Arik Rosenblum, Managing Director of Takdim, the Ramat Hasharon Community Foundation, discusses the community-based organization’s philosophy, activities and place in the Jewish world.
Starting with the basics: what is Takdim and what inspired you to launch the organization?
Takdim was created out of a sense by the residents of Ramat Hasharon that they want to live not only in a city but in a community where mutual responsibility is a dominating value. Also, they felt that they are living in a city that is strong enough, successful enough in order to help others outside of the city.
You say you want to build an organization based on the Jewish Federations of America, what does that entail?
Takdim was actually created from elements of the Jewish Federation, the community foundation model and components completely original to Israel and its culture. What we took from the federation system, first of all, is an understanding that just like the Jewish communities of the Diaspora, we are part of the global network of the Jewish people. So now it’s time that the communities of Israel begin a journey to join in on that endeavor.
Beyond that, there are other similarities. Takdim is an NGO run by lay leaders who identify needs, raise funding from among its own residents in order to fill those needs, and support needs outside of the city as well. However, other elements are different. We have an annual campaign but it is not for undesignated funds. It is to raise funds for the projects and programs identified by the organization. Also, we have a stronger connection to the municipality and community centers because they are in many cases the agencies which will take over the projects we initiate or support. Jewish values guide our activities, but the emphasis is strongly on retaining the communal sense of our residents where the religious component is but one direction in order to do that. By the way, we are pluralistic in that area.
What makes you think that using an American Jewish model can work in Israel?
Is there not a sense of irony in Israelis ending up imitating a “Diasporish” model?
I would say we are adopting components and not blindly imitating a Diaspora model. As I explained before, we have made important adaptations to the Israeli reality and culture. And we are learning from our experience and may make additional adaptations as we go forward.
The community is a pillar of the Jewish way of life, and has always been so through the ages. Jewish communities all over the world have always taken care of a wide range of needs of the community members, not just their religious needs. Perhaps thinking we do not need it in Israel is part of the change we are trying to bring forward here. The American model is important because it already made adaptations from the Jewish community of the past - into modern society.
What do you offer that the Jewish National Fund or Jewish Agency or even the state itself do not?
We recognize that the state cannot provide for all the needs of its citizens, just as the municipal government cannot provide for all of the needs of Ramat Hasharon residents. We are “stepping up to the plate” in order to take an active role – in determining what we believe needs to be added in our community and in funding those projects and services.
Just like the federations, we are an entity that raises money, defines project initiatives and when fitting goes to organizations for implementation. So we are not taking away work from service providers such as the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund, but rather trying to get more people committed to support the services.
A member of the Takdim executive council said of the organization, “We’re now equal with the Jewish Diaspora”. Do you see yourselves competing with Diaspora organizations, perhaps for funds?
We are a community standing up and asking to be a part of the global Jewish support system. We are not instead of or in competition with. We are Israelis saying that we have come of age and now can help as well. We hope to ultimately create a network of communities in Israel which will not compete for funds but rather will create an additional base for funding the needs of their local community, the country and the world. Since the struggle to create and maintain the Jewish state has relied heavily on support from abroad here we are taking baby steps towards a future in which we can create a partnership of peers with our counterparts outside of Israel to join forces as equals to do good.