Anne Heyman, a Jewish philanthropist who founded a Rwandan youth village for children orphaned in that country’s 1994 genocide, died in a horse-riding accident.
Heyman, 52, died Friday afternoon after falling off a horse during a jumping competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Florida, The Palm Beach Post reported.
Heyman, a South African-American attorney, founded the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda – modeled on Israeli youth village Yemin Orde – in 2008. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post last year
, she said that she established the village out of a sense of obligation to tikkun olam, social activism and the Zionist imperative to be a light unto other nations.
“It was our obligation for many reasons, to share with the world what we went through,” she told the Post,
drawing parallels between the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. “Israel had a solution to the orphan problem, and Rwanda has some 2.85 million orphans and vulnerable children. Without a systemic solution this is a problem that won’t solve itself.”
A statement on the Agahozo-Shalom website mourned Heyman's death on behalf of the entire youth village, reading, "Each of us grieves not only for the passing of a tremendous woman and a true visionary, but also for the loss suffered by her family."
"Nine years ago, Anne had a vision to build a village to heal vulnerable orphans in Rwanda. Today her vision has been realized and countless lives have been transformed by her incredible generosity, spirit and determination. She has made a remarkable impact on this world and we will continue to work to uphold her legacy."
Rwandan Youth Minister Jean Nsengimana also expressed sorrow over Heyman's death, on his Twitter account. Heyman has been involved in numerous American Jewish philanthropies. She is a former board president of Dorot, a Jewish nonprofit that organizes volunteers to help the elderly and reduce their social isolation.