Van Embden a philanthropist who is ‘all heart, no ego’

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It’s not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. These words of the sage, Rabbi Tarfon of Pirkei Avot, are how philanthropist Marco van Embden lives his life. Van Embden won the KIA Community Service Award.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Sep 12, 2019

“I’m truly honoured and humbled to receive this recognition,” said Van Embden. “Over 35 years, I’ve had the privilege and good fortune to work with hundreds of fine individuals, all of them committed and passionate, with a good heart and shared ambition to make ours a better world. While much has been achieved, I’m mindful that there’s still much to do.”

Van Embden has dedicated a lot of his life to fundraising initiatives, financial assistance, and raising awareness within the Jewish community. He is also a great supporter of wildlife conservation, and his enthusiasm and energy has brought remarkable results to the projects in which he has been involved with over four decades.

According to the tributes paid to him, Van Embden is the soul of any community. Colleagues and family members described him as having all heart and no ego, and being capable of uplifting people across the spectrum.

When Van Embden became a member of the Herzlia Foundation, providing bursaries for Jewish students who couldn’t afford tuition fees, it had about R20 million to its name. Today it stands at R280 million, and this astronomical success is in no small part due to his involvement

“Marco epitomises all that Jewishness stands for,” said a colleague. “He is an amazing human being dedicated to community and Judaism. He is not a person, but an institution who has enriched the lives of people locally and abroad.”

Thanking the SA Jewish Report and event sponsors for the recognition, Van Embden said that he had no doubt that the awards ceremony would spark hope and optimism across the country. “This doesn’t mean I’m going to sit back on my laurels,” he said. “There’s still work to be done, but I appreciate the fact that the work I’ve done has been recognised.

“We can take nothing for granted in life. I’m thankful to Hashem for the capacity, wisdom, and guidance I’ve received. I hope it lasts for decades to come.”

He concluded by saying that it was a joy for him to have his wife, Gwen, his children, and close friends in attendance at the event. “Thank you to my dear family and friends for honouring me by being here this evening,” he said.

“Gwen has backed me for more than 40 years. She has supported all my work, and at the same time been a rock of love and support for the whole family.”


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