By SIMONE COHEN SCOTT Nomi Yeshua occasionally passes through Canada representing the Jerusalem Foundation. Last summer she came through Winnipeg with Mayor Moshe Lion of Jerusalem. The delegation from Israel was thanking the Canadian donors who have helped to build and support projects geared to make Jerusalem the cultural and civilizational hub of the planet that she should be, and almost is.
Nomi was back in Canada again last month, planning a tour that would showcase an innovative project geared to help young women from all the diverse communities in Jerusalem to lift themselves up into independence – in other words, to train them to actualize their inherent entrepreneurial skills.
She was spending a few days in Winnipeg, and so we were able to book a little visit together. I met Nomi several years ago when she spoke in Gimli at a JNF brunch, and I wanted to update myself about recent changes in her title, details of how she landed her job in the mayor’s office upon making aliyah, and how she transitioned herself through various roles until she does what she does now. Our conversation revealed another transformation: that the art of fundraising has come a long way since Golda Meyerson travelled the United States in a housedress with her hand out.
Nomi was born in Vancouver, but the seeds of Zionism were planted early. When only in middle school, she applied to a program offering grade 10 on Kibbutz Kfar Blum. She was accepted and spent that single year of high school in Israel, no doubt delighting her grandmother who had made aliyah in 1977.
Finishing high school in Vancouver, looking for an education along the lines of liberal arts, she chose Political Science and obtained a B.A. from the University of British Columbia. In 1990, Nomi herself made aliyah, joining her grandmother and aunt, both Winnipeggers, Aunt Miriam having made aliyah in 1966. It was through them that Nomi, a brand new Israeli, found her dream job in Mayor Teddy Kolleck”s office.
In Nomi’s own words: “I went for lunch with my grandmother at the home of my aunt’s neighbour. The neighbour, Frada Feigelson, had a sister, Shula Eisner Navon, who had worked for Mayor Teddy since 1965, and she hired me as her assistant. Shula left a couple of years later and then I took over her position.”
Note that Shula began with Teddy (named Tadeuz after Theodore Herzl) the same year he became mayor, and worked for him for over 25 years, when she hired Nomi. Back in 1965. Jerusalem was still occupied by Jordan up to the Green Line (meaning the 1947 War of Independence ‘cease fire’ line which had been drawn with a green crayon).
By 1966, Teddy had founded the Jerusalem Foundation, a fundraising device to allow people of the world to assist,whether by large or small amounts, in the cultural development of their ‘city on the hill’. Its first initiatives were public parks in the poorer neighbourhoods, funded by donors in New York.
Without the Foundation, moving money smoothly between countries, as now, would not have been possible. Teddy was nothing if not charismatic, his personality permeating every field he entered. Before long he also planted the beginnings of the Jerusalem Museum. He was chummy with every cultural icon of the era, bringing them all to Jerusalem, making the city the focus of high intellectual achievement. Isaac Stern, Arturo Rubinstein, Saul Bellow, Isaiah Berlin, Marc Chagall, Yitzchak Perelman -these were all his friends.
Shula would have developed a high sense of aestheticism and beneficence. This was the aura of the workplace Nomi entered, the influence and legacy under which she was to walk her career path. Nomi told me she owes to Teddy her passion for classical music. I believe she has also internalized the values Teddy instilled into the Jerusalem Foundation.
During his life prior to his years as mayor, Teddy was a man of action. In 1942 he was appointed Deputy Head of Intelligence for the Jewish Agency. By 1945, he was in contact with the highly secretive MI5’s main representative of British Military Intelligence, (There is some mystery about his activities during this period.) Through 1947 and 1948 he represented the Haganah in Washington, during which time he managed, (working from within the Haganah), to clandestinely transport into Palestine used and leftover American military armaments, including ammunition, which formed the basis of what became the Mossad during the War of Independence.
From 1952 he served as the director general of the prime minister’s office. Teddy Kollek and David Ben Gurion were cut from the same cloth: neither was religious; both were educated in Vienna. Just as Ben Gurion didn’t whine that the land being offered to the Jews was inadequate, so Teddy took it in stride when his city suddenly ballooned in size and population/ His attitude was: “Of course, come in, let me help you.”
Immediately, he arranged for the provision of milk for Arab children. Then he placed City Hall smack on the seam line of the unification. Religious or not, if there were discontented naysayers, as in the day of the ten spies, these two men were able to withstand them.
It is fortuitous that the Jerusalem Foundation was already established by this time. From its beginnings it has been apolitical, embracing the Jewish mandate to be caretakers of Jerusalem for the benefit of all the people of the world. This mindset led Teddy to embrace his new communities with open arms, and strive to bring them the same enhancements he had begun in the rest of the city…. green spaces at first, then tentatively expanding to cultural and social centres.
Fast forward to the present, with 4,000 plus projects completed or in the works. Not that ‘completed’ is ever stamped across the page. And no longer is the meeting of open hand and deep pocket the way it’s done. In 1966 the Jerusalem Foundation was incorporated in New York City. In 1970 a Canadian Branch in Montreal was opened by the Bronfman family, a contact Teddy made when moving arms.
Beginning in the early 20th century, more and more philanthropic efforts were being channelled into entities like these, (the Rockefeller Foundation being one of the earliest), as efficient ways to expedite the movement of large sums of money through government regulations, and to facilitate the management of funds over long periods of time. Teddy obviously was an excellent people person, arranging his friends into donors, his donors into friends, and then, eek!…..channelling them into boards of directors.
It takes a special gift, and there is no doubt in my mind that gift also resides in Nomi. From Teddy’s office she went on to various fundraising and marketing positions, managing also to obtain a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Tel Aviv. At one point she served as liaison to Mayor Nir Birkat. As she told me, fundraising and what it accomplishes cannot exist without the building of relationships.
For Nomi to develop and direct this structure of board members and donors, as she does, bespeaks a temperament that loves and respects people. It’s a big job; it consists of many small jobs. Over the years Nomi has done everyone else’s job. I met her when she was Director of the Canada Desk; now she is Chief Development Officer as well as Executive Director in Canada. There have been others, each indicating an upgrade in skill and responsibility, but I get the feeling many of the duties are intermingled.
Projects over the decades have gone beyond parks and cultural centres, although its safe to say those haven’t stopped. Nowadays, a not so frequently mentioned element of the Jerusalem Foundation, words to the effect of ‘…….integrating the day to day lives of the city’s inhabitants…..’ has moved a little more front and centre. ‘Shared living’ is the phrase being used. ‘Easier said than done’ as the saying goes.
Nomi pointed out serious complications in accomplishing this, which originate in the city’s education system. She told me that there are four streams of public schools, all segregated, all paid for by taxes, with no way to loosen up and unravel them. The first time these kids have anything to do with each other is when they enter the IDF. Up till then, there is no interaction. They have not had any contact with other perspectives. Overcoming this alienation is going to take more than nice architecture.
Not to mention Arab communities established during the Jordanian occupation, including an early refugee camp cheek by jowl against an Arab village. Nomi, you’ve got a big job ahead of you! Knowing Nomi better now, I am convinced she will tackle it one knot at a time. Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion was certainly wise to come and thank Canadian donors. I hope he’s also thanking the ones who “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem……” Psalm 122:6a
Israeli show satirizing students in the US who give blind support to Hamas
If you want to take a break from the tension that comes with following every bit of news associated with Israel’s war on Hamas watch this hilarious video satirizing the stupidity of US college kids who give unqualified support to Hamas: https://twitter.com/LeviYonit/status/1721272323087401428?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1721272323087401428%7Ctwgr%5E833a2a425e6d7029d6ef37b7c9042c1d81dbf8ba%7Ctwcon%5Es1_c10&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.timesofisrael.com%2Fisraeli-satire-shows-mocking-of-us-student-support-for-hamas-goes-viral%2F
Report from Israel
By BRUCE BROWN (Posted Nov. 4) Rehovot, Israel
What was once considered relatively banal is no longer routine. With Israel at war and all.
Last Friday we decided to go out for dinner, a quick bite in Tel Aviv. At our Favorite hamburger joint – Prozdor and highly recommended next time you, dear reader, visit Israel. Whether even to go was driven by unusual considerations. Do we really want to leave the relative safety of our abode, where our den-cum-saferoom is only a few steps away. And enter Tel Aviv, which seems to absorb the brunt of evening missile barrages. And what about the twenty minute drive – need to refresh the Homefront command instructions on how best to respond should missiles fly overhead while driving.
Once agreed that we need the distraction. A break from the routine of another evening at home, watching the news and waiting for missiles to fall. We then argued about who should drive, the determining factor being who would be calmest at the wheel should we encounter a missile on the way. My daughter, an ex-combat soldier, was voted designated driver. Although I still think I’m pretty cool under fire. During the drive, we nervously exchanged scenarios about where best to pull over -there are some stretches of highway without a shoulder- and how far from the car we should scramble. If the situation should occur.
Then once we arrived at Prozdor. The first thing we did was stake out the nearest bomb shelter. The kindly restaurateur pointed out the shelter across the road, next to a parking lot and beneath a hotel. In Tel Aviv you have ninety seconds to reach safety. Seems doable. Better be doable!
And while usually a bustling place, the restaurant was barely a third full. People just not venturing out these days. Because of safety considerations, who wants to get blown up while eating a hamburger. How banal is that?! And anyway the nation is really not in the mood for enjoying a good burger. Well except for us and a few others looking for a diversion from the monotony of another evening at home in war time.
Our meal arrived. As did the missiles. Was enjoying my first bite with a couple french fries when the siren sounded. And in a surprisingly orderly fashion, after all we are Israelis, together with forty other diners we cautiously walked round the tables, out the door, down the steps and across the street into the bomb shelter. Strangers. Huddled together. Texting family and friends with an ‘all safe’ message. Ten minutes later we walked back across the street, up the steps, into Prozdor, around the tables and to our waiting meals. A bid colder but still tasty. Amazing how a bit of existential excitement can trigger the taste buds.
On the way home we stopped at Dizengoff Square. To view a very haunting war display which literally took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. It pays tribute to the victims of the October 7th Black Shabbath-Simcha Torah massacre. Including for the more than 240 hostages. Most jarring was the bloodied and blindfolded stuffed teddy bear display. Around thirty of them. One for each of the child hostages held by the brutal and cowardly Hamas. Painful. Sickening.
Driving home in silence, each with our own thoughts of the tragedy behind us. And the long haul ahead of us. On the radio melancholy songs played in the background. As if a score to a sad movie. Two songs in particular struck a chord. Played back-to-back. Their meaning and associations forever changed. George Harrison’s My Guitar Gently Weeps: “I look at the world / And I notice, It’s turning / While my guitar gently weeps / With every mistake / We must surely be learning / Still my guitar gently weeps…” Followed by Paul McCartney’s Blackbird: “Blackbird singing in the dead of night / Take these broken wings and learn to fly / You were only waiting for this moment to be free / Blackbird fly, blackbird fly / Into the light of a dark black night…”
Arriving home. Drained of all energy. From the not-so relaxing hamburger dinner. From the emotionally exhausting war exhibit. From the background music accompanying the evening’s tempo. I went straight to bed for another fitful and sleepless night. Desperately hoping to awake to just an ordinary day….
Now walking the dog should for sure be very routine. But it too can become a memorable war experience. Turning into a ‘run-against-the-clock for simple safety’ event. The other evening my wife was out walking Poncho. She just collected his poop when a missile alert went off. Incoming! Ninety seconds to find a safe spot. She decided to pick up our pooch and make a mad dash to our saferoom. Through the lobby and up four flights of stairs (no elevator at such times). Making it just in time. We all stumbled into our shelter. My daughter. And I. My wife. The pooch. And the poo. In her extreme focus to reach safety, the wife forgot to throw the doggy doo into the garbage bin. Gave us a moment’s respite. Some laughter. At the banality of it all!
With the pool at the country club still closed due to Homefront command considerations. You can’t hear a siren while swimming the breaststroke. I’ve since started a new routine of very early morning walks. But even walking is different these days. Jumpy every time a white pick-up truck drives by (vehicle of choice for the despicable Hamas terrorists). To the uplifting sight of our blue & white flags hanging from balconies and windows along my route. Like an early Independence Day. Barely blowing in the barely non-existent wind of our too dry and too warm winter. The weather possibly another victim of this war. Late to arrive due to the billowing clouds of smoke arising from Hamas missile fails and targeted IAF missile strikes inside Gaza.
Blackbird singing in dead of night while my guitar gently weeps.
Bruce Brown. A Canadian. And an Israeli. Bruce made Aliyah…a long time ago. He works in Israel’s hi-tech sector by day and, in spurts, is a somewhat inspired writer by night. Bruce is the winner of the 2019 American Jewish Press Association Simon Rockower Award for excellence in writing. And wrote the 1998 satire, An Israeli is…. Bruce’s reflects on life in Israel – political, social, economic and personal. With lots of biting, contrarian, sardonic and irreverent insight.
An appeal for help for under-supplied Israeli soldiers from former Winnipegger Jared Ackerman
By BERNIE BELLAN (Posted Oct. 18) first met Jared Ackerman in 2013 when I had the good fortune to interview Jared, along with 4 other students from Winnipeg, when they were all studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (You can still see that interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6k8svB2j-0.)
Jared had gone on to serve in the Israeli army. He just posted this impassioned plea for help for Israeli soldiers:
My name is Jared Ackerman and I’m an IDF veteran that served in the Paratroopers (Tzanchanim). I live in Atlanta and have come together with a group of Israelis from across the US, Canada, and Israel to provide an emergency shipment of urgent supplies to the front lines in Israel.
As of right now over 3.5 tons of purely defensive gear (ceramic plates, vests, helmets, medical kits) have been sourced and paid for. We have everything in a warehouse in Toronto, Canada ready to ship to Israel and are continuing to purchase more.
The first units to respond on October 7th have since been totally ransacked of equipment. They were the first ones to arrive at the kibbutzim and Nova on the Gaza border and they are actually withholding extra reserves from joining the warfront because they do not have enough equipment. This is particularly problematic as they lost soldiers in the battle, and many more were injured.
Our next step is to secure additional funding to fly the gear over to Israel via cargo jet.
As of today, no commercial flights are allowing any tactical gear to be shipped and the only option is private cargo planes. We are also working to secure more equipment to justify the high cost of chartering the plane.
I have attached photos and a video here of the equipment that has been sourced and ready to ship from the warehouse.
We have all relevant approvals in Israel with the Ministry of Defense and a logistics hub ready to go to distribute the protective and medical goods.
Timing is of the essence as units are already in the field with below par equipment.
100% of the funds raised are going towards the purchase of equipment and shipment to Israel and not to operational costs as everything is voluntary.
Please use the link below if you are able to donate anything and help get this gear to the front lines. Please also feel free to DM if you can help source any additional equipment or have any connections with securing a cargo plane or have any questions!
Am Yisrael Chai