Heiress gives $5m for World ORT


23 May 2008 Heiress gives $5m for World ORT mega-project in Israel The heiress to the Shoneys restaurant and motel chain in America, Betty Schoenbaum (pictured), has given $5 million to World ORT to develop the centre of Kiryat Yam into a science, education, culture and sports campus. Mrs Schoenbaums investment will, together with funds from World ORT, ORT America and the local municipality, transform three acres of publicly owned land into a beautiful and practical communal resource featuring a sports centre, an open air science park, and a social, educational and cultural centre for Ethiopian Jewry. The donation will also enable the full refurbishment of the neighbouring 40-year-old Rodman High School, which is one of dozens of Israeli schools benefiting from World ORTs Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme. Whats beautiful about it is World ORT: what they have done and how they have put the package together and the work they have done; its been so smooth. Im not someone who gives money and says goodbye, I become involved in what I support and World ORT is a magnificent organisation, Mrs Schoenbaum said. The glittering, high-tech campus, which Mrs Schoenbaum is supporting through the Schoenbaum Family Foundation, heralds a new dawn for Kiryat Yam, a largely blue-collar community of 45,000 where the average income is about 25 per cent lower than the national average and which has become home to large concentrations of Russian and Ethiopian immigrants. Due to be completed by the end of 2010, the campus will be the hub of an urban educational system for the use of everyone from elementary school pupils to senior citizens in and around Kiryat Yam. Classrooms and laboratories will be equipped with cutting-edge technology and the water sports centre will be headed by Israels first Olympic gold medallist, Gal Fridman. The Mayor of Kiryat Yam, Shmuel Sisso, told a packed press conference in Haifa this week that Mrs Schoenbaums support for World ORTs Science City mega-project was a turning point for my city; a Zionist gesture worthy of exaltation. Mayor Sisso said: I am naturally delighted that Mrs Schoenbaum is supporting my home town; but even more than this, I am deeply grateful that her generosity is directed towards the education sector which is the most important component of any community. I promise that this donation will help us to revolutionise the way we prepare forthcoming generations for the future. The results will, Im sure make us all very proud. World ORT Director General Robert Singer said: Mrs Schoenbaum is one of the most exceptional people I have had the privilege to meet. She understands that education is the key to helping underprivileged sectors of the population to climb the ladder. Her extraordinary contribution will inspire and empower generations of young people. Who knows what heights will be attained by those whose talents are unlocked by her generosity Mr Singer keeps in contact with Mrs Schoenbaum to update her on the projects progress. Her involvement goes far beyond the gift itself, he said. She loves Israel and World ORT but, more importantly, she loves people and her gift comes directly from her heart. Launched in October 2007, the $18 million Kiryat Yam Science City campaign is part of World ORTs Science Journey programme. The project has already attracted the support of the Rashi Foundation, as well as ORT Americas Dan Kahn, thanks to whom the Rodman High Schools science block will be upgraded into a modern, well-equipped facility to be name the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Science Centre. Science Journey has been implemented in cooperation with municipalities and Israels Ministry of Education, resulting in massive investments in schools in more than 30 communities, most of them in underprivileged areas. ORT America leads the financial support for this initiative. The Head of the World ORT Representative Office in Israel, Rony Kalinsky, said: Kiryat Yam Science City is a holistic project. Other Science Journey projects have focused on the needs of individual school; here we are looking at the educational needs of the whole city. Through Science City, World ORT and our partners will provide everyone adults and children, gifted and struggling students with opportunities to learn with formal and informal programmes during the day and in the evenings. Mrs Schoenbaum felt Science City provided the means by which she could fulfil a dream she shared with her late husband Alex to build a tangible contribution to the countrys educational and cultural development. She said she was particularly keen to help Ethiopian Jewry, saying: Im very upset about the situation of the Ethiopians in Israel. I feel theres so much potential there that could be tapped if we gave them the chance to get a better education. And she is optimistic that the project will foster stronger community cohesion in Kiryat Yam. There are cultural differences between the Russian and Ethiopian immigrants but if they go to school together, if they play sports together, and mix culturally then theyll see that were all the same and there will be a wonderful blending, she said. A strong believer in the imperative to give Like I say, there are no luggage racks on the hearse Mrs Schoenbaum has supported philanthropic projects in the Land of Israel since 1940 and wanted to invest in something there for Israels 60th anniversary. When I reached 90 years of age I decided that most of my big giving will be to Israel because if Jews dont give to Israel, who will I think its terrible that fewer Jews are giving to Israel now. If, God forbid, anything were to happen to Israel their money wouldnt be worth two cents because Jews are always the first to be picked on.