About Irwin Green
Every city or town should be as fortunate as Nazareth in having a friend like Irwin Green.Irwin, who passed away November 2009 , was a extraordinary man whose ethical values, vision and generosity greatly helped the residents of Nazareth and the surrounding area. His impact was profound, his legacy immense and his philanthropic work will be forever a source of inspiration for many in Nazareth, and way beyond.
In his great affinity for Israel and commitment to social justice, Irwin devoted considerable time and financial resources to the cause of co-equality between Jews and Arabs. To that end, he initiated numerous projects in the Nazareth area over a 9-year period to make life better for both Arabs and Jews.
Even more impressive, Irwin was active in his work well into his 100th year, traveling several times a year to Nazareth from his home in Florida to oversee his projects. They include the following:
The Irwin Green Family Early Childhood Development Center, offering services for Jewish and Arab children. It works with 400 special-needs children under the age of nine, providing more than 9,000 treatments a year.
Two educational institutes - the Nazareth Ilite Technical College and the Neta Computer School.
A scholarship program (called Gates to the Future) to enable underprivileged youth to attend university.
An after-school program for about 100 Arab and Jewish students in computers, graphic arts and cross-cultural activities.
A pilot program, launched in two schools, comprised of special activities aimed at preventing smoking and decreasing violence among children
In addition, Irwin provided the funds for a new soccer stadium, new lighting for an existing stadium, two fitness centers, a community center and library, five tennis courts (and three beach volleyball courts under construction) and a summer camp for learning English.
His last project, a vocational school for girls named after himself and his late wife, Bethea, is currently under construction.
Irwin was a tireless visionary who always believed in trying to better understand and improve a situation, and acting on his convictions.
"My father would never accept the way something was done just because that's the way it had been done for so long," says his son Don, who often accompanied Irwin in his trips to Nazareth in recent years and worked with him on his projects. "I've never met a man more open-minded and flexible than my father. He was always seeking to see if something could be improved. He loved probing, digging deeper, asking questions, looking for alternative ways that might be better."
That was clearly evident in his approach to developing ideas and actions that would contribute to co-equality between Arabs and Jews in Israel.
"My father was motivated by both his concern for civil rights, equality and justice and his boundless love for Israel," adds Don. "He felt that improving conditions for Israel's Arab community was a win-win situation, ultimately benefiting the country as a whole. He believed that as a people who had so often suffered as a minority in other countries, Jews should be acutely sensitive to the plight of other minorities. He felt that Jews had a moral obligation to ensure that in the one country with a Jewish majority that the rights and well-being of all its citizens be respected and strengthened. But unlike most people, he translated his words and beliefs into action, and backed them up with his own funds."
Irwin's upbringing left him sensitive to others. Born in 1910 in Ukraine, Irwin had a difficult childhood as the Jewish population faced terrible persecution including murderous pogroms which claimed his grandfather. In 1923, the Green family immigrated to the United States and settled in Detroit, Michigan where Irwin would eventually raise his family and establish a highly successful auto parts business.
Irwin was long a leading philanthropist in Detroit, both in the local Jewish community and with many other causes.
In 1990, he first became involved in the Nazareth region when a friend in Detroit asked him to support a project to build a tennis center for Arabs and Jews. As Irwin explored the subject, he became more motivated to get involved with initiatives that would add to Arab-Jewish co-equality in Israel. He felt there was so much to gain for all concerned, and that it would ultimately benefit Israel. Within a few years, he became one of the biggest donors in terms of projects serving both Jews and Arabs in Israel.
Today, Irwin Green is remembered fondly in Nazareth as an incredible friend who left an indelible mark on the life of the city. His many projects are an enduring testament to the power of an individual to make such a positive difference in the lives of so many people. There's so much to learn from the life and deeds of such a man.