One of the most inspiring things about involvement in ORT is that it is so often passed down through families – my own included. I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with two members of another “ORT family” – Dyna Wise and her grandson, Larry Burley. Here’s a recap of our conversation:
Dyna (pronounced Deena) is 97 years young and has been active in ORT for most of her adult life. At one time, Dyna served as president of the Chicago Region of Women’s American ORT and also sat on the national board.
Born in Poland, Dyna came to the U.S. when she was about 17 years old. While living in Poland, she taught Hebrew, and still speaks it perfectly. Later, she taught Yiddish – and still does! Not surprisingly, education has always been extremely important to Dyna. And so has Israel. Both her father and grandfather were ardent Zionists, and for many decades Dyna traveled annually to Israel.
Dyna described the first time she visited an ORT School in Israel, and the joke she played on the head of the school, who was giving her a tour: She did not tell the woman that she had been a Hebrew teacher, nor that she was an ORT chapter president. As they walked from one classroom to the next, the head of the school was blown away by Dyna’s Hebrew. She asked her, “How can you speak Hebrew so perfectly?!” Dyna laughed sheepishly. Dyna started asking ORT-centered questions and the woman could not believe she knew so much detailed information about the school. Dyna just said she was super smart. Eventually, she told the woman that she was the President of Women’s American ORT in Chicago. Both Dyna and her grandson, Larry Burley, had huge smiles on their faces during this entire story.
Dyna’s smile grew even wider when she recalled that her two daughters would stand on a corner with pushkes (Yiddish for “tzedakah box”) to help raise money for ORT. She said that everyone who became involved in doing something for ORT knew they wanted kids in Israel to have the opportunities their kids had. They all knew what that took – it took money. “We were all fundraisers and it wasn’t hard because it was just THAT important.”
Larry said that he remembered some ORT projects his “Bubbe” was involved in and that he would sometimes help, but that he hadn’t really thought of ORT over the last 15 to 20 years. As we talked about Dyna’s ORT experiences, and about what ORT is doing today, I could see Larry getting more and more interested in ORT’s mission to provide educational opportunities for students in Israel and around the world. And he understood exactly why Dyna had become involved.
Larry is Vice President at Coda Capital, and is now proudly following in Dyna’s footsteps by serving on the Host Committee for the ORT Metropolitan Chicago Region Business Leaders Lunch, October 19 at the Standard Club.
Meet Larry and other business, educational and community leaders at the Business Leaders Lunch. DO NOT MISS THIS EVENT!