The Legacy of Dov Lautman, Israeli Pioneer of Industry, Philanthropy, and Social Justice

 

On November 23, we mourned the passing of Dov Lautman – Israeli industrial pioneer, Israel Prize laureate, advisor and ally of Israeli prime ministers, avid philanthropist and partner of the Federation – at the age of 77. His impact on Israeli and Jewish society was huge and his story is worth recounting.

Dov, known to all as “Dovik,” began a lifetime of influence when he was appointed CEO of a textile manufacturing company at the age of 27, upon his return to Israel as a graduate of MIT. In the mid-1970s, he built his own clothing company – Delta Galil Industries – a global giant he chose to headquarter in Israel’s northern periphery. Delta was Dov’s most profitable business venture, through which he partnered with Calvin Klein, Nike, Victoria’s Secrets and the like, and was a conduit of his desire to bring employment opportunity to a fledgling Israeli economy, particularly to northern Arab and Druze communities.

The company was not only an enormously successful textile manufacturer, but also a coexistence lab where Arab, Jewish, Christian and Druze employees worked together to create superior products. As an outspoken activist for Jewish-Arab cooperation in Israel, Lautman also served as a bridge of peace to Jordan and Egypt by expanding his factories to Israel’s neighbors and providing new-found employment to thousands.

Dov lived his life in the true spirit of Tikkun Olam, dedicating his time, energy, and resources to creating an Israeli society that aspires to provide equal opportunities and social justice to all of its citizens. He was once quoted as saying, “...unfortunately nothing is being done about closing the widening gaps in Israeli society. In my eyes, these gaps are a ticking bomb, they threaten our existence more than the Iranians or Hamas.”

In hopes of reducing these gaps in education and the disparities between Jews and Arabs, rich and poor, and despite his debilitating disease and several personal tragedies, Dov stepped up his social activism and, in 2008, was among the first in Israel to establish a family fund. The Lautman Fund, headed by his son Noam, is dedicated to promoting formal and non-formal education, and equality between Israeli populations. The fund shares the Federation’s commitment of advancing a just and pluralistic Israel, decreasing societal gaps, and championing education for all.

Since 2010, the Federation has partnered with the Lautman Fund, the Israeli government, Ma’ase – Noam Lautman chairs its executive committee – and other funders in a consortium established to strengthen the educational infrastructure within Druze society and empower this minority (which actively serves in the Israeli Defense Forces) by providing leadership development and volunteerism to Druze youth. The resulting Neurim program operates in 12 Druze villages in the Western Galilee and Carmel regions, providing leadership development, volunteer work, and informal enrichment and educational activities to youth and young adults in youth centers. The centers are an important anchor for after-school life for both at-risk and high-achieving youth. Graduates of the Neurim Volunteer year program receive scholarships for higher education learning and return to the youth centers as mentors and role models for Druze youth, who see the immediate benefits of participating in the program.

The Federation mourns the loss of a great Israeli leader, innovator, activist and philanthropist. In President Shimon Peres’ words, “We will miss your rare, exemplary character...a true envoy for all that is beautiful in Israel.”

But, today, we are also thankful for the legacy that Dov Lautman has left his son, Noam, and an entire nation, a legacy of giving and activism, and of striving to build a moral and social country, that is a true “Light onto the Nations.”

Druze Youth in the Neurim Program

 

To learn more about the Federation’s grantees in Israel, and the work we do there, contact Siggy Rubinson at 415.512.6429.

 

Categories: Grantees, In Memoriam, Israel

Posted

January 02, 2014

Author

Merav Barr Grindlinger

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