From its inception, Zionism has advocated for both tangible and spiritual aims. Jews of all persuasions originally formed the movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. When the internationally known philanthropy Bnai Zion was founded in 1908, it recognized a single objective: “The Order Sons of Zion shall help the Zionist Congress in the work of obtaining for the Jewish people a legally secured, publicly assured national home in Palestine.”
Now in its second century, Bnai Zion has made good on its promise, completing over 100 humanitarian projects in Israel. On a daily basis, its contributions improve the physical, mental and social well-being for all residents. Having raised tens of millions of dollars, Bnai Zion continues to identify and fund capital projects in Israel in the areas of social inclusion, health and culture.
While driven by passion and determination, each Bnai Zion initiative adopts a rigorous focus on the finish line. Here are some examples of the outstanding work made possible by the vision of Bnai Zion and its supporters.
The Bnai Zion Medical Center, one of Israel’s top medical facilities, is a preferred teaching hospital and major research hub. Its idyllic setting overlooks the Port of Haifa. Yet its proximity to Syria and Lebanon puts the hospital within striking distance of those who would do it harm.
Bnai Zion found a solution for the medical center’s precarious locale. It raised $18 million to fund the construction of an underground, protected emergency room. Construction has already begun on this new state-of-the-art facility that will help ensure the people of Haifa the crucial access necessary to high-quality medical care. Dr. Amnon Rofe, former CEO who stepped down after 18 years, left with these words, “The situation is not if we’ll suffer another missile attack, but when. We must be prepared.”
The Ahava Village for Children & Youth is the safe haven for hundreds of children aged 6-18 who have found refuge from abusive and violent homes. Now at Ahava, they receive love and attention from parents and their families as they learn to become functioning citizens of Israel by living with a cohesive family.
This past spring, Ahava opened a new therapy center that will benefit over 250 children with one-on-one and group therapy, horseback riding, animal care, movement therapy, drama therapy, bibliotherapy and writing therapy. The motto of Executive Director Yoav Apelboim is obvious there: “Don’t let your weakness pull you down; let your strength pull you up.”
The Yuvalim Center in the city of Ma’ale Adumim is home to over 3,500 elderly citizens, of whom 1,000 are Holocaust survivors. The center currently provides a myriad of social and enrichment activities for the nearly 700 men and women who frequent the center every day. Bnai Zion is raising funds to expand the Yuvalim Community Center to better serve the growing elderly population in the region. With more space, the center will be able to ensure widespread access to activities like exercise classes, arts and crafts and educational programs.
The many cultural offerings of Ma’ale Adumim have been made possible with the help of Bnai Zion Foundation Chairman George Schaeffer. The George Schaeffer Music Conservatory is home to the popular Ma’ale Adumim Youth Symphony. Headed by renowned cellist Benjamin Shapira, this past December it played a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall.
Israel Elwyn Supported Living Services seeks to build a society where people with disabilities have equal rights. Their ultimate goal is to provide the necessary tools to lead more independent lives within the community. Bnai Zion is funding the construction of specially equipped apartments for physically challenged men and women under their care.
Bnai Zion has provided support to the David Yellin Teacher’s College to train secular and religious Jews, Muslim and Christian Arabs and immigrants to become teachers. Classes are given both in Arabic and Hebrew.
Finally, the stupendous work of Yad Leah provides support, comfort and dignity to disadvantaged families in Israel through the distribution of new and gently used clothing.
These kinds of initiatives reflect Bnai Zion’s commitment to Israel, but its life-changing work needs constant support. Initiatives take many hours and many hands. For those who want to support these vital projects, please consider participating.
Might you be interested to learn more about Bnai Zion? Please visit www.bnaizion.org.
Cheryl Bier, chief executive officer of Bnai Zion, is a graduate of Yeshiva University who has spent more than 20 years working for Jewish non-profit organizations.