A friend once told me: “Don’t you understand” Hashem ‘curses’ important organizations with financial problems. If a rabbi wouldn’t need money, he would sit in a corner with 10 students and we would never hear about him. If an organization has an important message for the world, Hashem draws them out by financial challenges.”
In the past, I have had the privilege of working for such important organizations including Ateret Cohanim, Hevron and Sderot. Over eight years ago, in the aftermath of the brutal kidnapping of Naftali, Gilad and Ayal, I joined Makor Chaim and Rav Dov Singer for a life-changing journey. The many Israeli leaders who came to Makor Chaim in Kfar Etzion to show their support during the 18-day search for the three boys were appalled at the collection of huts and caravans which served such an important institution. Within days, a plot of land near Neve Daniel, on the ancient “Patriarchs’ Road” was offered to the yeshiva as the site for the construction of a new campus.
In 2015 I joined an organization, which despite its superstar status in Israel, had no U.S. presence, no donor base, no fundraising history and a leadership devoted to spiritual, not material goals. Early on, Rav Singer asked me: “How can we ‘take’ from U.S. Jewry if we don’t give first? This simple question gave birth to “Global Lifnai V’Lifnim,” our educators’ professional development program, directed by Rabbis Yishai Singer and Yehuda Chanales, which currently partners with 14 schools in North America, reaching close to 200 teachers and over 1,000 students. as well as influencing many other individual educators through seminars and online courses.
We are indebted to both the participating schools and foundations that fund this program, especially the Unit-ED Foundation and their senior, pioneering partner—the Mayberg Family Foundation and its Jewish Education Innovation Challenge, which do so much to bring spirituality into the classrooms across the United States.
Funding the construction of our new campus was a completely different story. While the construction of our high school building was almost completely covered by the government, the beit midrash, dining room, dormitories and more were to be raised from private donors. Over the past eight years, we succeeded in raising 54 million shekels out of the 55 million needed for the first stage of construction, the minimum needed to move, with over half of the funding coming from private donors. We moved in at the end of August, owing the contractors about 1 million shekel for this first stage. We thank our many donors from the bottom of our heart for making our dreams a reality!
Having reached age 70 this summer, I am often asked if I will be retiring now that we have moved to the new campus. I plan on doing so, when we complete the following:
1) Funding the last million shekel of stage one
2) Funding stage two: two more dormitories, sports fields, staff housing
3) Funding our expanding Israeli outreach programs such as the Beit Midrash L’Hitchadshut.
Makor Chaim continues to grow and pioneer new projects and programs that focus on education and spirituality for young and old alike. For example, as a response to the polarization plaguing Israel, we are discussing a joint project with Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance called “Hear & Now”—an educational visitors’ center for teaching empathetic listening and interpersonal communication skills.
Our need to build a new campus has raised us up to even bigger challenges—to finish stage two of our campus, to expand our teacher training program to more schools and communities and to strengthen the spiritual connection of communities the world over. Please continue to be our partners in facing the challenges which lie ahead.
We hope to see many of you at our Sukkot Chol HaMoed holiday events—our New Campus Chanukat HaBayit Monday evening, October 2, and our annual festive tefilla event at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue on Thursday morning, October 5 with Shlomo Katz.