Best remedy for when things get tough: Help others

GalilEat is a boutique company that brings Israelis and people from around the world to the homes of Galilee families, Arabs and Jews, for a culinary-social experience. Using home hospitality and food as mediums, it empowers women, promotes understanding among different cultures, and presents positive aspects of the complicated reality that is Israel.

This company, owned by Paul Nirens, provides employment to scores of families in the Galilee. With the outbreak of COVID19, Paul found himself without any customer reservations or income for himself or the families that work with him. Paul, who made aliya from Australia 35 years ago, explains: “We went from 70 reservations a month to zero, overnight.”

One morning early in March, I finished my routine swim in the Nazareth Sports Center. Concerned by the week’s ongoing news about the government’s increasingly stringent policies to control the spread of the coronavirus in Israel, I contacted my friend Gideon Fisher, President of the Cambridge Alumni Club of Israel.

“Gideon, the coronavirus is spinning the Israeli economy into a deep crisis. We must do something for our country. Let’s think what we can do through our alumni clubs, to help Israeli companies and organizations cope.”  That morning, the עם ישראל חי (Am Yisrael Chai) initiative was born.

Am Yisrael Chai is the work of a coalition of Israeli alumni clubs representing leading universities, including Harvard, Cambridge, INSEAD, Columbia, Yale, MIT, NYU, and the London School of Business. Some seventy alumni, among the best in their fields, each donated 18 (chai) hours of their expertise and time to scores of small and medium size businesses who were harmed by the COVID19 crisis.

In fundraising, there is a saying: “The donor gets as much gratitude from giving as the recipient does from receiving.” That is also the well-known secret of volunteers. During one of our conference calls with alumni club leaders, a participant commented: “There may be some people who think that graduates from Columbia, INSEAD or Yale are inoculated against economic troubles.  Of course we aren’t. We too, our families, our companies and our livelihoods, have all been hit by the coronavirus crisis. However, the best remedy for this crisis is not to panic, but to help others.”

One of the companies that was helped by an Am Yisrael Chai volunteer was Galileat. “I heard about the Am Yisrael Chai project,” says Paul, “and was paired together with Susan Fisher, a senior strategy consultant.  We built an action plan for coping with the crisis for the short term, medium term, and long term so Galileat can emerge even stronger and better prepared for continued growth.”

To encourage an even larger ripple effect, Am Yisrael Chai is recognizing companies that have demonstrated innovation and outstanding corporate responsibility toward their employees and clients, with the Am Yisrael Chai Corona Crown award. These companies and organizations have shown exceptional care and concern for individuals and families during one of the most difficult times our country has suffered in decades.

Am Yisrael Chai is the ageless expression of the invincible spirit of the Jewish People, it is a call for cooperation, a call for action, a call for unity.   When all around us we see reasons for concern and anxiety, it is important to acknowledge our strengths, contribute when and where possible and highlight the good that exists all around.  Am Yisrael Chai!

About the Author
Sagi Melamed is Vice President of External Relations and Development at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, President of the Harvard Club of Israel and author of "Son of My Land" and "Fundraising" - the 1st Hebrew book about Resource Development. Sagi can be reached at
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