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Our Team

Where Passion and Dedication Meet

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Sylvia Robinson

Where It All Started

Sylvia Robinson (1929 – 2018) was a community leader and volunteer in Pittsburgh and dedicated to the wellbeing of Israel and its people.  In partnership with her husband Donald (1925 – 2017), Sylvia traveled extensively for Jewish humanitarian causes.  It was at an American Jewish Joint Distribution Community event in Switzerland that Sylvia discovered a program to honor and befriend Israeli war veterans.  Sylvia brought the idea back to Pittsburgh and launched the American Friends of Israel War Disabled in 1975. She recruited host families and worked with Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization. Under Sylvia’s stewardship and utilizing her contacts in the Jewish federation system, the program was replicated in other U.S. and Canadian cities.  The program continues to welcome Israeli veterans to Pittsburgh rebranded under 412 Friends of Zahal and partner them with host families to form lasting bonds.

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Sandy & Barbara Zell


Happily married with six children and five grandchildren, Sandy and Barbara have a strong passion for the 412 Friends of Zahal program, the State of Israel and community.

The Zell's started as a host family and immediately fell in love with the mission. They are committed to carrying on the "Pittsburgh Tradition" that was started by Sylvia Robinson in the 1970's.

Barbara is a 40 plus year veteran teacher and Sandy is a first generation holocaust survivor and entrepreneur; Both serve on the board of Beth Samuel Jewish Center in Ambridge, PA.

The Zell's have a son and three of their grandchildren living in Israel and annually visit them as well as meeting the delegation prior to their arrival in Pittsburgh.

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2023 Committee

The Hard Working People of Our Community

We can never thank enough the people that give of their time and resources to make the "American Experience" for our delegations come to life. 

Bottom left to right: Donna Trust, Ari Gitig, Ella Ziff

Top left to right: Bob Danenberg, Dorothy Greenfield, Julian Ebling, Barbara Zell, Sandy Zell, Joel Ungar (Not present Gail Ungar)


Ronna Harris Askin

Chair Emeritus

Ronna Harris was a past president of the American Friends of Israel War Disabled for many years as well as the Executive Director of the Jewish Assistance Fund. Additionally, Ronna served on the board of Congregation Beth Shalom, volunteered at Circle of EKC, a camp for grieving children, and chaired a subcommittee within Partnership 2Gether through the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Chair Emeritus

Sandy Kushner

Our Team: Our Team
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