A local attorney sets her sights on raising awareness of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, which was founded in the Philadelphia area.
Mitzvah Hero: Sarah Silver Luksenberg, 34, has set her sights on helping the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, an organization created in the Philly area in 1991.
What It’s All About: Recently elected a board member of the international organization, whose only U.S. branch is in Warrington, Pa., Silver Luksenberg is quite verbal about the importance of bringing the center to everyone’s attention. To that end, the Lower Merion attorney has been speaking to groups and young audiences over the past four years, including Bar/Bat Mitzvah students at her own temple, Har Zion.
“It’s an amazing cause,” she says, referencing a visit to the center with family in Beit Oved, just outside Tel Aviv, in 2010.
The dogs help those who use them become more independent and integrated into Israeli society, she said, including soldiers who lost their sight because of injuries suffered on the battlefield, a figure representing 20 percent of the 500 assigned dogs since the organization was opened, originally in Netanya.
Good for Her: A dog lover who grew up with a Labrador Retriever at home — Labs and Golden Retrievers are used exclusively in the service — being active on behalf of the center “makes me count my blessings every day,” says Silver Luksenberg.
She notes that she actually was made aware of the center by her parents, Michael and Kathy Silver, prominent Jewish communal leaders who had sponsored two puppies of their own, Missy and Taffy.
Michael Leventhal, executive director for the center's Warrington branch, says Silver Luksenberg's talks at area synagogues have led many students to target the organization for their mitzvah projects. (Training for each dog takes about two years at a cost of $25,000.)
“She is very personable and has raised awareness of our organization so much," he says.
For Leventhal, his involvement with the organization is a natural offshoot of its local roots, when Noach Braun, a 26-year-old Israeli paratrooper who trained dogs for Israel’s army, was inspired to found a center to assist the Israeli blind. That was in 1986, when, through word-of-mouth, he reached out to a Philadelphia-area humanitarian, who invited Braun to give him his shpiel on the first night of Chanukah.
How appropriate, says Leventhal, “that a service for the blind actually got its” impetus “during the first night of the Festival of Lights.”
That local leader who helped raise the initial $100,000 needed to open the service "was my father, Norman Leventhal,” says his proud son.