Thursday, March 19, 2015 1:45 PM
"No one will move to the Negev or stay here if they can't find work. For me, this project is the realization of a dream."
On Monday, March 9, the new Lauder Employment Center in the old city of Beersheba was inaugurated at a ceremony attended by JNF USA Chairman Ronald Lauder, KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Eli Aflalo, Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, JNF USA CEO Russell Robinson, and Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau, who affixed the mezuzah on the new building.
Inaugurating the Lauder Employment Center, with JNF USA CEO Russel Robinson, Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, KKL-JNF Director General Meir Shpigler, and KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Eli Aflalo. Photo: Edi Israel, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
"No one will move to the Negev or stay here if they can't find work. For me, this project is the realization of a dream," said Ronald Lauder. International businessman and philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder, chairman of JNF USA in addition to being the president of the World Jewish Congress, has been involved with Negev development for over sixteen years, and the establishment of the Lauder Employment Center (LEC) is a project he sees as critical for the future of the Negev.
Efi Stenzler and Ronald S. Lauder in the new Lauder Employment Center. Photo: Edi Israel, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
"For the Ben Gurion University alumni to stay in the Negev, and for other Israelis and immigrants to be attracted to this region, there is a need for housing, infrastructure and employment. I want to thank all my partners for transforming this idea into a reality and for putting up with my demands during the process," Mr. Lauder said with a smile.
The ceremony took place in the gardens of the new building, and the audience included close to thirty Jewish and Bedouin local mayors. The primary goal of the LEC is to provide jobs to graduates of the Ben Gurion University in the Negev, in order to encourage them to remain in the region. The structure is an old Arab-style house that boasts period and contemporary furniture, mosaic tiled floors, armchairs and couches. The idea is to create a welcoming ambience where job interviewees and potential employers can meet at one central location.
The Lauder Employment Center entrance. Photo: Edi Israel, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
"Ronald Lauder infected us with his enthusiasm and his concern for the people of Israel," said KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler. "He constantly emphasizes that the Negev offers great opportunity, but also presents a danger, because if we fail to develop it, we will fail to develop the entire country. If we understand and develop the Negev's potential, all of Israel will prosper."
JNF USA CEO Russell Robinson, for whom Negev development is a top priority, said that people who have strong beliefs like Ronald Lauder are capable of turning ideas into realities. "Lauder is a prime example of hands-on leadership. To be a leader is not just to put your name on something, but to be right in the middle of things and gather people around you."
During recent years, Beersheba has become a center of high-tech and has undergone intensive urban development, including the creation of Beersheva River Park with the help of friends of KKL-JNF worldwide. Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich said that for the Negev to be transformed, "it is vital to think out of the box. Ronald Lauder is the man to make change happen. Along with KKL-JNF, he is changing history and the face of the Negev. There is something wrong with the fact that only nine percent of Israel's population live in over sixty percent of the country's land.
Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau affixes the mezuza to the new building. Photo: Edi Israel, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
"Everything done with love and cooperation succeeds. We have a joint long-range vision and we are part of a process that will change Israel's image and bring a bright new future. We have to make the Negev a paragon of excellence, a place that reflects harmony between Jews and Bedouins, love, strength and peace. As Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, said, 'you don't write history, you make it.'"