The history of WIZO Chile begins in 1926 when Mrs. Ida Bension visited the country and got together a small group of Jewish women who laid the foundation for the Federation of WIZO Chile. The first president was Raquel Pomeranz. In 1930, WIZO organized the first Hebrew School in Santiago de Chile. 1941 marks the year when a great number of groups – twenty – were formed. In 1956 the first “Kermesse” (bazaar) was organized in the Capital. In 1959, the never to be forgotten visit of the late Rebecca Sieff took place.
In 1960, the “Center of Professional Women” was founded. In 1966, Chilean WIZO celebrated 40 years of existence by holding a variety of cultural and social functions, including a “Round Table” on the theme: “The Participation of Jewish Women in Active Life in the Community.” In 1968, WIZO celebrated Israel Independence Day with a Gala Dinner including a special program dedicated to the reunification of Jerusalem. This event has become a milestone in WIZO’s calendar and is celebrated every year.
The wave of turmoil and violence of the 1970s unleashed tremendous uncertainty and insecurity throughout Chile. Due to the political situation, many Jews migrated to other countries, and the number of WIZO members in Chile declined. In this climate of chaos and turbulence, WIZO Chile succeeded in maintaining its rhythm and fervor and continued its traditional activities with unabated interest and enthusiasm, including WIZO celebrating the 25th anniversary of the State of Israel In 1973 with a gala dinner, and launching an emergency campaign for Israel during the Yom Kippur War. In 1974, destructive storms ravaged the country and left large numbers of people homeless and destitute, and WIZO made a significant contribution in aiding the victims. In response to an appeal by the Chilean government, WIZO organized a Committee of Jewish Women’s Associations – CEFI. CEFI began its activities supporting two schools “State of Israel “ and one in the name of “Golda Meir” for non Jewish students, and established the Golda Meir Polyclinic. In 1975, WIZO Chile celebrated its 50th anniversary. In 1979, WIZO Chile marked the UN International Year of the Child by organizing a national painting competition on the theme “Dreams and Aspirations”, in which underprivileged children from 600 Children’s Homes took part.
In 1980, WIZO Chile marked the UN International Year of the Disabled, and organized a special event, the proceeds of which were used to purchase 50 wheelchairs. During 1985, WIZO Chile realized its dream of operating in its own premises, Beit WIZO. In 1987, together with the Weizmann Institute, WIZO Chile organized a symposium on “Aging and Old Age”. In 1988, WIZO Chile celebrated the 40th anniversary of the State of Israel by organizing a women’s painting competition on the theme “Women Paint Israel”.
In 1990, the campaign for children of new Russian immigrants was launched. A contest – “Women for Life and Science” – was held in cooperation with the Israel Embassy and the Weizmann Institute. In 1993, WIZO Chile hosted the VIII WIZO Latin American Congress. More than 300 delegates from 7 countries attended. In 1994, WIZO chavera Suzy Kreiman z”l was killed in the terrorist attack on AMIA headquarters in Buenos Aires.
Some of the most outstanding activities since 2000 were the Masks Exhibition; “Commemorating the Year 2000”; Antique, Jewelry, Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions; The Night of Friendship; Painting Contests, and many others. In 2004, WIZO Chile commemorated International Women’s Day for the first time by instituting the Prize for an Outstanding Woman. Each year since then, a different woman has received this prize. Since 2011 we are celebration a “WIZO WEEK” with many different activities each day.
Fundraising activities include fashion shows, bazaars, Sponsor a Child, the Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Campaign, and the WIZO Shop, as well as the publication of the WIZO Cookbook and a book for newborn babies entitled “Mazal Tov.” Educational and Cultural activities at WIZO House include courses in international current events, literature, Bible, leadership, comparative religion, personal growth, plastic arts, Israeli folk dancing, singing, and other subjects. Lectures are organized on various topics and all the occasions on the Jewish calendar are commemorated. The yearly review “Nosotras Somos” is an important means of communication with affiliates and with the Jewish Community. In 2004 WIZO Chile inaugurated its new house, a legacy from Mrs. Lotte Hirsch de Heimann z”l.
At the local level, WIZO Chile maintains close relations with a number of non-Jewish institutions such as the Ministry for the Women (SERNAM). In 2002 it held a campaign against domestic violence with WIZO being one of the non governmental institutions, and the only Jewish institution involved in the organization of the campaign whose name figured in the written material and posters. In 2007 Susy Baron, President of WIZO Chile, was invited by the government of Chile to take part in the 10th Regional Conference on Women of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Quito, Ecuador.
WIZO contributes in the local work of CEFI by helping 12 municipal schools in the country named State of Israel, Golda Meir, Ana Frank and Ben Gurion. WIZO is our daily activity and we do our job with energy. We must build a future for our children and grandchildren in order to give them the means to grow and develop, to learn our history, to honor the past and to have a promising future.