“Israel and the Jewish People are one. There is no ultimate survival of one without the other. We are all part of a wonderful success story, the survival over thousands of years throughout much difficulty.”

I was born in Rome to a family that had emigrated from Libya. I have lots of family in Israel, as well. My career is in international finance, marketing, and real estate, but my true love is Israel and global Jewish community.

I became involved at the age of 16, with the local campaign of Keren Hayesod in Rome, and there was no going back. In 1989, I founded KH’s Young Leadership group and hosted the European Young Leadership Conference in 1991.  In 1999,  following in my father’s  footsteps, I became  president of the  Keren Hayesod Rome campaign, and in 2007 was appointed member of the Board of  Trustees (becoming Chair in 2009), as well as member of the Board of  Governors  of The Jewish Agency.

In Rome I am deeply involved in the Jewish School (my girls learn there) and Jewish Community, and I was thrilled to participate this past fall, with visiting European Shlichim, in a School Twinning Network activity with a school in Israel.

Johanna Arbib-Perugia, Chair of Keren Hayesod Board of Trustees 

Q&A

What role does Israel play in your life?

Israel plays a dominant role in my life and in the life of my family. Not only do we visit several times a year, but it’s the first thing I check on the internet when I wake up. I wish more Jews around the world would feel this type of connection, and a lot of my work is based on that wish.

What do you see as the main challenges facing the Jewish World today?

A lack of commitment of the young generation to Jewish collective responsibility. I see KH and Jewish Agency programs like Net@, Ayalim, Young Communities, and Youth Futures, among others, as addressing this issue by building society from the grassroots, and breaking cycles of disadvantage. I would love to see more people of my generation, and the one of my kids, actively involved in shaping the Jewish future, in Israel, and around the world.

Can you point to any one recent Jewish experience as particularly moving for you?

This past fall, I was privileged to accompany the Operation Dove’s Wings flight bringing Jews home from Ethiopia. It was an incredibly powerful experience, both as a Jewish leader, and simply as a Jew.

What is Tikkum Olam to you?

Tikkun Olam is helping those in need, in general, in the world. For me, this gesture starts at home with my family, than expands to my People, and then further, from my People, to all people of the world.

Israel proves that both the tradition and the land can be relevant, modern; where the past, present, and future meet. We must safeguard this amazing enterprise.