In June, we welcomed a new board member: David Rosenblatt, an entrepreneur active in the U.S. and in Israel and co-founder of the Arava Power Company, Israel’s first utility-scale solar development company. Not only have we gained the benefit of David’s business and nonprofit expertise, but in a sense, we as a foundation have come full circle — David is a 2008 graduate of the Berrie Fellows Leadership Program, one of our foundation’s signature initiatives to galvanize the next generation of Jewish community leaders in Northern New Jersey. (At the beginning of the year, Norman Seiden, who was a colleague and trusted friend of Russ Berrie’s and who helped oversee the foundation since its inception, transitioned to trustee emeritus status. We are grateful for his outstanding contribution at our board table over many years of service!)
We continued to strengthen our team, with Dr. Idana Goldberg, an executive who brings valuable experience in nonprofit strategy and grant-making, joining us in the newly created position of Chief Program Officer. We also grew our Israel office, allowing for deeper connections with our Israeli partners and freeing our New Jersey-based team to explore new directions in our domestic grant-making. (Stay tuned for more on that in the months to come.)
This fall, after months of research and deliberation, we committed to two new strategies for our work in Israel. First, we will contribute to a thriving Jerusalem through efforts that include expanding access to 21st century employment opportunities for talented Haredi and Arab tech workers – and helping solve a pressing need for companies that rely on a trained workforce for their own growth. And second, recognizing that Israel’s local governments are best positioned to impact Israelis’ quality of life, we are working on multiple fronts to build capacity and human capital at the municipal level, leveraging a deep shift on the part of the central government to move responsibilities to the localities.
In 2017 we expanded our grant-making, awarding almost 200 grants and supporting groundbreaking institutions and visionary leaders who are making a difference in the lives of others. The Institute for Simulation Learning at Holy Name Medical Center, in Teaneck, N.J., was recently featured in the Jewish Standard for its incredible work changing how medical professionals hone their technique and compassion. The Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, another longstanding partner, completed essential emergency security enhancements with our support. The Israel Democracy Institute’s statistical report on ultra-Orthodox society, published in December, uncovered trends that will be crucial to sound public policy. Maoz, a respected leadership and human capacity program, expanded its effort to identify and train talented mid-career professionals committed to improving Israeli society, creating a pipeline of skilled leaders in education, health care and municipal governance. And the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology received funding for a substantial upgrade, ensuring its continuing status as a world leader in the field.
In the coming year, we are poised to deepen our impact and further sharpen our strategic focus as we look toward the legacy we are building. Thank you for your continued partnership, and here’s to a promising and productive 2018.
Chief Executive Officer