By Eric Matheson
Originally published on the Wexner Foundation Blog.
In the months leading up to the start of my Wexner Heritage experience (Boca Raton 07), I had multiple talks with alumni, who encouraged me to make the most of this remarkable gift from Les and Abigail and our community. I remember several amazing and inspirational interactions, but none more than in Tel Aviv just before the first Summer Institute with WIF Alum Gidi Grinstein (Class 13). Gidi impressed upon me his belief that we can truly make a difference on a scale that I had not imagined. What I remember most about our time together was not only how he described the Wexner experience and our alumni network, but the responsibility he felt it brought to his life and to what he did afterward.
Fast forward nearly a decade and much has happened. Gidi founded REUT, Israel 15 and wrote an amazing book, while I moved to Israel with my family for four amazing years, which gave me the opportunity to strategically take a sabbatical from leadership in the Jewish philanthropic world and the opportunity to look for the next big thing and the chance to make a difference.
It was another great day when I met Ofir Fisher, co-founder of the OR Movement, whom I have known for more than a decade now. Over time we have become good friends and I have been wanting to help him and OR much more than I have been able — until now. OR’s mission is straight forward, achievable and critical to Israel: To bring the Negev and Galilee to their full inherent potential in terms of population, social structure, economy and infrastructure and to become thriving centers of population and catalysts for Israel’s national growth. While Ofir and his team have made remarkable progress in a short period of time, the clock is ticking as Israel continues to face severe overcrowding and economic challenges: Israel’s population is expected to double and reach 16 million people by 2048.
Recently Ofir asked me to help him build his “American Friends of” organization here in the US. The goals are significant but achievable. How many times do you get a chance to help solve a finite problem during your lifetime, one that can help to build and preserve peace and security for Israel? I think I am on the right track. Yesterday I sent invites to a series of parlor meetings for OR here in NYC and the Tri-State area.
The most enthusiastic response came from Gidi, of all people: “Congratulations for this great connection between two friends. The OR Movement is just phenomenal.” This confirms something I believe to be more true every day — when it comes to the Jewish people, nothing in life is a coincidence.
As you may know, OR means “light” in Hebrew. Orly, my wife’s name, means “my light.” The OR Movement could be our light. I would welcome the opportunity to hear from you to discuss.
Eric Matheson, WHP Alum (Boca Raton 07), is Senior Wealth Director for BNY Mellon Wealth Management, based in New York, specializing in serving the unique needs of current and retired business owners and executives and their families in the United States and globally, including in Israel. Eric has been active in Israel Bonds, Jewish Federation, the Jewish National Fund, Leket, Israel’s National Food Bank and the OR Movement. Eric and his family reside in Englewood, New Jersey and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.