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Women keep Zionist vision alive

Some of the volunteers from Na'amat Club Masada pose before their working lunch. (Susan Minuk photo)

A dynamic group of women aged 90+  – including one centenarian – are dedicated volunteers for Na’amat.   

Bess Direnfeld-Plosker is the last surviving member of Club Masada, the first Toronto chapter founded in 1945 by 12 women whose mothers were members of Pioneer Women. (For many years, Na’amat volunteers in Canada were called ‘Pioneer Women.’) The original founders were members of the Labor Zionist movement, working to build a country where women had rights such as equal pay for equal work and access to post-secondary education.

“We still meet for lunch and keep connected and we raise funds for the women and children in Israel and in Canada,” said 95-year old Direnfeld-Plosker. “We have more than 20  members who pay their dues but not all of them come out. It depends on the weather and how they are feeling that day, but I can tell you we are all as active as we can be, taking into account our ages.”

At a recent working luncheon these golden girls reminisced about past fashion shows, musicals and lectures. They laughed, and chatted and explained to The CJN why they still volunteer.

“You make friends for a lifetime,” said Direnfeld-Plosker. “Not only do we care for our work in Israel but we care about each other. Belonging to the organization is good for the mind to keep busy and to give back, that’s what makes life interesting,”

“As you can see, we got a nice turn out for the meeting,” said 95-year-old Tilly Margolis, Club Masada president.

“We have known each other for a very long time,” said Ann Sokoloff, Club Masada treasurer, adding with a laugh, “It [Na’amat] keeps me young.”

Margolis attributes her longevity to being involved and aware. “I read three newspapers a day and the weekly CJN.”

Their matriarch, Ruth Wolfish Rotman turned 101 on May 28. Wolfish Rotman served as national president of Na’amat from 1969-1972. She contributes her longevity to her connections with family and friends, twice-daily walks and keeping her mind active. Wolfish Rotman boasted, “I completed my own income tax returns right up until age 99.”


Direnfeld-Plosker has been an active volunteer since 13.

“Our family comes by it [volunteering] quite honestly,” said Direnfeld-Plosker. “I’m originally from Winnipeg and my mother had volunteered all of her life.” Direnfeld-Plosker moved to Toronto in 1945. She was national vice-president of Na’amat from 1975 to 1978, at the same time as her sister was in Winnipeg and was national president of the organization. “I started the original group in 1945 with a bunch of other women. I’m the only one left. The others joined a little later. We were one of the largest groups with 90 members.”

Club Masada has raised more money for Na’amat Canada than any other group in the organization’s history. Two of Na’amat Canada’s most important fundraising projects, Chanukah ‘Dollars for David’ and ‘Spiritual Adopt a Child’ were initiated by Club Masada members. Other accolades through the years include providing Na’amat with seven Toronto council presidents and three national presidents.

“We raise money for daycare centres in Israel for the Jewish and Arab children,” explained Direnfeld-Plosker. “We help women’s shelters for victims of violence and domestic abuse in Israel and in Canada, we help the homeless, and underprivileged youth. We had conventions in Israel and I have personally seen some of the projects we support. It’s most gratifying. I think our group is quite unique because of our age; we still have that commitment. I always felt you have to live life with a purpose.”

The ladies from Club Masada will be at the 24th annual Israel Day Festival, hosted by Na’amat Canada Toronto on June 23 at the Promenade Mall. Attractions include entertainment, a multicultural marketplace, and a kosher food court full of Canadian and Israeli food.

Established in 1925 by visionaries committed to social justice, co-operation and equality, today Na’amat exists in 14 countries. Na’amat Canada is a leader in advancing the status of women through social, educational and cultural programs for its members across the nation. Na’amat volunteers provide local services for women and children in their own cities, in addition to raising funds to support the network of social services for women and children in Israel.


Na’amat Canada welcomes new members to take part in their programs. Visit: www.naamat.com.