Reinforcing ties with Australia

November 1, 2019 by Michael Kuttner
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The new World Chairman of Keren Hayesod, Sam Grundwerg, is making his first visit to Australia in November.

Sam Grundwerg

J-Wire’s Israel correspondent took the opportunity to interview him about the challenges his new position poses.

First of all a brief summary of his experience and background:

SAM GRUNDWERG serves as World Chairman of Keren Hayesod – UIA (United Israel Appeal). Prior to this role, he served as Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles. He was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, from 2016 to 2018, he was the senior representative of the State of Israel to the Southwestern United States.

Immediately before becoming Consul General, Mr Grundwerg served as Director-General in Israel for the World Jewish Congress (WJC), an international organization representing Jewish communities in over 100 countries to governments, parliaments and other international organizations. As the head of WJC’s operations in Israel, Mr Grundwerg advanced the overall mission of the WJC to strengthen and support Jewish communities around the world, as well as the State of Israel and the Jewish People.

Before joining the World Jewish Congress, Mr Grundwerg worked as an attorney at a major international law firm in the United States and held positions in the fields of law and finance in the United States and Israel. He earned his Juris Doctor law degree from the University of Miami School of Law and holds an M.B.A. in finance from the University of Miami School of Business, as well as an undergraduate degree from Bar Ilan University.

Born and raised in Miami Beach, Florida, Mr Grundwerg fulfilled a lifelong dream and moved to Israel in 1990 and made Aliyah soon afterwards. Once in Israel, he served as a combat soldier in the IDF armoured corps, and later in the IDF reserves as a casualty officer.

Mr Grundwerg is married to Julia, a nurse. The couple has three children, Elisha, Felicia and Sarita.

 

JWire: Congratulations on your appointment to this prestigious position. What do you see as your biggest challenges?

SG: Thank you. Next year, 2020 will mark the centenary of Keren Hayesod and this will be an ideal opportunity to highlight our achievements during the last 100 years and our plans for the next century. The greatest challenge will be to sustain and if possible increase support for our projects in Israel.

JW: How many representatives does KH currently have overseas?

SG: At present we have approximately thirty shlichim working in various parts of the world. My aim is to maintain close personal and working relationships with all of them. In addition of course co-operating with local community leaders is a top priority. In this regard Steven Lowy’s expertise and wholehearted support for our work is of immense benefit and we work very closely together.

JW: I believe that Keren Hayesod does not operate in the USA.

SG: That is correct. Historically it has been the local Jewish Federations there which have raised funds for Israel.

JW: Does that not present a problem given current trends?

SG: We have always had overwhelming support from the US Jewish communities but it is true that there are some worrying signs developing. A weakening of support for Israel generally and a lessening of commitment as a result of generational gaps are evident. Whereas in the past support was almost universal it has now become conditional. There is a downward trend in funding Israeli projects and a preference to support local needs. These are all challenges which must be addressed in the immediate future.

JW: Does Israel really still need Diaspora money?

SG: A very good question which many people ask these days. My answer is an emphatic yes. Why? There are still tremendous gaps in Israeli society between the “haves and disadvantaged.” With all the security and defense costs which unfortunately the country still faces there is not enough money available to support vital needs for health, welfare, education and general living expenses. In addition to these critical areas supporting aliyah and integration of new immigrants is becoming increasingly relevant. I am pleased that we work very closely with the Jewish Agency as a strategic partner as well as having excellent relationships with Christian supporters worldwide.

Summarizing, I can declare that financial and moral support is needed more than ever.

JW: How do we motivate “switched off” Jews to reconnect to Israel?

SG: The first thing is to emphasize that supporting the areas I have mentioned has nothing to do with whether you agree or disagree with any particular coalition. You are supporting Israelis in need. The second point is that it’s not just a matter of writing a cheque but is rather making a commitment to Israel’s future. I call it the three “e” programme:

Experience – Education – Engagement.

In other words visit Israel and see the projects which need funding, learn more about your own heritage and the centrality of Israel in Jewish history and that will in turn lead to deeper engagement in all facets of support for the Jewish State.

JW: I believe this is the first time you have visited Australia.

SG: That is correct. I have met many Australians in Israel and know that the Australian Jewish community is one of our staunchest supporters. Therefore I have made it a priority to visit and not only meet local workers and donors but also to show my personal appreciation and that of Keren Hayesod for the wholehearted commitment made by Australian Jewry over a long period of time. I intend to convey the message that much still needs to be achieved and that given current events their support is more relevant than ever.

World Keren Hayesod is keen to show that a new younger leadership is well equipped to tackle the challenges of the future and that with committed friends and workers such as exist in Australia we can achieve all our aims.

I will be in Australia for two intensive weeks visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

JW: Good luck and have a safe trip.

SG: Thank you. Hopefully, this will be only the first of many visits down under.

 


Sam Grundwerg will be speaking at these UIA 2020 Campaign Launch Events

UIA NSW:

AGM – Eastern Suburbs:

Monday 18 November, 7.30pm

North Shore Briefing:

Tuesday 19 November, 7.30pm

UIA VIC:

AGM:

Wednesday 20 November, 6.45pm

 

 

For more information on these events visit uiaaustralia.org.au/our-events or contact:

UIA NSW: (02) 9361 4273, info@uiansw.org,au

UIA VIC: 1300 ISRAEL (1300 477 235), events@uiavic.org

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