Jerusalem Foundation celebrates 50 years of enhancing the capital city
Iconic mayor Teddy Kollek envisioned a streamlined and transparent process for advancing Jerusalem; 4,000 projects later, it’s still going strong
JERUSALEM — On September 20-22, the Jerusalem Foundation will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its establishment by former mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek.
Hundreds of people from around the world will attend the upcoming celebrations, which will also honor the Foundation’s 50 founding families for their contributions.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, the Foundation’s honorary chair, President Reuven Rivlin, Bernard Henri-Levy, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Elliott Abrams are among notable attendees.
Since before the unification of Jerusalem in 1967, the Jerusalem Foundation has worked toward the beautification, modernization and enhancement of the city for all residents regardless of race or religion. The foundation has raised upwards of five billion shekels for over 4,000 projects ranging from parks and gardens to community centers to educational programs and more.
The organization has also worked toward the preservation and expansion of artistic and cultural institutions in the city through the establishment of theaters and museums, the restoration of ancient heritage sites and places of worship, and the sponsoring of scholarships, educational programs, and cultural events.
“If you were to take an aerial shot of Jerusalem and remove all that the Jerusalem Foundation has done over the last 50 years, it would be a totally different picture of Jerusalem. It would be difficult to imagine it today without those contributions,” says conference co-chair Julia Koschitzky.
The Koschitzky family are among the Foundation’s most prolific donors and have contributed to numerous projects throughout the city.
Flourishing in a dynamic environment
The Jerusalem Foundation itself is a product of now-characteristic Israeli innovation. The freshly elected Teddy Kollek established the foundation in order to circumvent municipal and financial hurdles that were preventing the city’s development, by allowing Jews from around the world to partner in the city’s growth.
The Foundation’s first project was to provide parks and greenery to some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods, which it was able to do with the help of outside supporters.
Not long after its inception, the organization was faced with one of its biggest challenges – negotiating a changing environment with new demographic and territorial realities after the 1967 Six Day Way. On the municipal level, mayor Kollek was adamant about unifying more than just territorial Jerusalem – he envisioned a city with equal opportunities for all, regardless of nationality, ethnicity and religion, and he immediately reached out to the city’s new residents, providing aid and relief in the weeks following the city’s unification.
The Foundation continued in this tradition by funding projects in neighborhoods throughout the city.
“I grew up in a divided city, in pain and horror in some ways,” says Sallai Meridor, former Israeli ambassador to the United States and the Jerusalem Foundation’s current international chairman. “The Jerusalem Foundation over the last 50 years has done such a great service on behalf of Jerusalem and its residents, it’s a real privilege to be involved.”
“Jerusalem is more than a city or a capital, it’s a center and source of interest and love for so many people around the world,” he says.
Bringing the Holy City into the 21st Century
It comes as no surprise given the Jerusalem Foundation’s history and track record that with its help the city of Jerusalem has become one of the fastest-rising cities in the world.
While still the country’s poorest city — and its most populous — Jerusalem is making its mark by setting precedents in modernization and innovation every year.
From its educational incentives to its cultural offerings to its groundbreaking transit system connecting residents from all over the city, Jerusalem has become fertile ground for creativity and a bastion of Israel’s famed startup culture.
Collective work spaces are cropping up, housing some of the city’s greatest talent, drawing venture capital and encouraging the sort of collaboration that earns Jerusalem a spot on the list of five fastest-growing tech hubs in the world.
Helping the most vulnerable populations
The Jerusalem Foundation works extensively with special needs students, the elderly, children, and disabled adults, among other groups, offering services, programs and opportunities to make a positive impact on daily life.
Projects such as the “Adopt a Neighborhood” initiative provide education and enrichment, child development centers, computer access, daycare, and even renovation of dilapidated apartments. Neighborhoods have been adopted throughout the city, including Kiryat Menahem, Kiryat Hayovel and Gonenim.
The Foundation has also contributed to the renovation of the Abna al-Quds Community Center, which serves as an oasis for children growing up destitute in the Muslim quarter, in some of the poorest and most crowded conditions in the country.
From nature therapy for at-risk youth to the Center for Christian Elderly Programming to Project Springboard — which aims to break the cycle of poverty through education — the Jerusalem Foundation is committed to empowering and ensuring the dignity of the city’s most disadvantaged.
Reaching the goal
Attendees from around the world will attend a reception at the President’s Residence, be given a tour of Jerusalem which will include many of the city’s most iconic institutions, engage with Israeli opinion leaders, and partake in numerous cultural events.
Also part of the itinerary, Koschitzky says, is “A ‘reality check of Jerusalem,’ in which a panel will offer a candid and unguarded look at the challenges the city faces today, because it does face a lot of challenges.”
“Our goal,” says Koschitzky, “is to receive some transformational gifts payable over the next 5-10 years that will bring us into the next 50 years. These first 50 years were incredible, and we’ve got some projects that we’re really excited about, that Mayor Barkat is excited about, that would make a big difference.”
From education, culture and economic development to community building and heritage preservation, Koschitzky says, “There’s something for everybody. We hope that we can inspire other people to take on projects, and give people the ability to carry on Teddy Kollek’s legacy and invest in Jerusalem’s future.”
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