(Pictured): Seattle 12 at their graduation ceremony this past July in Utah. 

There is a mystical tradition that the world has 36 hidden tzadikim. These are special and humble people and legend explains they are usually unknown to us.

At our new member retreat in Aspen, Colorado (now two years ago) we were privileged to meet and be inspired by Dr. Rick Hodes. He has dedicated his life to healing, making an impact, and tikkun olam. I would like to posit that Dr. Hodes should be counted as one of those special and hidden souls.

Dr. Hodes has spent more than 25 years in his role as Medical Director of the JDC (The Joint Distribution Committee) in Ethiopia, and played a part during the miraculous return to Israel of Ethiopian Jews during Operation Solomon. 

His story and passion moved us all. In fact, right after his presentation we were ready to purchase a well to provide clean water in a place that desperately lacked. We were cautioned to temper down our exuberance and to not jump into anything right away. So we tucked the idea into our pocket (right next to the rugelach stashed in a napkin from kiddush) and held it in.

Wells are mentioned all through the Chumash. Wells are dug and re-dug and many important conversations and meetings happen around wells. A class member mentioned how the Torah itself is called a well-spring. So the synthesis was there and we went for it.

As we approached the end of our 2-year program, we realized that it was the perfect time to move forward and purchase a well in the merit of the people that made our fellowship possible. It is with tremendous appreciation for Les & Abigail Wexner, The Wexner Foundation, SAMIS, The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and our local individual funders that we gift this well. 

When our group made the formal dedication of the well to our regional chapter of the JDC, a person in the crowd was immediately inspired to purchase a well, as well. One good deed inspires another. 

To view the other gift that Seattle 12 gave over at their graduation ceremony in Utah, please click here to watch a short video.

Beth Balkany, a Wexner Heritage alumna (Seattle 12), is active in launching an endowment for her children’s day school and is Director of the Chesed Fund. Along her journey from her childhood home of Alaska, Beth worked as Program Director at the Conference of Presidents in New York. Her favorite meeting was in Tashkent, Uzbekistan which led to the release of many Sifrei Torah that the community was forced to leave behind when they emigrated. Every member of the Seattle12 graduating class has had a shabbat meal at the Balkany’s. Beth can be reached at balkany@yahoo.com.