Managing Director, KKR Credit
As a conservative Jewish kid growing up in Long Island, I was often left feeling embarrassed that I had never been to Israel. But when I was a young professional, I had the opportunity to attend a YRF event with my boss. YRF presented an opportunity for me to learn about the intersection of Israel and education. I didn’t realize how much my involvement with YRF ironically reminded me of my own childhood and how I could integrate this organization into my life.
At this first event I was able to meet the founders and felt an overwhelming sense of energy and the family culture at the same time. I was confident that an organization like YRF, which is built upon strong values that I share, would embrace someone like myself, a young professional eager to roll up my sleeves and get involved.
Every time I travel to Israel with YRF to visit the schools, I am brought back to moments from my own childhood. There was a dinner at Amnon Sorek’s house where he prepared a feast with his bare feet, welcoming our group with open arms and into his home. Dinner at Daphna and Tomer Kariv’s house concluded with his son playing the piano; his parents looking on beaming with pride; the same sentiment my parents would express watching me learn to play. A soccer game with students in Tiriat Caramel took me back to the long weekends growing up playing the game, developing strong sportsmanship and a sense of teamwork. And in Lod, the principal that I met, a petite and energetic woman gave me instant dejavu of my grandmother, an unconditional educator. Speaking with her about her passion for education and why she was a principal. I was moved listening to her story and felt a sense of comfort as memories of my grandmother flooded in.
All of these memories made me realize is that I shouldn’t have been embarrassed as a child about not having visited Israel. I am eternally grateful to be a member of the YRF family, allowing me to feel at home time and time again. My commitment to YRF grows stronger each year. This was catapulted by the incredible honor I received in 2018 as the YRF Gala Honoree. All of my feelings about YRF and open minded approach to embrace new leaders was proven correct as I spoke to accept this honor, humbled by the hundreds of people gathered. It was hard to forget that 16 years ago I was one of those attendees out in the crowd and I could not be more thankful for my YRF experience thus far and am excited to see what the future of this great organization brings and the change that we can catalyze together.
Managing Director, Head of Investor Relations , Evercore
I have been involved in Youth Renewal Fund through so many different phases of my life; right out of college, getting married and having kids. It’s been this one special part of my life that is outside of my job and daily life that has meant to much to me to be a part of giving back in this way. Being able to be so involved in YRF since the early days, to now as a board member is something I cherish and feel fortunate to be a part of. This was only emphasized this past fall when I had the opportunity to see Darca’s work in action in Israel.
Seeing the schools was a wow moment for me; from 15 years ago joining YRF and giving back but doing it from the US, it’s a totally different experience when you are in Israel seeing what’s being done on the ground. The schools and students blew me away and the programming that we have in the schools is unmatched. One of the most incredible things that I was able to see was the level of teaching. I think there’s an innovative approach to the way that the teachers communicate with their students and bring their own passion to the classroom. I have been used to a methodology of teachers teaching at you and what I saw in Darca was teachers teaching with you. It was so clear that each teacher is making an impact on the students.
When I think about what it means for me to be honored at the 30th anniversary gala, I think about what it means to be recognized for the passion I have for YRF. It’s not just about the organization recognizing this but also my friends, family and especially my children. They get annoyed when I go to work dinners or work meetings but when I say I am going to a board meeting for YRF they tell me “you go to that meeting, helping those kids is so important.” I am so thankful that, in the same way that the teachers are inspiring their students through their passions that my children are absorbing my philanthropic endeavors.
Managing Director and Co-Founder, Elevation Partners
It’s hard to believe that YRF is celebrating 30 years as someone who got involved right at the beginning of its founding. I remember feeling so proud to have been a recently graduated 22 year old working at Blackstone, writing my first philanthropic check for $50 to attend what was likely one of the first fundraisers for Youth Renewal Fund. It has been such a privilege to watch the organization grow since then both as a donor and ambassador and then as a board member.
What Youth Renewal Fund is doing today, as Darca’s partner in the US is truly unique and game-changing. As someone who has worked in the business world for years, I see time and time again that companies stagnate due to an inability to scale effectively. With the support of YRF, Darca has accomplished what so many small and mid-sized businesses are unable to do. Darca is able to constantly bring scale and growth to the network and ensure that there is no sacrifice in quality as the quantity increases.
On a personal level, I have always looked forward to the annual YRF gala, and the November 1996 casino themed gala led to my marriage to my wife Marion. We had met once or twice that past spring, re-connected at that gala and it was the last time I walked into a gala without her. YRF has been so important to us together and as a family – instilling the philanthropic values in our children and relatives. Nothing brings me greater joy than knowing that I can pass on my passion for Youth Renewal Fund to a new generation. My cousin, Arielle Levitt is a perfect example. She is a young professional and returned from a trip to Israel after college itching to get involved with causes in the US that could help Israel. She has been an active member of the YRF young leadership community and was recently invited to join the Junior Board and has spearhead young leadership growth among the LA community.
In the same way that YRF helped Darca scale effectively, it has done just that with its community in the US – from New York to LA to Miami, YRF is a close-knit group that uniquely manages to grow over time but remain family-like in nature and it’s so exciting to see where that will take the next generation of leaders within this organization.
Managing Director, Equity Sales-Middle Markets Group, Financial Advisor - Morgan Stanley
6 year ago, my good friend Jeff Gimbel (a fellow YRF board member) urged me to join him and Marc Rowan for a lunch in Century City. I had been wanting to get involved in a charitable organization for a few years at that point but nothing was resonating with me; until YRF came around and my interested was piqued. Following this lunch, I took a leap and went on the annual leadership mission to Israel. Not only was I new to this organization but this trip was my first to Israel and I could not have prepared myself for how moved I would be on that trip. Nothing compares to walking into the classrooms and interacting with and meeting the children, teachres and principals that I was supporting. Beyond the incredible school visits, I found myself surrounded by impressive, intelligent fun young professionals who I had a lot in common with. The combination of how impacted I was by the work YRF was doing coupled with the people I could make that impact with sealed the deal for me and since they I have been actively involved with YRF and recently joined the Board of Directors in Los Angeles.
Having been involved prior to the merger with Darca through now, it was a genius move. Darca allowed YRF to integrate into the schools like we weren’t able to do before. That merger completely re-energized me personally. What YRF was doing before was amazing but post merger and seeing what Darca was able to do in the schools and communities was a game changer. On a personal level, my involvement with YRF has given me an amazing group of friends who are all focused on the same mission and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for YRF.
How i got involved in a funny story. My younger brother Richie received an email from a friend of mine, inviting me to a YRF event but it went to him instead. He saw the email from a stranger, looked up the organization, met with leadership in the organization, went on a mission to Israel, had an incredible experience and become involved in YRF in the US. A year later, Richie and i were at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park and we were talking about things that i could be involved in. I was interested in education and Israel separately but after 20 minutes he said wait a minute, you should get involved in YRF. I thought it was a great idea, followed in his footsteps and went on a mission and it’s been a big part of my life ever since.
When I think about Darca, and the results that are generated as a result of YRF’s support and Darca’s strategic professionals, I could go on forever. What really impresses me about Darca when I visit are a few things. The first thing is that when you walk into a Darca schools, it feels different. The students are engaged the teachers are inspiring and the principals are people that you would want to follow. And what has been so remarkable for me is that continues to be the case in school after school that we visit. And none of this would matter if the results weren’t there and they are there and beyond excellent. And so once you have this type of achievement, you can see why that’s the case when you go and visit the schools. The second thing that impresses me is that the impact of Darca goes well beyond the schools and into the community and we can see that by the government officials that come and talk about that impact, parents, who previously were not engaged now have a way to be engaged and then the pride of the community when you see a student with a national contest or athletic competition. And this continues to be the case and it inspires me every time I go and visit the schools.
As a gala honoree for 2019, it’s one of the most meaningful honors of my life. We talk a lot about how YRF & Darca impacts our students lives but YRF and Darca has impacted mine. When I think about the person I was when i first got involved and the person I am now, from a business sense, from a development standpoint and from relationship building standpoint with the Darca team and the YRF team and with the many board members and donors, it’s been one of the most important parts of my life over that time. And to be honored in this way, I am so appreciative but its really honoring all of the people that I have had the privilege of working with and I am most excited about what’s going to come next.
President at Schweid & Sons
Landing in Israel and seeing the schools for the first time was an instant hook for me. I knew that I wanted to get involved in a philanthropic endeavor and YRF became a no-brainer once I was able to understand the direct impact I could have on the education system in Israel. I owe it to my good friend, Jason Greenstein who was the one who introduced me to YRF many years back.
One of the incredible things about the YRF leadership is their willingness to let donors and board members have a voice. Right after returning to Israel I was thinking about how I could be an asset to YRF and spearheaded the first YRF Golf Tournament. This tournament is now in it’s 8th year and hosted at Hudson National Golf Club. I was encouraged to take on this leadership role from day 1 of my involvement and this type of support ultimately led me to joining the Board of Directors.
YRF is unique in the quality of the people involved. If I am going to be spending my free time outside of work with people – I want to be surrounded by like-minded, thoughtful and genuinely good people. And that is exactly what I have found to be the heart and soul of this organization – fundamentally amazing people. If there’s one anecdote that speaks to the relationships I have built and maintained from YRF it’s that, at my wedding a couple of years ago, I sat a table entirely of YRF friends inclusive of 3 of the founding members of the organization.
CEO, ELY Capital
As one of the founding members of YRF, it’s both hard to fathom and humbling to see YRF turning 30. In 1989 we were all accelerating in our careers and wanted to figure out a way to give back. We looked at each other and said we’re really good at finance, we’re really good at analyzing, we can do this ourselves. In realizing that we wanted to start our own non-profit, we immediately recognized, that what had made us successful was the gift of a good education. This realization coupled with our roots leading us all to Israel, gave us the initial seeds that would become Youth Renewal Fund. YRF is 30 years old and my oldest daughter is 27, I always say that YRF is my oldest child and it has taken attention, nurturing and dedication all the same.
When you join a board or you found a nonprofit you’re not just somebody that’s showing up to vote – it’s showing up to action and that’s what we committed from day one – that we were going to take the overhead out, we were going to do all the diligence and financials, be actively involved and cut overhead so that what people were funding was going directly to the students. Active participation, going to Israel multiple times a year, connecting with the students, meeting the teachers, talking about real issues in the classroom, being connected, that’s what keeps you involved.
All of the founding partners have a background in finance and leverage and the key is how do you leverage your dollars to reach the most amount of students. Originally we were running supplemental education programs, teacher training programs and professional development. But with the merger with Darca we could get to that many more students and that is called leveraged – everything we were taught in finance, we applied to philanthropy. And when I see the kids and I see their aspirations growing each and every year, then I know we’re doing a good job.