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Testimonies from Israel Lecture Series


By Ron Fink

Congregation Or Atid recently completed a 3-part lecture series with three members of the Jewish community who recently traveled to Israel and were willing to share their perspectives and first-hand experiences of the impact of the war is having on our brethren in Israel.

On Sunday, March 17, Ephriam Seidman spoke about the community service work he does in Richmond and how he applied his expertise to those needing his assistance following the October 7 massacre.

Benzi and Lugo with Ephraim Seidman.

Ephraim Seidman and his wife, Bunny Wilks, have devoted many years in working with guide dogs, and have a long and strong relationship with the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind in Beit Oved.

Upon arrival, he quickly became the go-to-guy delivering dog food, medication, new harnesses, and other equipment and supplies to clients.

He also picked up dogs from IDF reservists who were raising them and had been called up. He was responsible for delivering the dogs to a family member to care for. He became a valued member of the staff from early morning to night shifts in their kennels.

See other Or Atid Happenings article for more on Ephraim.

On Sunday, March 31, Tal Simmons PhD, a forensic pathologist, gave the second lecture of the series.

She described her work experiences in Israel in identifying bodies and human remains from the massacre.

She shared how communication was one of the biggest obstacles to overcome and how complicated the process was in identifying bodies because sometimes there was very little forensic material to work with.

The information was often difficult to hear, but the work that was, and is still being done, is so essential.

On Sunday, April 7, Rabbi Sherry Grinsteiner along with two other members of the congregation, Amy Melnick-Sharf, and Maya Eckstein, shared their stories as participants in the recent Mission Delegation to Israel, sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond.



The full Richmond Solidarity Group gathers for a photo in Israel. Rabbi Sherry Grinsteiner is sitting in the middle with Maya Epstein on the far left.


Amy Melnick-Scharf with two Israeli teens she home-hosted in Richmond last summer for a week.

In their life-changing trip with 21 other Richmonders, they witnessed the atrocities of October 7th in Kibbutz Nir Oz, and heard from survivors, parents, relatives and friends of the kidnapped and murdered victims.

They saw and felt Am Yisrael’s struggles and strength during this time of war.

Their presentation was quite insightful and filled with heartfelt emotion as they recounted their experiences.