“In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles,” proclaimed Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. He was a dreamer, yet he also turned his vision into reality, just as 230 olim (immigrants to Israel) did earlier this month as they flew from JFK airport to the Jewish homeland, creating another miracle in the remarkable story of the creation of the modern State of Israel.
With unlimited opportunities before them, Israel’s newest pioneers were able to embark on the first day of the rest of their lives thanks to the generosity of Baltimore philanthropist and businessman, Lou Cohen, who funded the Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight, along with other major donors, through Jewish National Fund-USA.
Born and raised in “Charm City” and a graduate of Baltimore City College, Cohen served in the Maryland National Guard before joining his father full-time in his automobile finance business – a decision that would see him become a leader in the car sales and leasing industry.
“It moves me to see these people embark on a journey that will impact countless generations to come,” reflected Cohen in reference to the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight, who in addition to his charity work now runs a successful car leasing business with his daughter, Alison and son, Marc.
Someone who has seen the impact of Cohen’s philanthropy over the decades is Jewish National Fund-USA National Campaign Director, Major Gifts, Diane Scar.
“Lou has achieved so much in business and for his community, yet he is one of the humblest people you will ever meet,” explained Scar. “He is an extremely generous philanthropist; however, he also gives so much of his time, expertise, and resources in a truly priceless way.”
Cohen’s support for the August 16 Nefesh B’Nefesh flight is only the latest in a long list of charitable contributions that he has made in support of the land and people of Israel.
“If it’s on wheels, you can bet that Lou has something to do with it,” said Scar, in reference to Cohen’s success in the auto industry, donation of fire engines, and support for the charter plane that took 230 olim to Israel.
Through Jewish National Fund-USA, the visionary philanthropist has also invested in major water infrastructure and conservation projects, including the Be’er Sheva River Walk. Thanks to partners (donors) like Cohen, Israel now leads the world in water reclamation, with over 90% of all water recycled.
“Israel has achieved so much since its reestablishment almost 75 years ago,” said Cohen. “Today, it leads the world in technology, agriculture, environmental R&D, and many other fields. Although my last trip to Israel was in 1983, my son and daughter-in-law have been, and my granddaughter just returned from a Jewish National Fund-USA led Birthright mission – and absolutely loved it.”
So why Jewish National Fund-USA?
As Cohen explains, it just made sense. “Almost two decades ago, I was introduced to the extraordinary work undertaken by Jewish National Fund-USA. In business, you need to see the data and the organization’s impact so you can invest with confidence. The same is true in philanthropy. What Diane showed me added up. You have to give with your heart and head, and they have continued to follow through every time.”