PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN presents this year’s Israel Goldstein Prize for Distinguished Leadership to Australian businessman Jack Smorgon (holding the citation), at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem yesterday. Among those looking on are Chairman of the World Board of Trustees of Keren Hayesod Dav.
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
Prominent Australian businessman and philanthropist Jack Smorgon is the recipient of this year’s Israel Goldstein Prize for Distinguished Leadership, the highest accolade of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal.
The award has been presented annually since 1980 to one or more of the organization’s leaders in recognition of their work toward the success of Keren Hayesod campaigns. Wednesday’s award ceremony was conducted at the President’s Residence, with the participation of President Reuven Rivlin.
Keren Hayesod director-general Greg Masel told Rivlin that sitting before him were Keren Hayesod leaders and donors from 25 countries, who were in Israel as members of the Keren Hayesod Israel Independence Day delegations. Masel also lauded Smorgon for his” exemplary public service, civic activism and dedication to Israel.”
David Koschitzky, chairman of the World Board of Trustees of Keren Hayesod, observed that it was no coincidence that the Goldstein Prize is awarded in the week of Israel’s Independence and in the President’s Residence. One of the early leaders of Keren Hayesod had been the state’s first president, Chaim Weizmann.
In fact Weizmann was one of the signatories to the Keren Hayesod Manifesto of December 1920 that called on Jews of the world to concentrate their effort on the upbuilding of the Jewish National Home.
Rivlin also saw the connection, saying that “without Keren Hayesod there would have been no State of Israel.”
While he considered it right to speak of the heroes of the Palmah, of the special reconnaissance units, and the paratroopers, Rivlin noted that “they are not the only heroes.”
“The secret heroes of this country are the people who built with never-ending devotion,” the president said. “They started funds and raised money, and out of this great work and effort came our independence. Israel was always and still is a joint project of all its builders,” Rivlin declared, singling out the American born-Goldstein and the Australian-born Smorgon as two examples.
Of the 29 recipients of the Israel Goldstein award, five of the honorees came from Australia. Smorgon found it interesting that they all came from his home town of Melbourne.
Rivlin praised Smorgon for having devoted his whole life to public service, locally in the state of Victoria, nationally and globally.
Smorgon in accepting the award paid tribute to his late mentor, Saul Same, a Melbourne community leader who died last year at age 97, and who more than 30 years ago introduced him to Keren Hayesod, albeit not to Israel.
Smorgon had first come to Israel at the age of 16, together with a cousin of the same age. Their grandfather had given them a round the world ticket that included three weeks in Israel. Six years later, he was back with his new wife, Val, on their honeymoon, and on average he comes to Israel four times a year. This time he was accompanied by his wife, their four children and one grandchild, though he would have been happy he said, if the other 18 grandchildren had also come. In addition he has three great-grandchildren.
Among the many offices he holds or has held are president of the United Israel Appeal of Australia, president and chairman alternately of the United Israel Appeal of Victoria, on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency and chairman of its activism department which deals with 18 projects, member of the executive of Keren Hayesod and former chairman of its projects committee.
Among his many positions in the non-Jewish community is that of former chairman of the Australian National Railways Commission.
Rabbi Israel Goldstein, a lifelong Zionist, was world chairman of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal from 1961 to 1971.
Born in Philadelphia in 1896, Goldstein served for more than four decades as rabbi of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Over the years he headed several Zionist and religious organizations including the New York Board of Rabbis, the Jewish National Fund of America, the Zionist Organization of America and the American Jewish Congress. He was also among the founders of Brandeis University.
The synagogue on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University bears his name as does the Israel Goldstein Youth Village (Havat Hanoar Hatzioni) in Jerusalem.
Goldstein and his wife, Bert, spent their twilight years in Jerusalem, where he died at age 89. She was the first president of Pioneer Women of America (now called Na’amat USA).
Rivlin said that he had been to the Goldstein synagogue and that he had taken his children swimming at the Goldstein Youth Village.