After devoting a large part of your life in service to the Jewish people, what do you do when you finally do retire -- long after the government designated legal age? If you are Haim Zohar, whom Abraham Harman, former Ambassador to the United States, once described as “an asset to the State of Israel” then you are assuredly not resting on your laurels. If you are Haim Zohar, accustomed to doing more than what seems normally possible, then you will sparingly indulge yourself in taking care of personal affairs, “I spend two-thirds of my time on research, writing and volunteer activities.” (He’s already working on chapter two of a book on the life of Eliezer Mayer Lipshitz; this one about Rav Kook and Lipshitz.)
And, if you are Haim Zohar, in spite of being 82, you will vigorously pursue those interests and ideals that have been an integral part of your essence throughout your life -- education, Israel-Diaspora affairs and religious Zionism, “I am a member of several non-profit organizations, but I am particularly active in Torah Mitzion: Torah Mitzion’s ideals are my ideals.”
Haim Zohar has been involved with Torah Mitzion since its founding in 1997, serving as vice-chairman for 8 years, and proffering advice, counsel and support in a multitude of ways. Indeed, even now, in his capacity on the Board of Directors, Haim continues to be an active, involved and crucial pillar of the Torah Mitzion family, “I take my role as Torah Mitzion consultant seriously.”
Haim Zohar’s career in public service spans six decades and involves work in most of Israel’s major institutions -- security, education, journalism, foreign affairs, diplomacy, aliyah absorption, government, Jewish Agency and non- profit organizations. His experience, knowledge, contacts and spirit of giving of himself have become invaluable to the Torah Mitzion organization in Israel and around the world.
“Always, I have been dedicated to my ideals of strengthening the relations between Israel and the Diaspora.” As such, it is no wonder that during his tenure as Counsel in New York, during the heady years of 1962-1968, he initiated a tradition (prior to the 6-Day War) which has held fast for more than 45 years, the “Salute to Israel” Parade in New York. A novel and bold idea -- Jewish life was not as open to the public then as it is today -- the parade brought together, as only Haim could, all streams of Judaism. And, that was his unique strength: the ability to elevate his activities above all the political and religious ideologies and divisions and find the common thread that binds them together.
Upon his return to Israel, Haim was committed more than ever to bring Diaspora Jewry closer to Torat Yisrael. He became one of the founders of the Ministry of Absorption and served under the first Minister of Absorption, Yigal Alon. He ardently worked to promote the cause of bringing olim to Israel and, equally as important, ensure that their needs would be addressed. In one of his capacities, as head of the Student Authority, he dealt with the needs of student olim and visiting students in universities and yeshivot, providing housing, advice, preparatory classes and Hebrew ulpanim, scholarships and loans. (The author of this article was a beneficiary of a student scholarship at Hebrew University and its student housing facilities...so a belated thanks to Haim for ensuring that this writer would eventually make aliyah to Israel with her family.)
As aliyah intensifed, Haim decided to “go where the 'education and aliyah’ action was” and set his sights on the Jewish Agency. Serving as Secretary General of the WZO under six chairmen, Haim was able to give expression to many of his ideas, always advancing the cause of Israel through innovative and progressive educational projects. He became founding Director General of the L.A. Pincus Fund for Jewish Education Fund for the Diaspora, Associate Director of the Joint Fund for Jewish Education, one of the initiators of the Jerusalem Fellows Program, Senior Educators Program and was involved in many others.
Where does Haim’s profound proclivity towards caring for each Jew stem from? “Are we not all responsible for each other? This I learned in my childhood in Galicia”, where he was part of a large Jewish kehilla. Haim and his mother made aliyah to Rehovot when he was ten, and then moved to Jerusalem to attend high school, where he lives to this day.
While his first official qualification was as a teacher -- he received his teacher’s certification from the Mizrachi Teachers Seminary -- teaching was not his calling, and he quickly moved into journalism. How fortuitous that was, because while on his way to serve as the London reporter for the Hotzofeh and Yediot Ahronot newspapers, he stopped off in Paris where he met his future wife, Berthe. When he finished his tour of duty in London, Haim had first hand experience with helping others make aliyah -- his French wife, Berthe was the first beneficiary of his aliyah services, so to speak.
While continuing to stress the importance of Israel through strengthening Jewish education in the Diaspora, Haim never forgot about one of numerous memos he wrote based on his observations of Jewish life in the Diaspora. This one memo -- about the need to establish religious-Zionist kollelim, whose purpose would be to promote and encourage ahavat eretz yisrael through indepth Torah studies -- lay dormant in his drawer for many years. So, when Dr. Moshe Green z"l approached Haim in 1997, Haim decided that Torah Mitzion was the perfect realization of his own thoughts and he did not hesitate to join.
Torah Mitzion is grateful to Haim Zohar for finding the time, energy and desire to share his ideals with our’s. We are thankful that he has been able to contribute his broad-based knowledge, acute intelligence and innovative thinking to the ideals that we all share -- ahavat Torat Yisrael.
“For more than 40 years, I have been directly involved in the matter of Israel and the Diaspora on many levels and in many different dimensions. I have dealt with literally hundreds of projects. “Torah Mitzion” is one of the most successful and most praiseworthy of all of them. That is due to the idea itself, the need, the staff's expertise, the leadership and generosity of Larry and Marsha Roth, and the able and dynamic leadership of Zeev Schwartz and now Rabbi Boaz Genut. Thank you Torah Mitzion.”
Thank you Haim.