March 2021
Spring Greetings & Passover Appeal
Dear Friends,

Join us in welcoming the spiritual rebirth of Passover. Confronted by a devastating modern-day plague, we have all experienced profound loss, had our faith tested and prayed together for the Plague to Pass-over. With the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, real optimism is now warranted and we can anticipate better times ahead.

Throughout the pandemic, American Friends of Soroka united to support each other and our amazing Soroka Medical Center. Proud as always of the heroic role Soroka plays as the sole major medical center for Israel’s South and for its clinical excellence, our pride is amplified by the profound ways Soroka distinguished itself this year. With timely and world-class COVID testing and vaccination rollout, intensive patient care and collaborative research and innovation, Soroka fulfilled its life saving mission for Israel and all humanity every step of the way.

Soroka Friends gathered virtually and found new strengths in our community near and far. We nurtured our community with on-line programming that shared cutting-edge medical information and helped build coping and resilience skills. We invite you to visit Soroka.org for videos of our past sessions and stay connected for our future sessions.

We warmly invite you to connect at two of our newest virtual events. On March 17 we launched The Promise of the Negev, a four-part exploration of its history, present and future with world renowned historian, author and political figure Michael Bar Zohar. On April, 23 we will continue our Coping and Resilience Webinar series, tackling complex issues of Family Relations and End-of-Life, moderated by Dr. Therese Rosenblatt. All past webinars are available online.

We need your help to advance our work. This is an extraordinary challenging time, and we are determined to continue to serve our community, while honoring and replenishing the strength of our healthcare heroes, frontline staff and all of the support staff that helped Soroka respond.

We have immense gratitude for all our supporters, who provide us great fortitude and help us make a real difference in the face of a cascade of challenges. As the holiday approaches, we send our prayers and wishes for peace, prosperity and Good Health.

We pray, as always, for peace and for the complete recovery of all affected by the Coronavirus. As you allocate funds for Passover donations and your charitable giving for the remainder of the year, we hope you will be inspired by the remarkable work being done at Soroka.

Happy Passover
Jay E. Selman, MS, MD
Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld
Executive Director

Soroka Salon Goes Virtual: Learn, Connect & Get Inspired
American Friends of Soroka Medical Center is hosting a new four-part webinar series “Soroka Salon: The Promise of the Negev”, featuring former Member of Knesset and Professor Michael Bar-Zohar. With a distinguished and legendary career at the forefront of the founding of the State of Israel, spanning government, history and literature, Prof. Bar-Zohar brings Israeli history to life like no other. Each session will explore a unique Negev theme, including the early days, Ben Gurion’s vision, diversity in the Negev, innovation and medical breakthroughs. Prof. Bar-Zohar will be joined by special guests to help illuminate the story of the Negev. The first session took place on Wednesday, March 17th and focused on “The Early Days” of the Negev, from a historical, social and political perspective. Watch the session recording or register for the next in this series.
Ben Gurion
Advance registration at Soroka.org/Salon. All sessions will be recorded and available on our website. When donating to Soroka of $180 or more, you will receive a signed copy of his book “David Ben Gurion'': Soroka.org/Donate.

The first guest was Ambassador Haim Divon, whose career includes posts as Israel’s Ambassador to Canada, to Ethiopia and to the Netherlands with 41 years in the Israeli Foreign Service and whose personal family history is intertwined with the ascent of the Negev. Future guests will include Ruvik Danilovich, the Mayor of Be’er Sheva and Dr. Shlomi Codish, Soroka CEO.

The Negev is the country’s fastest growing and most diverse region, with over 1.2 million residents, including over 400,000 children, in an area that comprises 60% of Israel's land. In the words of Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion: “It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel shall be tested”. Prof. Bar-Zohar was a close associate of Ben-Gurion, and his biographer. The series will delve into the profound and fascinating history of the Negev, its present and future - Is the Negev Blooming? What are the unique challenges in the region and how would we overcome them? There is so much to learn about the Negev, as it is one of the most strategic regions in the Middle East.
“Soroka Salon” connects like-minded people in an intimate setting, hosting extraordinary speakers. When the pandemic started, American Friends of Soroka Board Member and Committee Chair. Deborah Cherki was wondering how to continue this special forum when everyone was homebound.
Deborah Cherki
Fortunately, technology affords us the opportunity to connect and learn together without leaving our own home! “As we try to stay connected and continue to spread Soroka to a broader audience in these unusual times, I am excited about our new Soroka Salon lectures series “The Promise of the Negev''. Prof. Bar-Zohar is a fountain of knowledge and I personally cannot wait to learn from him and guests. I am really hopeful that people will find it interesting and will want to join.” With Ms. Cherki’s leadership, Soroka Friends conceived this series, deepening the discussion about the Negev with one of the most authentic experts. RSVP at Soroka.org/Salon

Prof. Michael Bar-Zohar is an award-winning author, historian, researcher and politician. He was born in Bulgaria in 1938, grew up in Israel, studied in Jerusalem and in France (Ph.D. in Political Science) and fought in four Israeli-Arab wars. Prof. Bar-Zohar is the official biographer of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founder and first Prime Minister, having spent over a decade by his side. Prof. Bar-Zohar is a fervent supporter of peace between Israel and her neighbors, served two terms in Parliament, was a Professor at Haifa University and at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and represented Israel at the Council of Europe; wrote more than 40 books and screenplays. His latest book, The Mossad’s Amazons: The Amazing Women of the Mossad, will be published in the US in April 2021. Prof. Bar-Zohar's awards include the French Academy award, the Ben-Gurion award, and was knighted by the President of France as Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur.
Dr. Shlomi Codish
Soroka Medical Center opened the largest vaccination center in the South of Israel spearheading innovation and providing the highest quality medical standards to its residents. As Israel becomes a world model of emergency response and vaccine administration, Israel’s health strategy and proficiency has proven effective as cases drop. Cases of Covid-19 and hospitalizations dropped dramatically among people who were vaccinated within just a few weeks, according to new studies in Israel, where a rapid vaccine rollout has made it a kind of test laboratory for the world. Early data suggests that the vaccines are working nearly as well in practice as they did in clinical trials. Dr. Shlomi Codish, Director General of Soroka Medical Center, “The employees' response to receiving the vaccine is great and receiving the second dose will complete the vaccination procedure against the virus. The cooperation and mobilization of the teams for this important operation is commendable. I urge everyone to continue to follow the guidelines”
Join us on April 23 for a special webinar on parenting school-aged kids. Dr. Therese Rosenblatt AFSMC board member, Psychologist, Psychoanalyst and author, will explore the new dynamics of life during a pandemic and the challenges of balancing parenting, work, home and school. For more information and to RSVP Soroka.org/Family
Announcing the “Double Mitzvah Bond”
Collaboration between the Women’s Division of the Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds and AFSMC
Here is a chance to support both Soroka Medical Center and the State of Israel – by purchasing an Israel bond and donating it to Soroka. Israel benefits from use of the funds for the term of the bond, AND Soroka Medical Center may use the funds from principal and interest to support the following departments: Cardiology, Rehabilitation, Clinical Research, Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU), Emergency Department / ICU and Genetics.

The program will kick-off with a summer educational series, featuring distinguished leaders from each of the 6 departments. A great opportunity to learn about cutting edge advances and what makes Soroka special. Details to follow. To Purchase a Double Mitzvah bond, please contact Cynthia Blustein, Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds at Cynthia.Blustein@IsraelBonds.com (914)713-9003. For additional information about supporting AFSMC contact Pazit Levitan, Director of Development at AFSMC, Pazit@Soroka.org, (646) 202-3866 or (914)725-9070.
Help the "desert bloom" and plant a flower in our Cancer Center Healing Garden. This special program supports cancer research at the Legacy Heritage Oncology Center. Learn more at soroka.org/Flowers
Celebrating International Women's Day at Soroka
Five top female physicians at Soroka Medical Center discuss their vision, work at Soroka and medical treatment during COVID-19.

Dr. Keren Rouvinov, Acting Head of Oncology Department, Legacy Heritage Oncology Center and Doctor Larry Norton Institute
Dr. Keren Rouvinov
“My vision as a physician,” says Dr. Keren Rouvinov, “is to provide the very best care for my patients and to be there for them. I want to continue my progress in my research and my profession.”

Dr. Rouvinov, a medical oncologist specializing in urogenital tract malignancies, has been associated  with  Soroka for  18 years and notes that the hospital combines groundbreaking treatment with personal care. “We are being equipped with the newest technologies for radiotherapy to provide innovative treatment.” Fortunately, the oncology department at Soroka continued its full range of treatments for oncology patients during the corona pandemic.

She notes that “Research is an important part of oncology, and Soroka places great emphasis on research. The oncology department’s research unit is advanced and provides opportunities and possibilities for innovative research and treatment.”

Dr. Tehila Kaisman-Elbaz, Senior Neurosurgeon Currently a senior neurosurgeon, Dr. Kaisman-Elbaz is preparing to specialize in neurosurgical oncology and is dedicated to providing individualized treatment for all of her patients.
Dr. Tehila Kaisman-Elbaz
“I want to promote treatment that is tailored for each patient so that I can differentiate each brain tumor by its specific characteristics and adjust the treatment for the individual patient.” She appreciates the close relationship between Soroka and the faculty of health sciences at Ben-Gurion University which she believes will lead to advancements in treating neuro-oncological  diseases. “One of the things that is special here,” she says, “is the excellent relationship between clinicians and researchers in hubs and forums. The connection between clinic and research and technology will lead to the advancement of treatment for illnesses.”

This summer, Dr. Kaisman-Elbaz will begin a two-year fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic, studying innovative techniques in the treatment of brain tumors, including focused radiation for brain tumors and the genetics of brain tumors, their classification, and advanced molecular methods.  Dr. Kaisman-Elbaz is looking forward to applying the new technologies to her work at Soroka.

Dr. Kaisman-Elbaz lists Prof. Rivka Carmi, the former Ben-Gurion University president, as a distinguished role model. “Prof. Carmi has supported me through my career, for which I am very grateful. Department  heads  Dr. Avi Cohen and Dr. Israel Melamed gave me a great deal of support and afforded me a great deal of consideration and flexibility. Soroka is a place where women can practice medicine, conduct research, and can combine the two with raising a family.”

Prof. Yael Refaely Allal, Director of Thoracic Surgery Chairperson of The Israeli Society of Thoracic Surgery, Prof. Yael Refaely has witnessed a revolution in her specialty during her 27-year medical career.
Prof. Yael Refaely Allal
“Thoracic surgery has received a great deal of momentum through technology,” she says, “and has transitioned from major, open-chest surgery to video-assisted thorascopic  surgery  and  robotic  surgery.”

Reflecting on innovation in the world of medicine, Prof. Refaely notes that online and digital medicine, which have become popular during the pandemic, will continue to make an impact in the coming years, and while nothing can replace the face-to-face encounter between a doctor and a patient, many medical issues can be alleviated through online treatment.

She anticipates a huge investment in health technology in the coming years that will improve knowledge and understanding of diseases along with improving treatment and the ability to tailor the best treatment to each patient. “We have more control over the data, and strive to improve communication between the various care providers who treat each patient in order to improve the quality of care.” While technological advances in revolutionary medicine, she notes that it is equally important to maintain compassion and kindness in the care of the patient. At Soroka Medical Center, says Prof. Refaely “The  medical staff is part of a community to which it feels a huge commitment and responsibility,” she says. The hospital’s strong triangle of community, medicine, and patients is special and unique in  the south. Soroka’s proximity to Ben-Gurion University is important in light of their significant collaborations.

Prof. Refaely says that International Women’s Day is especially significant for women in medicine: “More and more women are entering medicine and integrating into areas that were male dominant in the past, such as surgery, health  management, and others. The profession is undergoing great change as a result.

Dr. Michal Maimon – Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department and Director of Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Team, Saban Pediatric Medical Center
Dr. Michal Maimon
”My vision is to provide professional and humane care to all of my patients while  being  attentive to every family’s unique characteristics,” says Dr. Michal Maimon. She has spent her entire medical career at Soroka, apart from a fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Dr. Maimon has introduced several innovations to the pediatric emergency department, including sedation, bedside use of ultrasound, and treatment of pediatric trauma by a team of pediatricians. She has received training in treating child abuse and sexual assault and established a hospital service for examining children who have been victims of sexual assault. Previously, children in southern Israel requiring this treatment needed  to  be  transferred to hospitals in the country’s center. Soroka Medical Center is a tertiary medical center that provides advanced medical services for Negev residents. “One of the challenges we face  in  the  Negev,”  says  Dr.  Maimon,  “is providing quality care for children – even for  those who may be living in conditions different than what is usually found in the Western world. For example, a child with diabetes may live in an area without electricity and needs insulin that must be refrigerated“.

Dr. Maimon recalls that when the pandemic arrived in Israel, there was a great deal of concern among staff, but she says, “Thanks to the mutual support and partnership we overcame the difficulties, and today we are standing tall against the challenges of corona.” International Women Day, says Dr. Maimon, is an opportunity to highlight women’s achievements and show girls and young women that they don’t have to choose between their careers or self-fulfillment and between being an involved and loving mother – they can have both.

Prof. Reli Hershkovitz–Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Saban Birth & Maternity Center, Vice Dean & Director of School of Medicine, Joyce and Irving Goldman Medical School, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Prof. Reli Hershkovitz
“My goal is to provide the best and most innovative medical care for  women  while  maintaining their dignity and the dignity of our staff,” Reli Hershkovitz has spent her entire medical career at Soroka, with the exception of a one-year fellowship at University College Hospital in London.

She speaks with pride about her department. “The Obstetrics and Gynecology Division at Soroka is the largest tertiary division of its kind in the world. Our department is staffed with excellent, top-quality doctors, nurses, midwives, and medical support staff.”

Soroka has the largest number of births of any hospital in Israel, and Prof. Hershkovitz says that the hospital had to make special arrangements throughout corona pandemic. “We made special birthing rooms for women infected with corona, and prepared an operating room for women giving birth who had  corona.” In addition, the hospital encouraged women with health issues to come to the hospital for treatment if they were not feeling well, rather than staying away due to fear of becoming infected with corona.

Prof. Hershkovitz encourages her staff to utilize new technologies, equipment, and techniques. She specializes in gynecological ultrasound and has introduced numerous technologies, including 3-D ultrasound, vaginal ultrasound, and hysterosalpingography, a radiologic procedure that investigates the shape of the uterine cavity and the shape and patency of the fallopian tubes.

For Prof. Hershkovitz, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to promote the outstanding abilities and talents of women and to help use their abilities to help resolve cultural imbalances in the treatment of women.

Please join the Soroka Family of supporters. We need your help to advance our work. This is an extraordinary challenging time, and we are determined to continue to serve our community, while honoring and replenishing the strength of our healthcare heroes, frontline staff and all of the support staff that helped Soroka respond. We hope you are inspired by the remarkable work being done at Soroka.

With our prayers and wishes for peace, prosperity and Good Health. We pray, as always, for peace and for the complete recovery of all affected by the Coronavirus.

Happy Passover

American Friends of Soroka Medical Center
PO Box 184-H | Scarsdale, NY 10583 | (914) 725-9070