On schedule and on budget, World ORT’s redevelopment of the heart of Kiryat Yam into a magnificent education and sports campus was formally opened Tuesday in the presence of the Schoenbaum family whose $5.3 million investment made it possible.
Hundreds of local people gave an ecstatic welcome to Betty Schoenbaum, the nonagenarian heiress to the Shoney’s restaurant and motel chain in the United States, as she and her four children toured the three-acre site adjacent to the Rodman High School, which was refurbished as part of the project.
“I am just amazed, overwhelmed, awed and thrilled. The campus is very much more than I had imagined it would be – thanks to ORT,” Mrs Schoenbaum said following her first look at the site, which is already being well used by students at Rodman High School, one of more than 30 across Israel supported by World ORT’s programmatic arm in the country, Kadima Mada.
Having spent the morning visiting the campus’s D. Dan and Betty Kahn Science Centre, the library and performing arts auditorium, the science park, the planetarium, the Yamda Marine Observatory, the Ethiopian Heritage Centre, and the Aquatic Centre – where they were joined by Israel’s first Olympic Gold Medal-winner Gal Friedman – Mrs Schoenbaum declared her family foundation’s money well spent.
“I got more bang for my buck than I have had at any other time in helping people. I am just thrilled with it. It’s an absolutely astounding complex that’s going to help people for many, many years God willing,” she said. “And the reception I have received has been overwhelming. I’ve had so much beauty today – enough for the rest of my life!”
The glittering, high-tech Alex and Betty Schoenbaum Science, Educational, Cultural and Sports Campus is the result of an $18 million campaign launched as part of Kadima Mada in October 2007. The campaign has also attracted funding from ORT America’s Dan Kahn, the Ministry of Education and the Kiryat Yam municipality.
The campus forms the hub of an urban educational system for the use of everyone from elementary school pupils to senior citizens in and around the coastal city.
The launch heralds a new dawn for Kiryat Yam, a largely blue-collar community of 45,000 – including many Russian and Ethiopian immigrants – where the average income is about 25 per cent lower than the national average.