A new Zionism.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
With all the biased media, anti-Israel sentiment and antisemitism thriving in the world right now, it is becoming increasingly difficult to advocate for Israel – not because we are not Zionists, but because we fear the response, which can be cruel and even violent. It is during these times, however, that it is even more important to raise one’s voice for Israel. When I fear making waves, I consider great Zionists who spoke out despite the pushback, like Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin.
But not all Zionists made their waves decades ago. Today, I draw a great deal of inspiration from a man named Stanley Wasserman, who is a staunch Zionist. Though not as flashy as Jabotinsky or Begin, Wasserman is certainly making waves in Israel, where he supports education across the Jewish homeland. More than 35,000 children across Israel are educated by AMIT, a leading educational organization in Israel that provides cutting-edge schooling based in Jewish values. AMIT does great things, but not alone. AMIT has many generous and ardent supporters, including Stanley Wasserman and his wife, Ellen.
Wasserman has been supporting AMIT for more than 40 years, providing funds to help Israel’s most precious commodity: its children. Recently, he gave approximately $3 million to renovate the Kfar Blatt Youth Village in Petah Tikva, where surrogate parents raise Israeli orphans, ensuring their every physical and emotional need is met. Wasserman has also been a top benefactor of the AMIT Wasserman Torah, Arts and Science Junior and Senior High School in Ma’aleh Adumim; the AMIT Junior and Senior High School in Beersheba; and the Ellen and Stanley Wasserman Top Tech Initiative. The Wassermans have helped thousands of Israeli children receive a quality education, which allows them to grow up as strong Zionists, and in turn help the next generation of Israeli children.
I believe the reason I am so drawn to Stanley Wasserman’s works is that he is not merely a philanthropist who writes a check. He is hands-on. He visits these regions of Israel, and he visits their schools. He has seen firsthand that two-thirds of the children AMIT educates come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and live in the periphery of Israel. He practices innovative philanthropy; instead of just writing a check, he first investigates the problem and then determines what the precise need is and its appropriate remedy.
He first visited an AMIT school in 1971. He had traveled to Israel with his four young children and his wife, who was an active member of Mizrachi Women of America, a group of women who raise funds for AMIT. They visited Kfar Batya Children’s Village, and Wasserman was struck by the needs in the area, as well as by the tenacity of those working to fill those needs. In Kfar Batya, surrogate parents help to raise young, Jewish orphans from all types of backgrounds.
Judaism and Zionism have many faces. When Wasserman visited an AMIT school in Beersheba a few years ago, he was amazed, he said, to see the diversity of the students. Students were Ashkenazi and Sephardi; religious and nonreligious; of European, Arab and Ethiopian descent; and more. They were all working together and learning together – both the students and the teachers.
It is this kind of collaboration that allows Israel to continue growing stronger each year. Similarly, it is the collaboration between those with boots on the ground and outside supporters like Wasserman that creates miracles like Kfar Blatt and Kfar Batya.
But these miracles do not come easily. Such philanthropy requires one to have the courage of one’s convictions to support initiatives and projects that may not be met with widespread popularity. It is no secret that there are those who scorn Israel for what is too often referred to by the misnomer of “disputed territories.” True Zionists recognize that this is a fallacy. All settlements in Judea and Samaria are the product of Israeli citizens’ hard work in founding, inhabiting and developing them.
One such settlement is the beautiful Ma’aleh Adumim, which I have had the privilege of visiting on numerous occasions. Contrary to the caricature the media might seek to portray, the settlement is an absolute beauty. The roads are incredibly well maintained, with the streets bordered by manicured and watered plants. Walking through these roads, it is impossible to miss the Wasserman Junior and Senior High School buildings and to know that they are there because one man was not afraid of possible backlash and did the right thing to help others.
It takes a certain type of person to be willing to lend support to a settlement to which too many turn a blind eye due to political correctness and the machinations of our people’s enemies in the media, unfairly casting it as “disputed territory.” But that’s the sort of person and philanthropist Stanley Wasserman is.
My words cannot do him justice, nor do they do justice to the impact his philanthropy has had on me. Therefore, I give you his words: “In these trying times, if you love Israel, you support Israel. Every Israeli child is a valuable child. We must elevate his or her full potential. They’re our greatest resource.” The writer is a pro-Israel advocate interested in Israeli life and culture and promoting settlement in areas that are the biblical homeland of the Jewish people.
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