It's high time affluent Israelis began supporting educational and cultural institutions instead of waiting for donations from philanthropists from abroad, said Tel Aviv-based social activist, socialite and philanthropist Raya Jaglom.
She was speaking at her inauguration into Beth Hatefusoth's 100 Club, reserved for people who have given at least NIS 100,000 or $33,000 to the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora on the campus of Tel Aviv University. Jaglom said that although the institution is known as the Diaspora Museum because it contains so much documented data about life in Diaspora communities, it is really the story of aliya because people from all over the Jewish world have come to make their homes in Israel. Therefore, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora should be regarded as an Israeli project. "This museum is a school to teach our children about our heritage," she said.
Jaglom, who sits on various university and museum boards, said that Israeli philanthropists by and large comprise a relatively small coterie of affluent people who all support more or less the same causes. There are many more wealthy Israelis who have not yet been recruited into the donors' ranks, she said.
Jaglom contributed NIS 100,000 in the name of former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat, who is chairman of Beth Hatefusoth's board of directors. Aside from demonstrating appreciation for what Lahat did for Tel Aviv, especially for the needy sector of its population during his tenure as mayor, Jaglom thought it appropriate to make her gift as a token of thanks for the fact that when the museum was in danger of closing down due to lack of funds, Lahat had taken it upon himself to approach then prime minister Ariel Sharon, who had promised him that the museum would remain open. Subsequent to that meeting, albeit almost two years later, the Knesset, on December 6, 2005, unanimously passed the Beth Hatefusoth Law, giving Beth Hatefusoth the status of a national center for Jewish communities in Israel and the Diaspora.
Another positive development came from a somewhat unexpected source. Russian millionaire Leonid Nevzlin, who is now an Israeli, pledged to give the museum NIS 20 million over a five-year period. Among other things, this gift will cover a $5 million renovation plan and the creation of the International School for Jewish Peoplehood Studies, together with the Jewish Peoplehood Resource Center.
Money raised from other sources will cover the cost of museum's planned expansion.
In the interim, Nevzlin has been elected chairman of the Museum's board of governors and is working hard on the well-to-do members of the Russian community in Israel to join him in the Beth Hatefusoth (ad)venture.
This is not the first time that Jaglom has called on rich Israelis to share their wealth for the common good. In her early years as a fund-raiser, she asked a British philanthropist whose family was well known for its generosity to Israel since long before the establishment of the state to give her the money for a specific project related to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
"Why don't you do it yourself? You can afford it," was the response.
Taken somewhat aback but rising to the challenge, Jaglom did in fact make a major contribution to the project and got enormous pleasure from doing so.
Since then she has given generously to numerous causes and has persuaded other Israelis to do likewise. Some of her gifts are in partnership with her husband, Josef. Some are strictly her own.
"My husband always told me to give, to support, to donate because it's the best thing you can do," she said. She had also learned from her parents and grandparents the importance of giving.
Her grandparents were endlessly concerning themselves with the needs of the poor, she recalled.
"We continue doing the things we learned at home."
Jaglom wants to start an Israeli support base for Beth Hatefusoth.
Indeed, of the 80 or so names on the honor board of the 100 club, most names belong to overseas donors; and of the less than 20 Israeli donors, seven are foundations or business enterprises.
Jaglom aims to change that and to swing the balance and onus of responsibility onto well-to-do Israelis.