Philanthropist Kirsh honoured by ORT UK
ORT UK held their annual dinner earlier this month at the Jumeirah Carlton Towers “in honour of businessman and philanthropist Natie Kirsh”. Lord Young Graffham introduced Kirsh, praising his outstanding philanthropy in the Jewish and non-Jewish world.
Kirsh was inducted into ORT’s 1880 Society, recognising his tremendous support for the organisation.
RIGHT: Natie Kirsh, left, receives his award from Lord Young Graffham
In accepting his award he Kirsh spoke of his deep affection for ORT and his pride in their shared project, Derech, which provides computers and training in high school yeshivas in order to give the learners there the tools to find employment after their studies.
“I came across a saying by Maimonides, which I placed in my wallet 40 years ago, that the highest form of tzedakha is to make a person self-reliant” Kirsh said. “It inspired me to give people fishing rods rather than fish.”
The more than 300 guests at the event had helped to raise over R11-million towards the ORT network of schools in Israel.
South African-born and a Swazi citizen, Kirsh has contributed towards many of ORT UK’s charitable programmes in 59 countries. His wider charity work, he said, had helped 14 000 people in Swaziland to start their own business and he had to-date provided the funding for 700 start-ups in Israel.
Forbes lists Kirsh as the 435th wealthiest person on the planet as of Nov. 30, with a net worth of $3,9-bil (R56,5-bil)
The twice-self-made billionaire was also awarded the Jewish Report “Special and Extraordinary Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2013.
Speaking at the dinner, Kirsh said that his charitable activities had been inspired by Maimonides.
Kirsh spoke critically of religious institutions for not preparing students for life in the technological age, adding that Ort’s Derech programme did just that. “Yeshivah education which only focuses on religious studies is not enough. Those who enter yeshivot at a young age and leave as young adults, are ill-equipped to meet the challenges of the modern, computer-dominated world.
“This motivated me to initiate a programme which we called Derech to bring computers and technical training to yeshivot,” he told the guests.
Callow regaled audience with his own Jew-ish
The evening was rounded off by British stage and screen star Simon Callow CBE, regaling the audience with his own “Jewish experiences”, says ORT UK on their website.
LEFT: Simon Callow “I’m making a case here for a special relationship. I’m deeply Jewish in every way – apart from actually being Jewish.”
The other special guest was actor Simon Callow, who told the guests: “The food has been miraculous. I shall be eating kosher for the rest of my life.”
“I always weep when I hear songs from Fiddler on the Roof. I’m making a case here for a special relationship. I’m deeply Jewish in every way – apart from actually being Jewish!”
Speaking to the UK Jewish Chronicle at the event, Callow said he “very strongly” condemned cultural boycotts against Israel. “I am very anxious about the many manifestations of anti-Semitism that we see around us. And I’m particularly dismayed that some members of my own profession have banned theatre companies and so on simply because they have a certain amount of subsidy from the Israeli government.”
South African-born and a Swazi-citizen, Kirsh has contributed towards many of ORT UK’s charitable programmes in 59 countries. His wider charity work, he said, had helped 14,000 people in Swaziland to start their own business and he has to-date provided the funding for 700 start-ups in Israel.
I didn’t do it alone… Natie gives due credit
Natie Kirsh also told the gathering, that: “while I greatly appreciate the recognition of tonight’s award. I cannot in good conscience accept it solely for myself.
“This award must be shared with my team who together with me achieved goals way beyond our aspirations when we set out on our journey many years ago,” he said.
“But I do take the credit for assembling such a talented team with whom I now share this Koved. First in the team, is my wife, Frances, and how smart was I to have her accept my marriage proposal 61 years ago. She is much loved by all and has provided all the support I needed, in both good and bad times.
“The rest of the team are too many to name individually, but for the work we do in Israel, I must identify Mark Rosenberg, who has been the Kingpin in our efforts in both our Natan Project and bringing computer and technical training to Yeshiva Bochers.
- In 2013, Natie Kirsh was awarded the Jewish Report “Special and Extraordinary Lifetime Achievement Award” and flew in specially to receive the honour. DOWNLOAD THE 2013 MAG and read the three page interview with him.
- Interestingly, both ORT SA and ORT CAPE also won Jewish Report Community Achiever Awards in the same year. To find out more about the wonderful work ORT does in South Africa, click on the links in this paragraph for their websites.