The best way to understand Eitan Neishlos is through a small, ordinary-looking shoebox.
It was only after his grandmother’s passing that his mother revealed the contents of the shoebox, which contained his grandmother’s memoirs detailing her experiences growing up as a child in Belarus during the Holocaust. In her neat handwriting, Neishlos’s grandmother, Tamara Ziserman, née Kantorovitch, recounted how she was saved by the Chodosevitch family, a Christian family who hid her from the Nazis, who themselves were later murdered by the Germans. Neishlos’s grandmother never forgot their heroism and ensured that Yad Vashem enshrined them with the Righteous Among the Nations title.
Inspired by his grandmother’s life and the dedication of the righteous Chodosevitch family, the 42-year-old Australian corporate attorney, fintech expert and business entrepreneur, has announced his latest initiative on behalf of worldwide Jewry – the establishment of the Neishlos Foundation – on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Thursday, January 27.
The Neishlos Foundation will advocate for Israel, educate the world about the Holocaust and combat antisemitism. “I’m dedicating this next year and my life beyond to fighting for Israel and fighting antisemitism so that no child will ever go through what my grandmother had to go through,” says Neishlos.
In his early forties, Eitan Neishlos is one of the Jewish world’s brightest young leaders. He finds the lack of leadership in the Jewish community among young adults to be a worrying trend and advocates intergenerational leadership.“I think that when leadership is intergenerational, you get better outcomes. Each generation maintains its unique perspective, but everyone needs to have a voice, and everyone needs to have a seat at the table. When I look at Jewish leadership, sometimes leadership is a burden. It’s a heartache to sometimes see that burden sitting on the shoulders of the elderly. For young adults like myself, I think it’s incumbent on us to relieve the burden from that generation and to take on some of the responsibility in tandem with it, working together.”
“The Neishlos Foundation is taking a new approach to philanthropy,” says Neishlos. “How can we all contribute? We all have different things to give.”
This new approach is designed to reach maximum value through strategic partnerships, the use of technology, and investing in campaigns that will bring a greater return to create sustainable charitable income. The Neishlos Foundation, he explains, moves beyond the traditional model of philanthropy, “using the power of the collective to amplify the impact of major donations.”
Ultimately, says Neishlos, a campaign that utilizes the efforts, energies, and contributions of thousands of activists will be more successful than one which depends on one major donor.
Neishlos will be applying the lessons of collective fundraising that he learned in his previous community endeavors to the work of the Neishlos Foundation. Several years ago, he initiated a project in which young Australian Jews from the JNFuture program participated in the IDF’s Ro’im Rachok Project, which trains adults on the autism spectrum in professions required by the Israel Defense Forces and the civilian market. Young Australian Jews participated in the program by donating $18 Australian dollars each month. A fixed, small monthly pledge given by thousands of young people led to significant funds being raised for the project.
In parallel, the Neishlos Foundation will structure all its donations around the concept of “Chai,” the Hebrew word for “life,” which is spelled with the Hebrew letters Chet and Yud. In Jewish tradition, Chai’s numeric value is 18. The Neishlos Foundation has selected 18 initial recipients of charitable pledges in a wide array of fields from arts and health to education.
Neishlos suggests that donations of varying amounts from community members can be successful when accomplished together. “We think that as a collective, we can achieve a lot, and we really proved it with the JNFuture model.”
In Neishlos’s view, the Neishlos Foundation can be much more than a vehicle for raising funds. He wants it to be a force for doing good. “I want to promote the values of leadership and righteousness in my foundation,” he says. Neishlos developed these principles through his leadership of Courage to Care, a B’nai B’rith program in Australia that educates Australians about the dangers of prejudice, racism and discrimination. Neishlos serves as chairman of the organization, which educates about the Holocaust and encourages young adults to call out and combat racism, antisemitism, and all forms of bigotry. Courage to Care brings mobile exhibits about the Holocaust throughout Australia and arranges for Holocaust survivors to speak to attendees. More than 200,000 young adults – from all religious denominations – have attended their workshops and seminars.
“We don’t just tell them that the Holocaust happened and that they must not forget. We spend valuable time to actually achieve behavioral change,” says Eitan. “We talk about all genocides, and we are not only fighting antisemitism but fighting all forms of racism and bigotry.”
Courage to Care, he explains, has taught Australians to be active and not merely watch things happen. “I want to inspire a new generation of upstanders and not bystanders,” he declares. It is in that context that the Neishlos Foundation is also announcing a strategic partnership with the International March of the Living, which brings individuals from around the world each year to Poland and Israel to study the history of the Holocaust and to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hatred.
“Our strategic partnership with the International March of the Living will extend that mission to behavioral change and making sure that we inspire a new generation of upstanders,” says Neishlos. Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, chairman of the International March of the Living, welcomes the participation of the Neishlos Foundation and says, “We welcome Eitan and the Neishlos Foundation to the March of the Living family as our strategic partner and ally. Eitan is a young and inspiring voice for the next generation, and together with the March, is embarking on the important mission of passing down the torch to the third generation of Holocaust survivors.”
One of the important missions of the Neishlos Foundation is educating the world about the horrors of the Holocaust. Last week, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution sponsored by Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, condemning denial of the Holocaust and urging nations to “take active measures to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial or distortion.”
Commenting on the resolution, Neishlos says, “This resolution is long overdue. Our generation – the third generation of Holocaust survivors – demands from our leaders that the issue of Holocaust remembrance and education remains above politics. Even today, there are those who for political gain, seek to deny, distort and downplay the enormity of the incomparable crimes committed by the Nazis against the Jewish people. What Ambassador Erdan has achieved in helping this resolution pass is historic, and I am grateful to UN Secretary-General [António] Guterres for his strong stand on this issue.”
As a serial entrepreneur and expert in the fintech field, Neishlos has an appreciation for technology and how it can be used to improve people’s lives. He expects that his use of technology will be a major component in the methodology of the Neishlos Foundation. “Technology is very important in my life,” he says. “In scalable philanthropy and sustainable philanthropy, technology is going to be key. The foundation will utilize the technology we have access to and the know-how of how to use it to scale up our philanthropic reach.”
Eitan Neishlos wants the Neishlos Foundation to encompass the values that he has learned and practiced throughout his life to strengthen the Jewish world both in Israel and the Diaspora and takes a cue from his family name to summarize the Foundation’s goals.
“In German, the word ‘neu’ means new, and the word ‘schloss’ means castle,” he explains. ‘For me, the word ‘new’ is very important when it comes to my foundation, and the word ‘castle’ is also very important. When I think of a castle, I think of a strong foundation. The word ‘new’ is about a new approach to philanthropy. We invite people to help us grow and invest into these campaigns so that we can grow multiples of ‘chai’ and create even greater success.”
For Eitan Neishlos, the Neishlos Foundation is an opportunity to combine an innovative, flexible approach to fundraising together with strength in order to build a lasting foundation for Jewish continuity.This article was written in cooperation with the Neishlos Foundation.