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Nomi Yeshua, Rob Berkowits and Marsha Cowan

Director of Canadian Desk of Jerusalem Foundation Nomi Yeshua speaks at Luncheon Hosted by Jewish foundation of Manitoba

by Rhonda Spivak, February 11, 2016





The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba hosted a luncheon in the Kroft Boardroom of the Asper Campus at the end of November 2015 during which Nomi Yeshua, Director of the Canadian desk of the Jerusalem Foundation, spoke.



The Jerusalem Foundation's founder, the legendary former Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek, had a vision of building a multicultural community, in which Jew, Muslim, and Christian, rich and poor, secular and religious, could live together, and thus created the Jerusalem Foundation to fulfill his dream some 50 years ago in 1966.



Nomi Yeshua, an Israeli-Canadian who grew up in Vancouver, had the privilege of working for Kollek noted that Kolleck understood that Jerusalem's sources of revenue "weren't sufficient to create a modern city," and thus the Foundation's vision is to "foster an open, equitable and modern society" in Jerusalem. 



Former President of the Jewish Foundation Joe Wilder, who introduced Yeshua, noted he had met her in a recent trip to Israel. Wilder had visited the Teddy Park: Mitchell Parks and Gardens, just outside the old city of Jerusalem, for which the Jerusalem foundation won a prize in 2014 for the park's design, with special praise in the category of urban planning. The Jewish National Fund of Canada was a donor to the Jerusalem Foundation, partnering with the Jerusalem foundation in building Teddy Park. JNF Canada brought new life to a 19th century historic building, central to Teddy Park, which is in one of the first neighbourhoods outside the old city walls, and also adopted two of the most prestigious gates surrounding the park. 



Winnipeg's Asper foundation has also been a donor to the Jerusalem Foundation.



In the last 50 years, the Jerusalem Foundation in cooperation with friends of Jerusalem around the world, has invested more than a billion dollars in Jerusalem, "with over 4000 initiatives" being funded, both capital projects and long running programs. Over the last 50 years the Jerusalem foundation's agenda has aimed at improving educational opportunities, closing the gap between the city's multiple sectors, as well as enriching the city' s cultural landscape.



At the talk Yeshua emphasized that the Jerusalem Foundation's work rises above the political complexities of the city, to touch every population, (Jewish, Muslim and Christian, and every social group of every age in every neighborhood of the city. "We create projects that create opportunities for sustainability that national and local governments aren’t able to do,” Yeshua said, noting that through the Jerusalem Foundation, for example, scholarships are granted to ultra-orthodox students as a way in which to enable them to be part of Israel's economy. The Jerusalem Foundation invests in economic growth, education, vulnerable populations, dialogue and shared living, heritage preservation, and arts and culture. "We want to make Jerusalem a city that's open and inviting to everyone who comes to visit", Yeshua pointed out, adding that over the last number of years there has been a large increase in the number of Christian tourists from Eastern Europe visiting Israel, all of whom want to visit important Christian sites in Jerusalem.



After Israel's 2014 war with Hamas in Gaza, the Jerusalem foundation established a forum of shared living organizations, who work to promote tolerance, coexistence and mutual respect.  In 2014, the Jerusalem Foundation laid the foundations for a permanent building where deaf and hearing impaired Jewish and Arab children learn side by side from infant age until kindergarten. The new building opened in 2015 is in the mixed Abu Tor neighborhood of Jerusalem. Another example of a co-existence project is a "Jewish -Arab orchestra" at Beit Alpert, where 60 children participate, and a scholarship program for bilingual education for 80 Jewish and Arab students, and a "Jewish-Arab youth choir at the Jerusalem International YMCA. 



Rahter than provide endowment funding, the Jerusalem Foundation provides seed money to help pilot projects get started, with the idea that these projects could eventually be taken over by other levels of government. For example, recently the Jerusalem Foundation created a three-year project to provide educational opportunities for underprivileged youth, which Israel's Ministry of Education is now funding. At the cultural level, the Jerusalem Foundation has played a major role in generating the artistic renaissance in Jerusalem (by funding projects re: museums, galleries, festivals, films, music and arts education). The Jerusalem Foundation has also established and stocked many libraries throughout Jerusalem.





Yeshua conceded that that there have been difficulties in creating projects in East Jerusalem, which. Israel annexed following the Six-Day War in 1967. The Palestinian Authority plays a prominent role in East Jerusalem and does not foster "normalization" with Israel. Unfortunately, Palestinian groups reject funding for projects that would enhance the lives of Jerusalem Arab residents, rather than be perceived as collaborating with Israel 's rule of East Jerusalem. Yeshua noted that students in East Jerusalem are taught only in Arabic as an example of how Palestinian officials want to reject normalization, and maintain clear divide between the city's Arab and Jewish residents.



For more info about the Jerusalem Foundation, go to 


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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