When Dr. Francine Stein of Englewood assumed the presidency of AMIT in September, she already knew that it was a perfect match.
"Children are my first love," said Stein, a developmental/behavioral pediatrician who has been involved with the organization for more than 30 years 16 of them at the national level. "I truly appreciate the work that AMIT does in helping children reach their potential."
According to Stein, the group, founded in 19’5 as Mizrachi Women’s Organization of America, educates and cares for Israel’s youth, including the country’s most vulnerable children. She noted that more than 70 percent of the ‘0,000 children served by AMIT today are disadvantaged in some way whether educationally, psychologically, economically, or socially and said that "AMIT values each individual child, adapting to meet his or her needs."
AMIT has been a "family tradition," said Stein, explaining that her grandmother, a staunch supporter of the organization, helped form one of the group’s earliest youth villages. "The flame was passed," she said.
In addition, she noted, she has always felt especially close to the teachings of Maimonides, who is called Rambam, and believes that in teaching its students to become self-sufficient, AMIT is on "the highest rung of Rambam’s ladder of charity."
"My father was a physician," she said, "and he had Rambam’s oath hanging in his office. It’s a family thing."
Stein, a Zionist, said she "gets a lot of satisfaction" from the fact that the organization, through its network of 77 schools, youth villages, and surrogate family residences, is "strengthening Israeli society and helping to protect the future."
"We educate and train its future entrepreneurs, civil servants, teachers, scientists, intellectuals, soldiers, and leaders. We help young people break out of the cycle of poverty to become proud, productive citizens of the Jewish state, and we teach immigrants, some still living in absorption centers, how to succeed in their new homeland," she wrote in her first president’s message to the organization.
The new president said that by educating and nurturing children from diverse backgrounds "within a framework of tolerance and sensitivity to others," AMIT, through "values-based education, imparts academic excellence, religious values, and Zionist ideals."
Pointing out that in 1981, the organization was designated by the Israeli government as its official network for religious secondary technological education, Stein noted that the Israeli government frequently asks AMIT to help with the management of schools.
"The government’s expertise is not in educational management," she said, explaining that municipalities that need help running religious technological high schools often look to AMIT to take over administration of these facilities. According to the group’s Website, the main focus of an AMIT education is to ensure that each of its students receives a bagrut, or official high school qualification certificate.
Stein, who, with her husband Aaron, belongs to Englewood’s Cong. Ahavath Torah and East Hills Synagogue, said that while she continues to run her pediatric practice part time, her volunteer work for AMIT is "almost full time." And, she added, to keep it in the family, her daughter, Beth Lipschitz, has been a life member since she was 6 years old and, for the past two years, has served on AMIT’s national New Generation board.