WE are living as Jews “in the best time in history”, newly installed Keren Hayesod-UIA (KH-UIA) World Board of Trustees chairman Steven Lowy told The AJN earlier this month.
The Sydney businessman and philanthropist said it is a “privilege and an honour” to become the second Australian to hold the post – Mark Leibler held the position from 2005-09 – after officially taking over from David Koschitzky at KH-UIA’s Annual Conference in Israel earlier this month.
He said he feels an obligation to do what he can for Israel.
“We live with the benefit of a strong Israel and we also live in countries that have made it very comfortable and inviting for Jews. This is a unique set of circumstances in the history of the world,” he explained.
“Israel is 71 years old – it’s a blip in history – and we’re living in it.
“So I firmly believe that we have a responsibility to help Israel in any way that we can.”
Lowy outlined a number of challenges KH-UIA faces as it prepares to mark its 100th anniversary next year.
One pressing issue is the perception “of the great success of Israel”.
“Today you have a very strong Israel, but notwithstanding that, you have a large part of Israel still under the poverty line,” he said.
“There are many social issues that still need the help of the Diaspora.”
Another issue he outlined was the declining role of Holocaust memory, which generates “a lot of the mindset towards helping Israel”, as generations pass on.
“A major effort we all have is to make sure our children and grandchildren understand the importance of Israel, and that I think is a generational challenge,” he said.
In terms of how to engage the youth, he said, “There’s nothing that will supplement immersive experiences in Israel, starting with IST at school and then youth programs after school.”
He added, “I have a perspective of understanding how businesses and institutions need to remain relevant, you can’t just rest on the strength of the past but have to remain relevant for the future.”
He lauded UIA Australia’s contribution to the KH-UIA globally, saying, “We are a small country but we’re one of the largest campaigns.”
“I would regard Australia as a leading campaign, not just in money but also in thought leadership and inspiration and emotion. We punch well above our weight.
“I think many campaigns look at the Australian campaign as a leadership campaign.”