New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Bret Stephens spoke about the history and politics of nations whose interests are guided by their values as opposed to nations whose values are guided by their interests, in a wide-ranging presentation he gave at the annual American Friends of Migdal Ohr (AFMO) Gala Tuesday night (May 14).
“The West is in crisis because it is following policies that are not in keeping with its values and deep traditions, especially with the rise of anti-Semitism which is usually the harbinger of national decline,” Stephens said. “It is happening in Europe with the rise of fascist parties and it is happening in the U.S., when a member of Congress can explain the hold Israel has on the American imagination as ‘about the Benjamins’ and still be held as anything other than the stain on the party she represents.”
“So, I worry about what is happening in Europe and the U.S. a great deal, but I do not worry about what is happening in Israel, because it puts its values first. When you have the IDF which is prepared to show its strength and restraint in the face of enemies who call for its destruction, it is doing well.”
“When you have a country that is passionately concerned with taking care of its weakest and most vulnerable and that they are nourished and cultivated it is doing pretty well,” Stephens continued, referring to Migdal Ohr, which provides essential educational and life-changing programs and services to thousands of under-privileged and at-risk children across Israel.
At the Gala Dinner, American Friends of Migdal Ohr surpassed their fundraising goals and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the organization’s Mishpachtonim program which has created a new model of care for Israeli children from under-privileged and at-risk homes.
Mishpachtonim is a children’s residence framework headed by a married couple who live there with their own children. There is also a social worker on each floor who stays in close contact with the students’ biological parents; a psychologist who ensures various therapies are made available as needed, and a teacher who makes sure each child is prepared for school.
“Mishpachtonim is a special framework which provides an opportunity for our students to be a part of a nurturing and wholesome environment in a family setting, which helps them integrate into mainstream society and prepares them to build a solid family home in the future,” said Founder and Dean of Migdal Ohr Educational Institutions and Israel Prize Laureate Rabbi Dovid Grossman.
“It is our moral, ethical and religious obligation, not just to help these children get back on their feet after such a challenging start to their lives, but to provide them with all the tools throughout their life cycle to become good and productive citizens of Israel and the world.”
Benjamim Krasna, Deputy Head of Mission at Israel’s Embassy in Washington, spoke about the importance of Migdal Ohr to Israel’s future. “While our remarkable country marches forward with extraordinary achievements, we must never allow ourselves to leave one child behind,” Krasna said. “Migdal Ohr is providing a beacon of light to direct us in the proper direction of morality, compassion and responsibility.”
Incoming Executive Director of AFMO Atara Solow spoke about the importance of the organization and its contribution to society.
“A flourishing Migdal Ohr means a positive and constructive Israeli future as the boys and girls who pass through Migdal Ohr, with whatever challenges they arrive with, leave with a sense of purpose and the tools to succeed,” Solow said. “As an American, an Israeli, a passionate Zionist, and above all, a Jew, I can think of no better mission than to try and help this wonderful organization, led by Rabbi Dovid Grossman, continue to thrive and flourish.”
AFMO Consultant and former adviser to Israel’s Prime Minister Rivka Kidron said, “Migdal Ohr can be seen as an excellent analogy for Israel. It started with very little and with a focus on the values of development, kindness and compassion, it has become synonymous with providing those who arrived from broken homes a shelter, a place to be nurtured to grow towards a brighter future.”