Exemplary volunteer Merav Mandelbaum, 57, an energetic mother of five and grandmother of 7, devotes as much time contributing to social welfare as anyone climbing the corporate ladder would give to his or her career.
It’s not that Merav Mandelbaum could not succeed in the regular work force. In fact, she is a professional organizational counselor with a Master’s degree in Business Administration, and she enjoyed an accomplished career until four years ago, when she accepted the chairmanship of Reuth (Hebrew for “Friendship”), a Tel Aviv-based, non-profit organization that makes a remarkable difference in the lives of seniors as well as families requiring nursing and rehabilitation care.
Founded in 1937 by German immigrants to Israel primarily to help refugees of the Shoah, Reuth’s projects support Holocaust survivors, victims of terror, wounded soldiers and families with acute medical challenges, among others.
Its services include the Reuth Medical Center, community housing for the needy, senior homes, senior day centers, the Reuth-Eshel Information Center and other projects focusing on nursing and rehabilitation care. The Center treats injured children and adults in dire situations – and their families – with love and dignity.
Mandelbaum’s relationship with Reuth began more than 35 years ago, when she started volunteering there. A seventh-generation Jerusalemite, she had relocated to Tel Aviv as a young adult.
“People don’t work here for the salary. They work for the soul,” she told United with Israel in a telephone interview.
A member of the Reuth board for decades, Mandelbaum eventually became Deputy Chairman of Reuth and Deputy President of the Friends of Reuth Medical Center before becoming Chairperson of the Board in 2009.
“It is very important to me that I accomplish something,” she stated, adding that in her current role, she managed to influence positive development.
First, she changed the board structure. Many of the “wonderful people” who had been working so devotedly for the organization had reached their 80s, and some are already over 90, Mandelbaum said.
“So it was time for a new generation to take over. I did not want to be a one-woman show.”
The board includes 14 new members and a few veterans, she continued. “One of them is 92, and she’s great. All of them are professionals who will lead the next generation of Reuth.”
Another change she made was in Public Relations. There was always an element of modesty with the organization, which is an admirable quality, she conceded. “But you can’t get donations if no one knows about you.”
So, within three years, Mandelbaum introduced more than 300 movers and shakers to Reuth.
“Eighty percent had never heard of us before,” she said. “We put Reuth on the map.”
According to Mandelbaum, workers “must feel appreciation.” Therefore, she instituted the “Outstanding Employee” recognition program.
Mandelbaum is passionate about respect and concern for the elderly. Her own children have been educated to know that older people also deserve warmth and attention.
“If you see an elderly gentleman sitting alone on a bench, go and see if he needs help, just as if he were a child. He should not be invisible.”
Many among the elderly “are wonderful people who, 50 years ago, built the State of Israel. This is where I’m trying to make a difference in society,” by raising awareness of this issue.
Mandelbaum’s own children were raised in this spirit, witnessing her charity work while growing up and joining her on holiday visits.
“It’s an important part of our family life,” she said.
She is proud that Reuth has been awarded for responsible public management. “There is “not one wasted shekel,” she declared.
Indeed, there are “Friends of Reuth” branches in the US, Great Britain and Holland, and she often travels abroad on Reuth business at her own expense.
“People must remember that we are all here for a purpose, and we must all take responsibility,” she asserted.
By: Atara Beck, Senior Writer, United with Israel