Father of Israeli social work dies after winning lifetime achievement award
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Father of Israeli social work dies after winning lifetime achievement award

American-born Eliezer Jaffe led numerous government programs to help needy, founded trailblazing academic program

Eliezer Jaffe. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Eliezer Jaffe. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Eliezer Jaffe, considered a founding father in the field of social work in Israel, has died at the age of 83.

Jaffe, who passed away on Thursday, was a founder of Israel’s first academic school of social work, the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Specializing in philanthropy and non-profit management, he was the first Centraid-L. Jacques Menard Professor for the Study of Nonprofit Organizations, Volunteering and Philanthropy at Hebrew University and co-chairman of the university’s Center for the Study of Philanthropy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was also professor emeritus at Hebrew University.

More than a week before his death, Jaffe was presented with the Bonei Zion Prize for lifetime achievement awarded annually by Nefesh B’Nefesh to immigrants from English-speaking countries in recognition of their significant contributions to Israel.

Jaffe immigrated to Israel from Cleveland, Ohio in 1960, three years after he spent time in Israel volunteering in the immigrant transit camps known as the maabarot. When he arrived in Israel he had degrees in sociology, psychology and criminology, as well as a doctorate in social work, from Yeshiva University in New York, Ohio State University and Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Between 1970 and 1972, at the request of mayor Teddy Kollek, he headed the Jerusalem Municipal Department of Family and Community Services, introducing major administrative, conceptual and program reforms, that continue to be observed throughout the country today.

He also served many years as a consultant to several government ministerial committees dealing with topics such as poverty and disadvantaged youth, and headed by the sitting prime minister or president.

He reportedly came up with the concept of twinning Jewish community federations in the United States with disadvantaged communities in Israel.

He founded a website and wrote a book both titled: “Giving Wisely: The Israel Guide to Non-Profit Organizations.” The book contained profiles of nearly 30,000 Israeli and non-profit organizations. The website was closed down about six years ago, after the Israeli government took over the function of vetting non-profits and creating an Israeli version of the Guidestar handbook to rate non-profits.

Jaffe also founded the Israel Free Loan Association, which assisted the needy and new immigrants with interest-free loans, and also spent time working out personal repayment plans with them, which also allowed others to benefit from such loans.

He is survived by his four children, grandchildren and other family members.

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