When All Roads Lead to Haifa

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By Naomi Reinharz | February 25, 2023
The Times of Israel

If you’re lucky, there comes a time in your career when your next position is not just a job, but the beginning of a crucial chapter in your life story. For me, that moment arrived last month, as I stepped into a role that brings my background, passions, and professional journey together in one package.

My father was born, raised, and educated in Haifa, until he moved to Germany and then to the United States in the late 1950s. My maternal grandparents — Holocaust survivors from Germany — moved to Haifa after the war. While both of my parents both lived in Haifa as kids at the same time, they didn’t meet until high school. When I was one, they settled outside of Boston, and our family further grew our relationship with Haifa through the strong Boston-Haifa Connection. Whenever we traveled to Israel, we visited our many relatives who had remained in Haifa.

It isn’t surprising, then, that as far as my career is concerned, all roads have led to Haifa.

Destiny and fate aside, my career trajectory wasn’t entirely evident upon graduating from law school. I practiced law for a bit but never loved what I was doing. Although I had grown up hearing my parents discuss philanthropy vis a vis Brandeis University every night at the dinner table, and although I always loved being immersed in academia, it didn’t occur to me to go into university fundraising myself. My own affinity for this work became apparent, however, when I left corporate litigation to serve as Chief of Staff of The Jewish Agency for Israel’s international development department. There, I was surrounded by fundraisers, and I loved to watch them work. While the task wasn’t officially in my job description, I felt natural tapping into my network and skills for fundraising purposes.

When I would casually tell my boss at the time that I secured a $50,000 donation here or $10,000 there, he was pleasantly surprised and even perplexed. But to me, it seemed like the logical thing to do. Why wouldn’t I want to meet with fascinating people and share with them why I love The Jewish Agency’s mission and programs, and persuade them to contribute to a worthy institution? It was in those moments that I discovered how my innate affinity for fundraising–and the lessons I learned at our family dinner table–needed to be an integral part of my career.

Now, years later, I’m thrilled to bring my passions for fundraising, higher education, and Haifa to the American Society of the University of Haifa (ASUH) and the University of Haifa itself — a leading institution addressing local and regional challenges in order to make a global impact. Its ambitious 50th anniversary $150 million campaign aims to build infrastructure and expand research in the areas of equality, environment, health, humanities, and technology to maximize the institution’s impact on 21st century global challenges. Just a month into my role, we have already made great strides in turning this vision into a reality. I am filled with excitement and optimism about what we can achieve as a team.

Indeed, with this position fusing all three of my core areas of interest and experience, it truly feels meant to be.

I am eager to help more Americans learn the University of Haifa’s story. Every day in this new role, I am in awe of what the institution has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time and simultaneously eager to see what’s on the horizon for the next 50 years — and to be a part of that growth.