“My wish is to inspire people to do good. My commitment is to show that positive change is possible in all aspects of life,” Shari Arrison states simply. This “simple” truth has motivated Shari Arrison in all her dealings. Doing good may sound simple and, according to Arison, as basic as a smile, but, she acknowledges, “It is a task, something to be worked on all day, every day.” True to her message, Shari Arison smiles often and speaks modestly.
Who is Shari Arison?
Shari Arison is not only Israel‘s but the Middle East’s wealthiest woman; she is also the only woman to be ranked in the region’s top-20 of richest people. As of 2014, Forbes Magazine estimated her fortune at $4.9 billion, making her the 312th wealthiest person in the world!
In addition to her great fortune, Shari Arison has a great Jewish heart. In 2006 she initiated Good Deeds Day in Israel, now held each Spring. It has expanded from 7,000 to 370,000 participants in 5,200 projects and 191 municipalities. To create a culture of giving in the country, she founded Ruach Tova, an organization that encourages volunteering. She also oversees Good Deeds Goodnet.org, an online gateway that matches individuals, groups and causes worldwide and MATAN, an Israeli version of United Way. Last March, Miss Arison kicked off International Good Deeds Day with events in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. It now takes place in 50 countries. “Something that started in Israel has crossed international lines,” she smiles with a sense of fulfillment.
Raised in a secular home, Shari says she was considered the “religious one” in the family – with a strong connection to Israel, tradition, holidays and values. She continues to cherish and carry out the ideals of tikkun olam, tzedakah, chesed, ve-ahavta l’reacha kamocha and of being ohr la-goyim.
In 1966 her parents divorced, and Shari moved to live with her mother in Israel. At eighteen she enlisted in the IDF to fulfill her duty as a citizen of the land she loved.
In 1999 Shari Arison’s father died, and bequeathed her 35% of his possessions. In March 2009, Arison sponsored Israel’s third annual “Good Deeds Day.” As part of the event, which took place near Tel Aviv, a Palestinian youth orchestra performed an hour-long concert in honor of Holocaust survivors. They played classical Arabic tunes and songs of peace, but upon the group’s return to Jenin, the Arab town’s residents condemned the orchestra’s leader for her “exploitation of the children for political purposes.” The event garnered lots of media attention around the world and the orchestra conductor was expelled from her hometown.
However, Shari Arison was awarded the America–Israel Friendship League’s Partners for Democracy award. Five years previously, she was named Honorary Fellow of the Decade at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
This amazing businesswoman and philanthropist, model of morality, and a mother of four, is also a talented writer. Her first book, Birth – When the Spiritual and the Material Come Together, became an instant bestseller in Israel. Four years later she published The Doing Good Model: Activate Your Goodness in Business which was on the New York Times bestseller list. Both books have been translated into many languages, and published worldwide, providing an undoubted impact on Jewish and Israeli life.