhurst home to nearly 150 guests. Rochelle was assisted by her truly inspirational family, who united to assure the events' success. Designer Jacqueline Mazor and the Margit David team (Montreal/NYC), All Day Alba fashions (Raanana, Israel) and YVEL Jewelry (Jerusalem/NYC) provided the fashions. 18 stunning young women modeled the fashions and Marlene Tawil served as MC, regaling guests with her anecdotes and encouraging their nobel support for Soroka Medical Center. We extend a sincere thank you to Shifra Hanon and Sadie Jemal Myers for all your partnership, and to Freida Sasson and Rahel Shamailova, our talented and tireless interns.
A special thank you for all of our honored guests. We couldn’t have done it without YOU.

Top row (left to right ) Ami Sasson, Shifra Hanon, Miriam Levy, Florence Dweck Bottom row: Rochelle Dweck, Esther Mishan
Sandra Greenstein and Shifra Hanon
Our spectacular models
Pazit Levitan and Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld with Interns Danielle Plaue, Amanda Heisler, Frieda Sasson and Rahel Shamailova.
Danielle Plaue
MC Marlene Tawil

Announcing the Frances and Nathan Kirsh Emergency Department, a new emergency department, trauma center under development at Soroka
Cornerstone ceremony for the Frances and Nathan Kirsh Emergency Department, Soroka’s new emergency department and trauma center.

Soroka Medical center is delighted and proud to announce that UJA-Federation of New York has undertaken a capital fundraising campaign to help Soroka create an urgently needed new Emergency Room and Trauma Center. The campaign has raised $6 million thus far—$5 million gifted by the Kirsh family of New York (in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary) and $1 million from several UJA-Federation donors. These generous gifts were matched by Israel’s Clalit Health Services, for a total of $12 million.

The cornerstone ceremony took place on April 23. Members of the Kirsh family gathered for the cornerstone ceremony along with representatives of UJA-Federation of New York and Keren Hayesod, Be’er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, CEO of Clalit Professor Ehud Davidson, Deputy Director of Clalit Dr. Mickey Sherf, Director-General of Soroka Dr. Shlomi Codish along with other senior hospital directors and staff of the ER and trauma unit.

The Emergency Department at Soroka is the most active in Israel, treating over 250,000 patients annually. The department serves the entire Negev—from Eilat in the south to Kiryat Gat in the north. Factors underlying the need to expand the hospital’s emergency services include the relocation of Israel Defense Forces’ bases to the Negev region and the concentration of High-Tech and Cyber-security companies in Be’er Sheva, leading to a projected 30 percent increase in population.

Soroka is just over 20 miles from Gaza, so it is urgent for the Emergency center to have adequate space to treat all of the military and civilian casualties in times of conflict. In addition, the department’s patients include victims of industrial accidents, car accidents, tourists and IDF soldiers. During military conflicts and operations in the south, Soroka is at the forefront of treating civilians and the military.

As part of the expansion project, the new space will increase the number of beds by 43, including two in a dedicated trauma room. Altogether, the new department will include 116 beds, with 8 in the trauma unit. Construction of the new department is expected to be completed in 2021. This is phase one of a two-phase project. Additional-naming opportunities are available.

“It’s a mistake to thank us for the donation,” said Nathan Kirsh. “The truth of the matter is that we are lucky enough to be able to do so and are privileged to be a part of this amazing complex that we are visiting today.”

“UJA-Federation of New York is deeply grateful to the Kirsh family and the other donors for supporting this crucial project,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York. “The expanded emergency department will provide best-in-class care to all citizens of Israel’s south, and will help strengthen the infrastructure of Be’ersheva.”

Dr. Shlomi Codish stated: "Soroka, as a leading medical center in Israel and as a tertiary hospital, is a strategic asset to the State of Israel both in times of routine and in emergencies. In order to fulfill this mission, we have taken upon ourselves, Clalit and Soroka, to increase the infrastructure and expand our life-saving capabilities at the medical center. We appreciate and thank our wonderful donors, who allow us to continue to save lives."

Captain Ziv Shilon
Captain Ziv Shilon, who was seriously wounded in a Hamas attack in October 2012 near Gaza and was evacuated to Soroka where his life was saved, spoke at the ceremony. The audience was moved by his personal story of coping with his injury.
“I grew up in the Negev, so I am deeply familiar with the area”. Codish said. “Soroka is a leading medical center in Israel with exceptional achievements. Our devoted staff are the backbone of the health system in the Negev. I am proud to have been chosen to join this leadership, and look forward to the growth and challenges ahead.”

Welcome New Board Members and Officers
President of the Board of Directors. Jay has served on the Board for the past 3 years, and has been among the leadership of our Medical and Scientific Council for the past 5 years. Dr. Selman is Professor of Clinical Pediatric Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in NY, and previously served as chief of Neurology at Blythedale Children’s Hospital. We extend our deepest appreciation to Ruth Steinberg, for her outstanding service as President. Ruth has helped institute many initiatives and activities that have greatly strengthened our organization and positioned us for growth and success. Ruth now serves as a member of the Board of Directors. Caroline Freidfertig was recently elected Vice President of the Board of Directors. Caroline has served as Secretary of the Board, and her leadership has been instrumental in the achievements and impact of American Friends of Soroka Medical Center.

new board members
Dr. Cheryl Fitzer-Attas | Dr. Therese Rosenblatt
We are very fortunate to have such dedicated and talented leadership. Welcome to new board members Cheryl Fitzer-Attas Phd MBA and Therese Rosenblatt PhD. Cheryl has 20 years of global pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and not-for-profit biomedical experience, and has held key roles in Medical Affairs and R&D leadership. Therese is a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in NYC and Westchester County.

What If the Star of David could speak?
new board members
Pictured above is a signed limited edition metal print of The History of the Star of David, photo by Paul Bruinooge of Patrick McMullan Company
Artist Marc Bennett Brings The History of the Star of David to Life Through Art.

Jewish identity has been the subject of many artists’ work. Chagall used color and light to illuminate the journey of the Jewish people. Nevelson’s sculpture paid tribute to the six million Holocaust victims. Today, artist Marc Bennett continues this tradition by asking the question, “What if the Star of David could speak?” Bennett created The History of the Star of David artwork to serve as a time capsule that invites us to discover the centuries-long evolution of Judaism’s iconic star, which bore witness to the depths and heights of Jewish culture throughout history. "The History of the Star of David speaks volumes for the Jewish nation. Bennett, has created a profound and colorful artistic vehicle to educate children, as well as adults, about Jewish history, culture and identity," remarks Nurit Greenger, executive director, Western Civilization Heritage Israel Program Center.

Bennett’s collage traces the evolution of the Star of David, from its first known use through its most recent appearance on the flag of the State of Israel. The History of the Star of David artwork features 18 Star of David images meticulously selected for their historical significance and story-telling. One of the earliest known uses of the Star of David is a decorative stone carving from the ancient synagogue in Capernaum, found near the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The third star pictured in Bennett’s work highlights Theodor Herzl’s role in the formation of the Jewish nation. He is considered to have been the father of modern political Zionism and promoted Jewish migration to Israel.

The seventh star pictured in the collage marks one of the darkest chapters in Jewish history. This image shows a chuppa stone (wedding stone) from a synagogue built in 1726 in Altenkunstadt, Germany. For more than 200 years this synagogue was the cultural center of the Jewish municipality until “Kristallnacht” (Night of Broken Glass, November 1938) when a series of coordinated attacks, carried out by the Nazi party left Jewish homes, schools, and businesses in ruins. In 1988, the community replaced the stone with the hope of keeping the memory of Jewish culture alive. The last image shows the Israeli flag flying proudly during the Six-Day War in 1967. Here we see the same star that was once used as a sign of exclusion, humiliation and murder reborn as a symbol of national unity and Jewish pride.

"The History of the Star of David brings to life our rich history, triumphs, and struggles, as well as our promising and vibrant future. It evokes a sense of survival and determination, as well as a celebration of Jewish culture, tradition and faith,” notes Rabbi Mendel Mintz of The Aspen Jewish Community Center. Soroka Medical Center is extremely proud to be the future home of the a monumental sized piece, that will become a new cultural landmark for Israel. We are very grateful to the generous individuals and foundations that have made this project possible, including Henri Boll, Hillel Caplan, Carlos Gutierrez Jr., David Kimia, Jay Selman and Ruth Steinberg of The Board of Directors of the American Friends of Soroka Medical Center, the Iranian American Jewesh Federation, Melinda Goldrich / The Goldrich Family Foundation, and JCC aid Aspen Howard Lorber. Naming Opportunities and Dedications are still available – please contact Rachel Heisler or Pazit at 914-725-9070.

10 % of all History of the Star of David art sales worldwide will be donated to Soroka in perpetuity. Limited edition prints signed by the artist make an unforgettable gift for weddings, anniversaries, High Holy Days, and Hanukkah. Bennett’s beautifully finished metal and paper prints are available in various sizes perfect for the home, office, or institution and are available for purchase at
“I grew up in the Negev, so I am deeply familiar with the area”. Codish said. “Soroka is a leading medical center in Israel with exceptional achievements. Our devoted staff are the backbone of the health system in the Negev. I am proud to have been chosen to join this leadership, and look forward to the growth and challenges ahead.”

Medical Cannabis Found to Help Children with Autism, and Reduce Chronic Pain due to Fibermyalgia
Research conducted at Soroka University Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University revealed that medical cannabis is a good, safe and effective option for relieving symptoms for autism patients aged 18 and under. Children experienced relief from seizures, tics, depression, restlessness and rage. The study was published in Nature Scientific Reports. Data was collected and analyzed on 188 autistic children who were treated with cannabis oil containing 30% CBD and 1.5% THC (the psychoactive substance). After six months of treatment, 30% of patients reported a significant improvement, 53.7% reported moderate improvement, and 15% had slight or no change. Quality of life, mood and ability to perform routine activities improved significantly.

Professor Victor Novak, Head of Clinical Research Department
Prof. Victor Novak, director of the Center for Clinical Research in Soroka and co-authors: "Medical cannabis is an effective and safe treatment tool for patients with fibromyalgia"

A new study carried out by researchers at Soroka’s Cannabis Clinical Research Center show that cannabis provides effective and safe treatment for patients with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a very common pain disorder, with limited treatment options. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, was conducted by Prof. Victor Novak, director of the Center for Clinical Research in Soroka, in collaboration with Lihi Bar-Lev, Dr. Yiftach Sagy and Prof. Mahmoud Abu-Shakra Dr. Sagy, a physician in the Rheumatology Unit of Soroka Medical Center, noted that the study analyzed data on 367 fibromyalgia patients treated with medical cannabis in 2015-2017 throughout Israel, the largest group of patients published to date.The study found that after six months of cannabis treatment, 81.8% reported a significant improvement in controlling their symptoms, with average pain decreasing from 9.0 to 5.0 (on a 10.0 point scale). Symptoms of fibromyalgia, such as sleep disorders, depression and weakness, have shown significant improvement after six months of treatment. In addition, improvements in patients' quality of life and daily functioning have been achieved. Finally, the side effects were relatively low: 7.9% reported dizziness, 6.7% reported dry mouth and 5.4% reported nausea or vomiting.

Prof. Victor Novak, director of the Center for Clinical Research in Soroka stated: "Fibromyalgia is a pain disorder with extremely severe consequences for a high number of patients, and many patients suffer from chronic pain, depression and somatic disorders despite currently available treatment. Cannabis treatment may benefit these patients effectively with relatively few side effects."

2020 Fourth Annual Mission To Israel - July 2-9, 2020

Join Soroka Board Members and friends for a trip of a lifetime that includes a week of program-packed visit to Israel with exclusive, one-of-a-kind experiences.

Tour Israel from North to South in a luxury bus, and enjoy beautifully curated tour featuring expert guidance. Highlights include a private visit to the Knesset hosted by Knesset Member(s), Jerusalem’s Old City and Yad VaShem, immersions in the Negev innovation and high-tech hubs, exploration of the amazing Israeli cultural, historic, spiritual and culinary scene, and a behind-the-scenes visit at Soroka Medical Center.
  • Enjoy accommodations at the the spectacular Beresheet Hotel at the Ramon Crater, the iconic King David Hotel, Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel and the newly renovated Mizpe Hayamim Spa hotel.
  • Rates are based on double occupancy; single supplement is additional $1,800 per person for a private room.
  • Cost does not include airfare or travel insurance. Contact us for group rate on ElAl flights: 914-725-9070 or email
  • Cost includes all meals, 7 nights accommodations, and VIP airport transfers.
  • Dietary laws observed.
  • Registration fee includes $500 donation to American Friends of Soroka Medical Center. For the benefit of the Legacy Heritage Oncology Center and Dr. Larry Norton Institute. Trip extensions are available privately - please call 914-725-9070 to discuss.
  • Space is limited!
  • Early Bird Rate (if registered by December 1, 2019): $5,900 per person
  • Single supplement - additional $1,800
  • Cost after December 1, 2019 - $6,400 per person
  • Registration deadline: April 1, 2020
Register Today at for our Early Bird Rate!

Spiritual counseling
Spiritual Health is a vital part of a patients’s life. Pastoral Counseling can improve quality of life by reducing fear and anxiety and helping instill peacefulness for the patient.

Until now, there were no organized spiritual counseling programs in the Negev. Soroka Medical Center is establishing a multicultural spiritual service, under the leadership of Rabbi Benjamin Siris, who recently completed Chaplaincy training at Cedar Sinai Hospital. This summer, Interns Amanda Heisler and Danielle Plaue championed this project, helping raise the funds necessary to launch this important program. Seeking broad support for the project, Parlor meetings were held in Great Neck, at the home of Diane and David Rein, and Scarsdale, at the home of Ronnit & Nick Vasserman. Your support will be very much appreciated to help advance this high-impact program. Learn more at

Pazit Levitan , Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld, Michal & Prof. Jochanan Peiser, Amanda Heisler, Danielle Plaue, Diane Rein
David Kimiabakhsh and David Rein
Hengameh Kimiabakhsh and Erica Zucker Heisler
Ronnit Vasserman, Amanda Heisler, Danielle Plaue and Simone Kestleman
Danielle Plaue, Amanda Heisler, Pazit Levitan, Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld, Dr. Ethel Siris, Ronnit Vasserman and Dr. Jay Selman
American Friends of Soroka Medical Center
PO Box 184-H | Scarsdale, NY 10583 | (914) 725-9070