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Mandel Foundation Opens its New Building in Jerusalem

The opening ceremony, broadcast online, began with video greetings from President Reuven Rivlin and the Leadership of the Mandel Foundation in the United States, followed by a mezuzah ceremony by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, and a virtual tour of the beautiful new facility

Mandel Foundation Opens its New Building in Jerusalem Photo: Shlomi Amsalem

On June 7, 2020, the Mandel Foundation celebrated the opening of its new building in Jerusalem at a modest ceremony that was attended remotely by members of the Mandel family, the board of the Mandel Foundation, and the board of the Parkwood Corporation, as well as by Mandel graduates, fellows, faculty, and friends of the Foundation, who attended the ceremony or viewed online.

"I am happy to have the opportunity to greet you on the occasion of the inauguration of your new home," said Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, President of the State of Israel, in his words of welcome. "For many years, the Mandel Foundation has engaged in building its intellectual and spiritual home. It established the foundations for educational work that is both broad and vision-based. This intellectual and spiritual home, which began to be built almost 30 years ago, is getting a physical home today, a space for productive encounters and collaborative thinking, from which the graduates can forge their unique paths for change," he continued. "Thank you,” President Rivlin concluded, "for everything you have done, and for what you will do in the future."

Professor Jehuda Reinharz, president and CEO of the Mandel Foundation, spoke of the building in Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel, as the realization of Morton Mandel's dream and vision. "The building itself is a statement that the Mandel Foundation is in Israel for good," he said. "We are here to stay. We are going to continue to… work with all the passion and perseverance and the attention that we have always given to everything we do in the State of Israel and elsewhere." He stressed that the building embodies a standard for excellence in leadership, which the Foundation hopes will serve as a beacon for other people, both in Israel and throughout the world.

The building, which is next to the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, was designed by American architects Michael McKinnell and Stephanie Mallis, with Kolker Kolker Epstein Architects of Israel. The two-story building is designed in a manner that encourages encounters and interactions between fellows, faculty, graduates, and staff. Its classrooms are dynamic and versatile, with modular furniture that can be rearranged easily, allowing each room to have multiple functions. The building has an auditorium with some 200 seats, a courtyard with a garden named for Mort Mandel's parents, Simon and Rose Mandel, and the largest "living roof" in all of Israel, which is rich in native vegetation and creates an ecological continuum between the Botanical Gardens and the nearby Gazelle Valley and Nahal Refa'im. At the heart of the building is the Rotunda, a circular inner space that enables people and ideas to meet, in accordance with Mr. Mandel's vision.

"In our tradition, we often refer to two Jerusalems," said Steve Hoffman, chairman of the Mandel Foundation, "the heavenly Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem, the one above and the one below. We will be working in this building in the earthly Jerusalem, the one below. We will be training leaders who we hope will go out and improve society. And in doing so, they will be reaching out to the ideal of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Torah ideal, and a vision of a just, inclusive, and equitable society for all of Israel's inhabitants."

Moshe Lion, mayor of Jerusalem, affixed the mezuzah on the front entrance of the new building. "A good leader builds followers; a great leader builds leaders," he said. "The Mandel Foundation builds leaders. In opening the Mandel building today in Jerusalem, we are opening a home for leadership. We are opening a home for excellence." Mayor Lion thanked the Foundation for extending generous support to the people of Jerusalem during the coronavirus crisis, support that will continue to be felt long after the pandemic is over. He continued: "Just under three years ago, we laid the cornerstone of this important building together with dear Morton Mandel, of blessed memory. That day, he planted a tree that to our great sorrow, he would not see the fruit of. But the legacy that he built, that he planted, that day and every day, like his memory, will be a blessing to the Jewish people for many years to come."

Naama Avital, CEO of Sapienship and a graduate of Cohort 25 of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership, spoke on behalf of the Mandel fellows and graduates and said: "Building and maintaining a social structure that includes both diversity and cohesion is a constant challenge, and a very difficult one. But it is one that the Mandel Foundation and School has never shied away from…. People with diverse affiliations, different backgrounds, and from different communities are brought together under one roof to discuss, learn, debate, and most importantly to look for and to act together toward a common good. Having this new roof in Jerusalem, a city known for its unique mixture of different communities, is an important statement for Jerusalem, as it is for the rest of the world."

The ceremony also included a virtual tour of the building and a musical interlude by musician and songwriter Ariel Horovitz, a current fellow in the Mandel Program for Leadership in Jewish Culture.

"From this place, we will continue to fulfil the Foundation's mission," concluded Moshe Vigdor, director general of the Mandel Foundation–Israel. Addressing the entire Mandel community, both in Israel and abroad, he said: "Please remember that this building is your home too, as much as it is ours…. Welcome home and next year in Jerusalem."