Today is February 19, 2019 -
I was planning to continue writing about services that we provide (or can provide) for synagogues and agencies, with my emphasis today on endowments; however, I instead want to share some personal thoughts on Shimon Peres, the last of Israel’s founders, a former prime minister, a former president, and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, whom we buried this morning.
Not to worry, endowments will still be here next week – in fact, they will be here forever.
This past March, Federation’s VP, Phyllis Wang, and I had the incredible opportunity to visit the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa for a discussion with Natan Sharansky and Shimon Peres. Peres was running late, but we were quite happy to enjoy some music with the magnificent view of the Mediterranean in the background.
When Peres arrived in the back of the room, we all jumped to our feet. To navigate down the dozen or so steps, Peres relied on his handlers to hold him up on his left, while he reached for the outstretched hands of those on his right. He warmly greeted me while clutching my hand for support.
As the program started about a half-hour late, organizers were really hoping to move the discussion along. Not a chance. Peres had a lot to tell us. At one point there was a facial exchange among organizers, the moderator, and Sharansky. The moderator tried to interrupt Peres. Without missing a beat, in his very relaxed, soft-spoken voice, he said something to the effect of, “I know that you want me to stop talking.” He turned back to the audience and asked, “Do you have time for me to share a few more things?” The applause was overwhelming. Personally, I could have stayed the rest of the day.
For his walk back up the stairs, Phyllis and I changed places so that she would have the opportunity to support him up our stair.
The world will remember Peres for many different things, but for me, I’ll remember him as a visionary. Even as there is no consensus on how to bring about the peaceful world that Peres envisioned, I know that I want to live in that world. Meeting him and hearing from him in person has been one of my life’s highlights, and I am grateful for the opportunity.
May 5777 be the year where Peres’ vision becomes a reality.
Shana tova u’metuka
PHOTO: Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and ninth President of Israel Shimon Peres in conversation at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, Israel, April 7, 2015. Photo credit: David Shechter for The Jewish Agency for Israel.