(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
"It is a great honor for me to participate in this ceremony, at which prizes are being awarded to three artists who have left their mark on Israeli culture. It is also an honor for me, as the chairman of KKL-JNF, to fulfill the wishes of a great man, Yitzhak Leib Goldberg, by awarding these prizes." KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler was speaking at a ceremony that recently took place in Jerusalem, at which prizes were awarded by the Yitzhak and Rachel Goldberg Foundation to Erez Biton for poetry, Sammy Bardugo for prose, and Dr. Ruhama Weiss for poetry.
"A person who could establish a foundation to support Hebrew literature and culture in 1935 is a man with far-reaching vision," Mr. Stenzler went on to say. "Today we are awarding prizes to artists in the field of literature. We should be aware that the Yitzhak Leib and Rahel Goldberg Foundation also helps buy schoolbooks for schools, publishes books in the fields of literature and education, and awards scholarships to students.
"The Israeli public is aware of KKL-JNF's achievements in the fields of afforestation, preparing infrastructure for new communities and for agriculture, building water reservoirs, restoring rivers, blazing bicycle trails and much more. What is less known is that in the spirit of Yitzhak and Rachel Goldberg, we also invest huge resources in education. Our Education Department produces curricula for schools, and organizes eco-Zionism days and supplementary studies for teachers. Children learn about nature and Israeli history at our field and forest centers, and we have special programs to strengthen the ties between Jewish youth from Israel and abroad.
"Yitzhak Leib Goldberg donated land from his many fruit groves to KKL-JNF. In one of these areas, between the Yarkon and Ayalon streams, we planted the Bird's Head Forest for the benefit of the public. We have plans to build a memorial to Yitzhak Goldberg on the highest point of this forest, which were recently been approved by the Tel Aviv municipality. The site will include three large stones on which Yitzhak Goldberg's inspiring life story will be written in three languages. I would like to congratulate the prize recipients and wish them continued success in their artistic endeavors," Mr. Stenzler concluded.
Dr. Arye Naor reviewed Yitzhak Goldberg's life: "Yitzhak Leib Goldberg was one of the most amazing figures that we know of from the years before the establishment of the state. Our national poet, Haim Nahman Bialik, who was his personal friend, wrote of him: 'This is a man in whom Zionism is deeply entrenched in every fiber of his soul…it is difficult to find any meaningful building in the land of Israel that Yitzhak Leib Goldberg is not connected to in one way or another.'
"Yitzchak Goldberg was born in Poland in 1860, and he visited Israel seven times," he continued. "His support and contributions helped paved the way for the first activities of the Jewish National Fund. At that time, not everyone understood the importance of the national fund. Already in 1902, Goldberg donated a 200 dunam plot of his in Hadera to the new fund. This was KKL-JNF's first property in Israel, and Goldberg was to donate much more land to KKL-JNF in the future.
"When Goldberg passed away in 1935, he was brought to Israel for burial, and thousands attended his funeral. His life had ended, but not his legacy. He left the enormous sum of 75,000 Palestine pounds to the JNF, the largest single bequest to the Zionist movement. He asked that the interest from his donation be used to create the Yitzhak and Rachel Goldberg Foundation to support, in his words, 'Hebrew literature and Hebrew culture in the land of Israel.'
At the end of his speech, Dr. Naor took care to correct a historical fallacy. "Ever since Gershon Gera wrote his book "The Unknown Philanthropist", this expression was used to describe Yitzhak Goldberg," he said. "I would ask, why unknown? His projects and his donations, which were given with a willing heart, were well-known both during his life and also after his demise. In my opinion, Yitzhak Leib Goldberg is an eminently renowned philanthropist, and so he deserves to be remembered."
The famous Israeli poet Erez Biton spoke on behalf of the prize recipients: "I am very moved to be tied to such an extraordinary man as Yitzhak Leib Goldberg. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, this young man placed himself in the very eye of the storm by being connected to the Lovers of Zion. He realized that the love of the land and hope were necessarily intertwined, and he recognized the need for economical means to realize this vision.
"Wealthy people often concentrate on themselves and their immediate reality, but Yitzhak Leib could somehow see far into the future. He was the reason that 75 years later, by means of an organization called Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, three people named Erez Biton, Sammy Bardugo and Dr. Ruhama Weiss would receive a prize to encourage art in the land of Israel, in the state of Israel, in Jerusalem. How does such inspiration come to such a great spirit, how, in the midst of intense economic dealings, does it occur to someone to allocate resources for culture and literature? He was one of the very few people who realize that ultimately, those who determine the real future of existence are the poets and the writers, those who promote culture and publish magazines.
"I would like to thank the prize committee, KKL-JNF, the Goldberg family, Mr. Stenzler, and everyone involved with the foundation. There is no greater act of giving than bequeathing something to someone who will live in the future, someone you neither know or have ever met.
"Poets and writers do not write in order to receive prizes," said Biton. "Each of us sits in their own room, at their table, immersed in themselves, trying to find that elusive entity which transforms a personal experience into something of meaning for everyone. At the same time, I must say that receiving a prize gives a person strength to leave his desk. It is like a hand outstretched, and we are here to shake the hands of those who awarded us the prize and to express our gratitude."
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