Forming a partnership of peers with Israel’s first community foundation

By Jennifer Gorovitz, CEO of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund

It is such a pivotal time in Israel. A movement has formed. Citizens have taken to the streets to demand social justice and equality of opportunity. Amidst this backdrop, the first-ever community foundation in Israel has just been established, Takdim - The Ramat Hasharon Community Foundation, in an effort to bring US-style philanthropy to its borders. This is a new model of philanthropy for a country built on a socialist model of government, and more importantly, that has traditionally received the lion's share of its support come from overseas.

Akiva Tor and Yitzhak Rochberger

Consul General of Israel, Akiva Tor, and the Mayor of Ramat Hasharon, Yitzhak Rochberger

According to Hebrew University data, in 2009 approximately 62% of philanthropic contributions to non-profits in Israel came from abroad. This figure represents a ten percent drop however from the previous year, as US donors continue to navigate a sluggish economy at home. Many believe maintaining a robust non-profit sector will require a change of thinking in Israel — a process that has already begun with the formation of this new foundation. Takdim, which means precedent in Hebrew, is trying to change patterns of philanthropy through a Federation-based model, which they hope will address pressing social and educational issues with support from the community and local donors. Among their leadership are former Israeli Air Force Commanders, a former Ambassador to Washington, and several other prominent figures in Israel today.

Arik Rosenblum

The Executive Director of Takdim – The Ramat Hasharon Community Foundation, Arik Rosenblum

The JCF's reputation in Israel as a leading innovator in strategic philanthropy is what led the leadership of Takdim to reach out to our Federation. They came to San Francisco last week (en-route to the Jewish Federations of North American General Assembly in Denver) to meet our staff, learn about our work, and discuss the possibility of forming a “partnership of peers” with JCF mentoring the Foundation as it develops. Since a core component of our work in Israel is capacity building and helping to develop Israeli philanthropy, we were both thrilled and honored at the prospect. Gila Noam, Director of our Israel Office, provided initial mentorship and guidance to Takdim and helped set up this historic visit. Among the 12 member delegation was Arik Roseblum, Takdim's Managing Director; the Mayor of Ramat Hasharon, Yitzhak Rochberger; and a group of lay leaders who are among Israel’s most prominent and accomplished business leaders. We soon discovered that three members of the delegation had their own connections to the JCF - they are all graduates of Gvanim, the JCF’s innovative leadership development program. I must confess I felt a bit like a proud mother on learning of this connection and seeing such compelling evidence of the success of our work.

Jennifer Gorovitz

Jennifer Gorovitz presenting to the Takdim delegation

After a celebratory “meet and greet” and champagne toast, we spent a couple of hours discussing the unique challenges and opportunities faced by each of our communities. I gave a brief presentation on the history of our Federation and the evolution of our new strategic approach to fundraising and grant making. Arik shared with us the story of how Takdim came to be. His description of the physical beauty of the town and the dedication of its citizens reminded me so much of our own community. In addition to being a dedicated to tikkum olam, we also learned from Mayor Rochberger that Ramat Hasharon has something else to admire - a balanced budget! It's no wonder it was chosen as one of the leading cities of the Middle East. The next day JCF staff provided the delegation with an overview of the key components of our work, including the changing donor landscape, best practices from the field of strategic philanthropy, our work in Israel, our teen philanthropy program, philanthropic services, how to engage, educate, and recognize donors, how to best develop leadership and ending with an overview of the unique political dynamics of the Bay Area.

Takdim launch celebration in Israel

Takdim launch celebration in Ramat HaSharon, Israel

It was a very full afternoon that left our Takdim friends informed, inspired, and exhausted (once the jet lag kicked in). We topped the day off with a lovely Shabbat dinner graciously hosted by Joelle Steefel at her home. This visit was an exciting first step in exploring a partnership between our Federation and this ground-breaking Foundation.

Categories: Israel


November 09, 2011


The Federation