Questionnaire: Champion of rights

Rony Kalinsky fights to ensure Holocaust survivors can live a decent life.

Rony Kalinksy (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rony Kalinksy
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Name: Rony KalinskyAge: 54Profession: Manager and CEO, The Foundation forthe Benefit of Holocaust Victims in IsraelPlace of birth: IsraelCurrent residence: Israel
What issue gets you out of bed in the morning? I am most concerned with helping survivors get the moneys and services that they deserve. They have been through so much in their lives that it pains me to see them having to fight for the services that they should receive automatically and easily.What issue keeps you up at night? I thought I had seen it all – poverty and misery. However, what I witnessed throughout several home visits to survivors is really what keeps me up at night. The sight is unbelievable: elderly people lacking normative living conditions such as heat in the winter, healthy food or a proper bed with a dry mattress; I cannot stop thinking about the horrible conditions that many survivors face.
What’s the most difficult professional moment you’ve faced so far? I had to fight and debate with the Finance Ministry for funds that should have simply been allocated to survivors. For me to give a negative answer to a needy survivor who is asking for our assistance, to meet him face to face and to see his disappointment, is the most difficult moment.
How do you celebrate your achievements? I celebrate for five minutes and then get back to work.
If you were prime minister, what's the first thing you would do? After a short celebration I would get straight to work, knowing I have four hard years of work ahead of me. The first thing I would do is to establish a staff of professional and talented workers to have by my side.
Which Israeli should have a movie made about him/her? Rona Ramon, a student of mine in the 1970s from the Scouts youth movement in Kiryat Ono. After many years we reconnected at a meeting of the Rashi Foundation (for education and social welfare), where we spoke about educational activities that could be established in the memory of [astronaut] Ilan Ramon, of blessed memory. I encountered a refined, intelligent, very strong woman. We renewed our connection, and when her son, Asaf, of blessed memory, died, I had no more words of comfort.
Rona continues to live her life in a way that humbles and inspires me on a personal level, and her contributions to the public are significant as well. About her the verse was written “a woman of valor, who can find?” A unique and inspiring individual. I’m not sure, though, that she would agree to be in another movie.
What would you change about Israelis if you could? One of the attributes of Israelis is their ability to improvise. That is how we managed to be victorious in the wars and establish the State of Israel. With this in mind, if the ability to improvise becomes a value in itself, then its disadvantages outweigh its advantages.
Therefore, good short- and long-term planning can yield changes that are more substantial and significant.
iPad, BlackBerry or pen and paper? iPhone, without question. I generally embrace technology that can make life simpler, and tend to focus on the positive contributions that these technologies offer.
If you had to write an advertisement to entice tourists to come to Israel, what would it say? Come to meet the people, “Sabras” and newcomers that, in 64 years, established our great small country with amazing achievements in science, hi-tech, medicine, culture and with a quality of life.
What is the most serious problem facing the country? The polarization amongst the Israeli people and struggles between different interest groups.
How can it be solved? I believe deeply in education and communication and in the ability for people to join together and change the reality. Through these means I believe the polarization of Israeli society can be minimized.
In 20 years, the country will be: Flowing with milk and honey – and the honey will still be flowing in 100 more years.