From Hava Nagila at the Olympics to Israeli Technology at the UN:
Shining a light on the positive faces of Israel and the Jewish community
by Rachel Ishofsky

Last Sunday, an Olympic gymnast – Aly Raisman – did a floor routine to Hava Nagila. As one might assume, she’s Jewish. And when she got up in front of the whole world to perform, she broadcast this fact to all who watched.

There are times and places in which the whole world comes together. When that happens, the State of Israel and the Jewish people have an opportunity to share our best face with the global community. We don’t want to be the bad news people, we don’t need to let conflict define our international identity.

That’s why we at Jewish Heart for Africa have spent the last 18 months pursuing Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Our mission is to bring sustainable Israeli technologies to African villages. We take Israeli innovation and bring it to those who need it most. Solar technology allows us to provide rural medical clinics with light for nighttime medical care and refrigeration for lifesaving vaccines. It allows us to pump clean water for those who don’t have it, and to provide children and adults who don’t have access to light at night with educational opportunities even after the sun sets. Drip irrigation allows us to offer African farmers and their families the same technology that made Israel’s deserts bloom, giving them a source of food and income even during the dry season. In less than five years, we’ve completed 58 solar and agricultural projects, impacting over 250,000 people.

When the delegates of the United Nations gather to talk about international development, when they speak about water and education and healthcare and agriculture, we need to be at the table. We must be able to speak about Israel’s contributions to the global community.

And now we can, and will.

Jewish Heart for Africa has been granted Special Consultative Status to ECOSOC. We will have annual passes to exclusive UN conferences, meetings and events where top level policy makers gather to talk about the world’s most pressing issues. We will make sure that leaders in the field know that Israeli innovation and Jewish philanthropic dollars are responsible for over 100,000 children receiving lifesaving vaccines in East Africa, and that a quarter of a million people have access to improved education, proper medical care, clean water and sustainable agriculture through our efforts.

Aly Raisman took her Judaism to center stage when she had the world’s attention. She made no political statements, created no controversy. She stood up, performed the top ranked floor routine of the day, and did so wearing her heritage on her sleeve. At Jewish Heart for Africa, we want to take every opportunity to do the same. To stand up, to do the best possible work we can in the world, and to let everyone know where it comes from and who’s responsible for it.

This coming January, we’ll be celebrating our fifth anniversary, and in preparation for it and in consideration of all of the above, we’ll be launching a rebranding campaign that will put Israel at the very center of our name and our brand.

We could not be more proud of Israel’s contributions to the world in which we live, and we look forward to taking every opportunity to share these contributions with the global community.

Rachel Ishofsky is Associate Executive Director, Jewish Heart for Africa.