The family, which I represent as the Executive Vice President of the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, has been deeply connected to the State of Israel since its beginnings. When my grandfather, Joseph, made his first trip here in 1949, the year I was born, he was deeply moved by the conditions of his fellow Jews—living in tents, with little clothing, poor health care, and an uncertain future. An astute businessman, he realized that without a business economy, the country wouldn’t make it; so he began working with the Palestine Economic Corporation, of which he served as chairman for many years. That group helped provide the seed money for the King David Hotel, Delek, the Power company, Samson Tires, the Israel Discount Bank, and the American Israeli Paper Mills…
Grandpa then went on to serve both as a leader of Israel Bonds, and of course the UJA—having been one of its most effective presidents ever. He also founded the Israel Education Fund with my fellow honoree, Ralph Goldman, which I now chair. IEF has helped build more than 1,800 schools, libraries, day care centers, and community centers throughout the State of Israel.
Grandpa helped build the first public library in Israel in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem in 1968. After that, the family built libraries, along with the municipalities in Rehovet, Beersheva, Ashod, Yokeneam, another in Jerusalem, and in the development town of Eilot.
We also built and maintain day care centers, community centers, sports centers, and auditoriums from Kiryat Shemona to Eilat. And as many of you know, we are making a huge investment here in the Beersheva Center for the performing arts to compliment this thriving University and the City of Beersheva.
Ben-Gurion University and its leaders are poised to transform this region—this extraordinary institution is just the stimulant for growth that the country needs. Not only are teachers, students, and scientists transforming water quality, desertification and medicine, they are also leading the way in shared citizenship by advocating shared citizenship for all Israeli residents and actively promoting improved education and access for the thousands of Bedouin living in the region.
And we must all do more to make Israel stronger by using Ben-Gurion University as the nexus of growth, like the North Carolina Governor and businesses used Chapel Hill some 30 years ago to transform that region.
Grandpa served on every university board in Israel and we have been actively supporting Universities with scholarship programs and special projects here for more than 50 years. And while we are deeply concerned about higher education, the leaders represented here today take care: pay more attention to the younger children of Israel - not just in the periphery, but everywhere, as I fear their education is slipping further behind in the world. We must pay our teachers more, train our teachers better, and make sure Israel maintains its intellectual leadership.
I promise if you do your part we will do ours so that one day my great granddaughter will stand here and recall the day that her great grandmother was honored by this great institution.
Speech given December 7, 2005