JNF-USA affiliate ADI Negev (formerly ALEH Negev) is a rehabilitative village founded on the principles of sensitivity, inclusion, commitment and kindness. It is a residential center comprising a continuum of loving care from infancy and childhood through adulthood, ensuring that residents with multiple disabilities and complex needs receive the medical and rehabilitative care and educational, vocational and social opportunities they need to reach their full potential.
Over 10% of Israel’s population have some form of disability.
While ADI Negev enjoys the philanthropic support of Boston’s community through JNF-USA, the husband and wife team of Adam and Marissa Goldstein behind Boston-based textile company RAFI NOVA have used their mask-making capabilities to support ADI Negev.
As the co-founders of the innovative manufacturer that works with indigenous crafters in Vietnam, the Goldsteins, with the help of JNF-USA’s Sapphire Society president and long-time ADI Negev volunteer Rhonda Forman, recently donated 800 of their special “smile” masks. The specialized mask was designed by the Goldsteins and a speech-language pathologist to have a clear plastic panel that, unlike traditional masks, allows the wearer to have their mouth and facial emotions seen.
The Goldsteins’ ties to JNF-USA have deep roots. During Marissa’s first trip to Israel while in seventh grade, she planted a tree with JNF-USA.
“You always remember those things,” she explained.
During her time in high school, Marissa returned to Israel to study for two months at Alexander Muss High School in Israel, JNF-USA’s flagship study abroad program.
Marissa found the hands-on learning at High School in Israel to be both a revelation and a gift.
“It gave me confidence,” she maintained. “I totally changed, as did my whole outlook on school and studying!”
It also changed her life in other ways. Although Marissa and Adam attended Muss at different times, they were both invited to speak when the program visited Boston.
“We met that night,” Marissa smiles, “and started dating the next day!”
During a visit to Vietnam, the Goldsteins became enamored with the beautiful textiles the indigenous people made. Seeing an opportunity, the Goldsteins started a new company that they named for their children: Raya, Efi, Noa and Eyva.Starting with diaper bags, RAFI NOVA quickly expanded to other types of bags. When the pandemic struck, the Goldsteins pivoted to masks and, eventually, the smile mask.
It was these “smile” masks that Forman found while searching for ways to support ADI Negev.
Just as the Goldsteins had been overseas in Vietnam at the start of the pandemic, Forman was in Israel volunteering at ADI Negev when she was advised to go home. Upon returning home, Forman realized that the volunteers at ADI Negev would need masks and that RAFI NOVA’s smile masks would help them communicate with the residents. She reached out to Marissa and asked her to donate masks.
“JNF-USA has been such an important part of our lives,” explains Goldstein, “so we said ‘yes’ right away!”
RAFI NOVA delivered 800 masks, some of which will be shared with JNF-USA’s other disability-focused programs, including LOTEM and Special in Uniform.
“It was meant to be,” Forman suggests, noting that Goldstein’s mother, Beth Moskowitz, was also a JNF-USA donor and respected philanthropist in the New England area.
The meeting of the three JNF-USA supporters also fits right into the Goldsteins’ goals for their company. By supporting ADI Negev, the Goldsteins and Forman were able to involve and help people in their international communities who are often shut out or left behind.
“We are able to use our resources at a time when people really need them,” Marissa says proudly. “Hopefully, our masks will not be needed for much longer; however, we are always looking for new ways to serve our customers what they want and to serve and expand the community.”