When Pardes asked Susan, my wonderful mother-in-law, to choose a family member to introduce him at this event, she turned to me. On the surface this made sense. After all, Arthur dedicated much of his philanthropic work to Jewish education, and I have spent my entire adult life in Jewish education, I have a PhD in the field, and I am his son-in-law. Thus, it would be reasonable to assume that over the years he and I would have spent many hours exchanging stories, thoughts, ideas, visions, and experiences on the subject, and that I can share some of these with you today.
In reality, however, that was not the case. Most of what I know about Arthur’s commitment to, and involvement in, Jewish education and about the countless projects that he supported, I know only from snippets, passing comments and brief exchanges.
This is not because he and I didn’t have much to share or to talk about- we certainly did- but because Arthur embodied and exemplified the important lesson of פרקי אבות א, טו:
אמור מעט ועשה הרבה- “Say a little and do a lot”
Some people talk endlessly about their achievements even when they are few, whereas others say little even when they are many.
Arthur, talked very little, especially about his own work and accomplishments as the chairman and CEO of the Avi Chai Foundation, even though they were breathtakingly many, and here is only a partial list:
- Developing Judaic curricula for Israeli State schools
- Supporting open and pluralist בתי מדרש
- Producing contemporary commentaries on ancient Jewish classics such as the Siddur, פרקי אבות, חמש מגילות
- Creating and supporting mixed religious and non-religious pre-army academies-מכינות קדם-צבאיות- all over the country
צו פיוס-promoting Jewish unity
- Building Keshet, the pluralist day-school
- Supporting the work of the Beit Morasha educational center
- Utilizing the Internet and modern technology to develop innovative resources for Jewish education
- Funding the production of film and other media with Jewish-Israeli themes and content
- Building and sustaining Beit Avi Chai for the promotion of Jewish-Israeli culture
In North America
- Building and strengthening Jewish Day schools
- Promoting Jewish summer camps and the Jewish content at these camps
- Cultivating and training quality teachers and educators of which the Pardes Educators program is a key contributor
He did all of this and more, quietly and under the radar, without fanfare and without taking any personal credit. He simply didn’t feel the need to talk about these things, especially when we spent time together as a family.
Furthermore, he didn’t like people talking about him or that he would become the focus of attention and, as those of you who attended his funeral know, he refused to have any eulogies so as not to have people sing his praises, and he repeatedly refused to have anything done in his honor.
So how, pray tell, can we have an event like this? A. Because it involves Torah learning which he believed in deeply, B. Because he and Pardes shared a similar vision:
- A commitment to perpetuating Jewish life and tradition
- A recognition that Jewish education, more than anything else, is the key to Jewish survival and continuity
- An understanding that text-based knowledge and engagement must be at the heart of Jewish education if it is to be substantive and meaningful
- A deep and abiding respect for Jews of all backgrounds regardless of belief, orientation or religious observance
- A passionate love for Israel, and a conviction that Israel is, and should always be, the center of Jewish life
Thus, it is no wonder that Arthur was personally enamored with the Pardes Institute, and that he offered significant support for many of its projects over the years.
And that is why we, as his family, are deeply appreciative and honored that Pardes has decided to host this day of learning in his memory.