Jay Shultz, president of the Am Yisrael Foundation (Am Yisrael means the Nation of Israel), is pursuing his “main goal of bringing every young Jew here to Israel and keeping them all happy.”
By: Atara Beck, Senior Writer, United with Israel
A native New Yorker, Shultz, 37, immigrated to Israel seven and a half years ago because “Israel is the future of the Jewish people, without question.”
The Foundation is an umbrella for eight non-profit, community-based organizations that Shultz founded and manages. By doing so, he has made a meaningful difference in the lives of olim [immigrants to Israel] who reside in the first Jewish city of the modern era.
In America, Shultz practiced law; since moving to Tel Aviv, he works professionally in real estate and high-tech investment.
“It used to be that most young olim would move to Jerusalem,” he points out in discussion with United with Israel. “The recent, massive draw to Tel Aviv represents a paradigm shift.”
“Tel Aviv is the physical power base of the Land of Israel,” he says. “Most jobs are there. Tel Aviv is the center of high-tech, finance and virtually every industry and cultural center in this country.”
Tel Aviv’s official emblem, created in the 1920s by Israeli artist Nahum Gutman, is a Star of David containing a lighthouse and a gateway. Since relocating to Israel, Shultz’s vision, inspired by Gutman, is “to use Tel Aviv as both a lighthouse and a gateway for attracting young Jews.”
Shultz began his project by proactively collecting contact information, meeting people and, basically, “building something from nothing.”
The database for TLV Internationals includes 30,000 names; native-Israeli Tel Aviv professionals speak excellent English and have taken the opportunity to interact with Westerners in order to maintain Tel Aviv as a world-class center.
This “new, radical shift” has created a veritable lobbying power within the municipality and in the Knesset, Shultz says.
The first non-profit that he launched was Tel Aviv International Salon, which has become the largest English-language speakers’ forum in Israel, hosting prominent world leaders and decision-makers. Famous attorney and pro-Israel activist Alan Dershowitz, for example, recently attracted an audience of 1,100. Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, addressed the Salon; according to Shultz, it was Oren’s first public event since returning home.
Another non-profit under the Foundation is Adopt-a-Safta; the word safta is Hebrew for ‘grandmother’, and trained volunteers adopt a lonely, Holocaust survivor as a grandparent. The others are “Sons of Abraham”, initiating Jewish-Muslim dialogue; “Join the IDF,” the ‘first-ever proactive recruitment effort for Israeli civil service and the IDF since 1947”; White City Shabbat, a portal for traditional Jewish life; ProjecTA, which promotes promotes active and informed citizenship; the Tel Aviv Arts Council, the largest non-profit in Israel connecting young adults to the arts; and the Jewish Life Series to increase worldwide Jewish knowledge.
“You don’t have to be a billionaire to effect macro-positive change,” Shultz says, joking that he’s a “struggling philanthropist.”
Shultz has no close family in Israel and came on a one-way ticket.
“Maybe the fact that I’m here without a cousin or a grandmother or an uncle is what pushed me to create community,” he surmises. “It becomes your family and support system.”
As for Tel Aviv, it “has always been the main port to Jerusalem, both physically and spiritually, even in biblical times,” Shultz enthuses. “King Solomon imported Lebanese cedar trees for building the foundation of the First Temple; they came through the Jaffa port.
“Jerusalem is the crown [of the Jewish homeland],” he continues. However, “the merit of the Third Temple both physically and spiritually, will come via Tel Aviv, because it has happened twice before.”
“When we use the power of Tel Aviv for the good of the People of Israel, great things will happen,” Shultz declares.