Part of our Gratitude series to thank some who have been with us since the very beginning and others who are new friends. Each has made invaluable contributions of time, talent, and treasure, and we are forever grateful.
Frankly, we wouldn’t be us without Dr. Alex Berenstein. Alex, a world-renowned leader in the field of endovascular surgery, has been funding and doing behind-the-scenes organizing for Operation Respect since our inception. His efforts have allowed us to make enormous progress particularly in our groundbreaking efforts to bring Operation Respect to Israel where our “Don’t Laugh at Me” Program is not only helping to build caring, bully-free environments in both Arabic and Jewish Israeli schools, but is now being used by 63% of elementary school counselors across the country to diminish the hatred and fear that inevitably flares up when hostilities break out.
As a doctor, Alex understands that schools and hospitals must serve the unique role in society of welcoming and serving all, independent of religious, ethnic, socio-economic, gender, or any other type of bias. These two central institutions in any community may have the most powerful opportunity to teach and model peace by presenting opportunities to resolve conflict together in settings filled with respect and caring. To advance that idea, Alex has funded an expansion of our efforts in Israel through the Health and Education Initiative. The initiative is based on the premise that far greater success can be achieved if professionals in the individual fields of education and medicine join forces by using strategies in schools to prevent bullying and violence and sharing the best practices across their perspectives to support children who have personally witnessed and experienced too much trauma.
Perhaps even more importantly, Alex and his wife, Josee, have shared their hearts and their home with us. They have helped us raise funds to expand our work and our reach and have introduced us to so many others who share our commitment. They are extraordinary friends to Operation Respect as an organization and to each of us on the staff and board, and we are so very grateful.