This past Shabbat afternoon, we held a special Sabbath luncheon. It was attended by Hebron executive director Menachem Livni, Mayor Avraham Ben Yosef, Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, Noam Arnon and myself, and of course with our respective wives. However, the guests of honor were from out-of-town: Hebron Fund president Teddy Pollack and the special guest, Mr. Ari Lieberman, the new director of the Hebron Fund.
Ari Lieberman outside Ma'arat HaMachpela
The Hebron Fund, founded almost 30 years ago, operates out of Brooklyn, New York and is an essential element of Hebron's work in the United States. The Fund serves as the center of Hebron's numerous activities in the States, which focus on educational projects, lecture tours, and fund-raising. Over the years Hebron representatives, through the Hebron Fund, have traveled far and wide across the United States, touching base in many states and cities, including California, Washington, Colorado, Atlanta, Texas, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Miami, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other places as well.
Being based in New York, the Fund has sponsored many an event in the tri-state area, including an annual 'dinner' which continues to grow in popularity, and has, in the past conducted concerts, ferry rides in the Hudson, parlor meetings and Shabbatons. Additionally the Hebron Fund has initiated 'Hebron missions' in Israeli, visiting communities in Judea and Samaria, while focusing, of course, on Hebron. One the most special and unique events of the year is the annual "Chaye Sarah Shabbat" in Hebron, when over 20,000 people gather in this holy city to read, in that week's Torah portion, Abraham's purchase of the Caves of Machpela. A large contingent of Hebron's friends from the US usually arrive in Israel a few days before Shabbat, tour, and then spend that awesome day with multitudes, before leaving on Saturday night.
Of course, the Hebron Fund, in conjunction with the Hebron Jewish community, sponsors fabulous tours of Hebron, usually led by Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, with a helping hand from Noam Arnon and myself when needed; thereby showing people what Hebron is all about, first-hand. Anybody and everybody attending these tours cannot help but leave Hebron uplifted, having undergone one of the strongest spiritual happenings they could ever hope to experience.
The past Hebron Fund director, Yossi Baumol, worked with the Hebron community for five years, and concluded his work a couple of months ago. Yossi toiled tirelessly on behalf of Hebron, and this is the place to publicly express our gratitude for his dedication to Hebron's Jewish Community. We, of course, wish him the best of luck in all future endeavors.
This week we were privileged to meet the new Fund Director, Ari Lieberman. Having spent a few days with him, I can attest to his wisdom, determination, energy and bubbling enthusiasm. Ari flew in from New York with Fund president Teddy Pollack, and the two men participated in a number of meetings and tours, aimed at welcoming Ari to the team. The highlight of their visit was the special Shabbat meal, when everyone, as part of a 'dvar Torah,' (Torah speech) welcomed Ari in their own words.
The tomb of Jesse and Ruth Rabbi Efrem Goldberg on right - Ari, front center
Yesterday afternoon Ari and I toured with a group from Boca Raton, Florida, not far from Ari's stomping grounds, that being the nearby city of Hollywood. He has a lot going for him. A high-tech executive, with a background full of success, Ari seems exquisitely suitable for his position with the Hebron Fund. However, in my opinion, his most impressive feature is personality. I've met and worked with many many people over the years. You can't always read a person's face the first time you meet. But Ari was an immediate 'like.' And as we continued discussions and spent Shabbat together, I knew that my first impressions were 100% correct. As a matter of fact, those impressions continued to grow. Perhaps the most important characteristic needed for such a position is being a 'people person,' someone whose personality emanates excitement and an overflowing belief in what they're doing. It's a special kind of charisma, and in my book, Ari Lieberman has it. In English, Ari means lion. Ari's roar really isn't scary. To the contrary, it's very inviting. It's a roar for Hebron.
Tonight Ari will be heading back to the US to continue what he's started here in Hebron. We, of course, wish him the best of luck, much 'Si'atya d'Smayia' – that is Divine assistance from above, and most of all, that he should always exude the same love for Hebron and Israel that he radiated here.