In a dynamic Jewish community, there are always individuals who dedicate their passion, time, and money towards helping others—such an individual could be called a true “mensch”. In Yiddish, a “mensch” is defined as “a person of integrity and honor.” Barak Raviv not only embodies the classic definition of a mensch, but has added even more depth to the name. Barak is a philanthropist who founded the Barak Raviv Foundation in 2007, which provides financial support for a broad range of non-profit organizations and causes including cancer research, poverty alleviation, and access to healthcare. These services are provided to various Jewish communities as well as underprivileged communities around the world. Among many of his endeavors, Barak is also a Mission Command Pilot for Angel Flight West, where he flies passengers with medical needs to their destinations for treatment. Professionally, Barak serves as Senior Vice President and Portfolio Manager at Morgan Stanley in Beverly Hills.
How It All Got Started
Giving back to the community and donating to causes has been a priority for Barak for as long as he remembers. Even as a young professional, he always strived to give as much as he could. He recalls a time when $25 was the most he was able to give; “I would give whatever I was able to afford,” said Barak.
Barak first got involved with Magen David Adom, Israel’s ambulance, blood-services, and disaster-relief organization, at a Passover seder in 2002. A man got up in the middle of the seder to raise money for what he described as an “organization that saves lives.” Barak asked the man for more information and ended up giving him a $50 check, which was all he could afford at the time. That check may not have had a prodigious immediate effect, but it was a seed that eventually blossomed into a long partnership. Because of that first check, Barak received updates about the organization. As he learned more about it, he became more involved, and Barak eventually became Magen David Adom’s Western Region President.
Setting goals and donating money were two of the biggest forces in the establishment of the Barak Raviv Foundation. Philanthropists (and us mere mortals alike) need to keep their sights set high in order to continue to grow and expand. Raviv, after years of being in the altruistic game, found himself contributing more and more each year. In 2005, Barak gave less than $10,000, but in 2014 (so far), he has donated nearly $100,000. He explained that “the goal keeps getting bigger,” speaking as if it does so on its own accord, but that’s probably just his modesty talking (#whataMENSCH). It’s clear that generosity is the driving force behind his increasing targets. He sets his sights high and keeps intentions pure. Sam Yebri, the President and co-Founder of 30 YEARS AFTER, describes Raviv as, “simply a force. Through his charm, deep rolodex, and own generosity, he has raised mountains of needed funds for numerous local and Israeli charities.”
Another crucial aspect, and a major challenge for Raviv, is balancing his philanthropic interest with personal interests. “I love the ability to give money to charity, but at the same time, I realize that it has taken away from personal pursuits… I would love to do both.” Despite this, Barak describes his only regret as not having begun sooner. He started the foundation when he was 31, but he states, “I wish I could have done it when I was in my twenties… I think I was just afraid.”
His Giving Philosophy
Barak makes sure that he establishes a special connection with each organization to which he donates. He is passionate about every cause with which he participates. His greatest driving force is the ability to see a difference, such as seeing children in Africa excited to have a new schoolhouse, or witnessing a new ambulance in Israel on the roads saving lives. Amongst his many philanthropic acts, in 2013 Barak dedicated a schoolhouse for 200 students in the Gebru Warka village of Ethiopia.
Barak believes that one of the greatest virtues people can embody is to give more than they receive in this world. He describes it, however, as “a very difficult thing to do, because ever since we come into the world, we get and we get and we get. We’re born and our parents take care of us.” Most of us have families, an education, resources for finding jobs, etc., but not everyone is as fortunate. To be able to give back more than we’ve received seems like an impossible thing to do, but it’s an incredible goal. By keeping a grand vision, we can guarantee that we will keep striving to do more and give more.
Inspiring Others To Give
When asked what he likes most about the work he has done with the Barak Raviv Foundation, he responded, “Being able to inspire others to give. I once donated $26,000 for a Magen David Adom ambulance in Israel and in doing so, helped raise another $76,000.” Later, Barak explained, “A woman who had been at my dedication ceremony 7 years ago came up to me and said that the event inspired her to donate an ambulance on her own. I get more satisfaction and happiness from being able to inspire others to donate than giving alone.”
To Barak, one of the least exciting aspects of donating is writing the check, while the most enjoyable is being involved and seeing the money put to good use. He also enjoys meeting others who are like-minded and watching others give because they inspire him to continue to grow.
Advice For Young Adults
Barak emphasizes that you don’t need to be wealthy in order to give charity. There are people who are blessed with a lot of money but don’t donate; they just don’t have an interest to give. On the other hand, there are people who struggle financially themselves, but still find it in their budget to donate as much as possible.
“There are various ways to give; it doesn’t have to involve monetary donations,” Barak explained. “You can volunteer, promote good causes on social media, or fundraise.” Active fundraising is probably the best and easiest way to deliver funds to those in need. In doing so, young adults can match people who have a passion to help with organizations where their help is most needed. “You should not be afraid of making people resentful by asking for donations. Those who donate have personal reasons for doing so and are often thankful for the opportunity and reminder. People can give at any level and in any way. Giving is a healthy activity that makes one feel good and empowered.”
Whats Next for Barak?
Barak’s goal is to always “be able to do more.” He wants to build more schools, fund more ambulances, and do more to support Israel (Yebri wasn’t joking! He really is “a force”). He wants to effectuate change and to live long enough to see the fruits of his labor, because that is what fuels him to continue.
Barak Raviv’s pursuit for change in the world is apparent in his everyday actions. He stated, “There is not one day where I don’t spend [time] on the foundation; there is always something to be done, from fundraising to writing grants.” Incredible. This honorable mensch has his sights set high. It is fitting that Barak’s hobby is piloting aircraft; as a pilot he soars, reaching the sky, and there is no doubt that as a philanthropist he does the same.
IsraAID is launching the Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN) in Los Angeles and Bay Area
World-renowned Israeli Humanitarian and disaster relief organization expands presence in U.S. by offering Americans training andopportunities for Disaster relief deployment
Los Angeles, CA – On January 10, 2019, in Los Angeles, disaster relief NGO IsraAID will launch its new aid initiative, The IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN), an elite program that trains doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers and mental health professionals in disaster response and deploys them around the world to helpsave lives.
IHPN members become part of a network of likeminded professionals at the top of theirfields, joining a robust roster of professionals in Israel, and have a chanceto share Israel’s humanitarian ethos with communities in need. Current IsraAID missions span disasters such as the wildfires in California, refugee crises in Greece, Kenya, Bangladesh, violence in Uganda, and cyclones in Vanuatu.
“IsraAID draws on Israeli social innovation and expertise to benefit people in need around the world. We are now leveraging our organization’s unique capabilities to train professionals in the U.S. interested in developing life-saving skills and joining humanitarian relief missions globally, hand in hand with professionals from Israel” said Seth H. Davis, Executive Director of IsraAID U.S. “IHPN will equip skilled individuals in hands-on disaster relief experience and provide enhanced capacity if local disaster were too strike.”
The first event, entitled “What You Need to Know About Humanitarian Aid,” will feature speaker Tim Burke, MA, MPH, who lead IsraAID’s work in South Sudan for five years, where he oversaw programs in public health and post-conflict development. Subsequent speakers include atmospheric physicist Colin Price and refugee crises expert Dr. Nir Boms.
With deployment in 49 countries, and currently active in 19 countries, IsraAID is an expert in training professionals to deploy. In the U.S. alone in the last year, IsraAID has provided humanitarian relief in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California, and Puerto Rico.
“IsraAID will make Los Angeles more secure by leveraging their unique expertise in disaster response to train professionals in our community,” said [Paul Koretz]. “I look forward to working with IsraAID to help them rollout their IHPN program in California”
About IHPN: The IsraAID HumanitarianProfessionals Network (IHPN) is an exclusive network of professionals at thevanguard of global aid relief activities. Members of IHPN receive expert briefings, emergency-preparedness training, access to enrichment with field leaders,and priority access to deploy on IsraAID missions.
About IsraAID: IsraAID is anon-governmental organization that provides lifesaving emergency relief andlong-term, sustainable solutions for populations affected by natural disasters, epidemics and post-conflict situations. Our teams leverage Israeli innovation,work in full collaboration with local partners, and educate the public and professionals on disaster prevention and relief. IsraAID (US) Global Humanitarian Assistance, Inc. is an independent 501c(3)organization.
High Collars, High Holidays
Never in a million years did I think I would be fond of the ‘high collar’, also known as the ‘turtle neck.’ I still cringe everytime I hear the name. I remember my mom making me wear them when it got cold outside… But hello, we live in Los Angeles. When does it get cold?
Dressing already modestly, by covering my knees, elbows (song playing in my head), the thought of covering my full neck is like dude, can I show any skin!? It almost felt like I was covering too much, as if I couldn’t breathe! It is as if someone is choking and restricting my head!
Seeing this trend all over magazines and fashion blogs, I decided to give it another chance! Lo and behold… I fell in love. The choking high collar has NOW become my ultimate favorite thing. Just ask Judith, co-founder of our fashion line RaJu. I keep adding turtle necks to all our styles to the point where we’re almost tired of it. The high collar has a sense of class and elegance to it. It has personality, dimension and is more mysterious. Wearing this dress, with all of its details, print and ruffles, I felt like the high collar tied it all together. The high collar makes you of high end, it’s a luxury, a lifestyle. It forces you to carry yourself in a certain way by maintaining a straighter back and a better posture. Everything manifests differently because of this magical collar.
The high collars forces you to hold your head up high, like a princess. When I see someone wear it, it really adds a beautiful sense of royalty and confidence. As we come into the High Holidays (the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), a solemn time, a time for judgement and reflection, we must remember that we are all daughters and princesses of a king. Wear what you may, during these High Holidays… you know what I’ll be wearing!
Six Mindful Eating Tips for Your Body and Soul
The average person spends at least one hour a day eating. So by the age of 30, you’ve spent the equivalent of two years just putting food in your mouth. How can we make this a more pleasurable, productive and meaningful experience?
Traditional Jewish thought has much to say about what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, and even why we eat, and much of it is also recommended by modern scientists.
- Eat Hungry.
When was the last time you pulled over at a gas station to fill up your tank that was already full? Probably never. However, when was the last time you ate something when you weren’t hungry?
Checking your hunger gauge before popping in that random bite will allow you to keep your weight in check as well as build your self-control.
Going to your second event of the evening, already fed, and still have an urge to pop down some more food? Like the modern day nutritionists, King Solomon advises against the unnecessary consumption of food, saying “The righteous eat to satisfy their souls” (Proverbs 13:25).
- Sit Down.
Late to work? Running after the kids? Doing errands? No problem–it’s just not the best time to be chomping down your meal. Although it may save time, it’s a bad idea. The Talmud uses harsh terminology against those who eat while standing. The Rambam, in his magnum opus Mishneh Torah, says that one should never stand or walk while eating.
Modern day scientific research also claims that this kind of eating is fattening and unhealthy. In fact, there is even a diet based on this understanding, called ‘The Sit-Down Diet’, which suggests that we consume fewer calories when we eat sitting down versus while standing up or walking. We are also more likely to digest food better when we sit down and chew our food properly.
You’re hungry and sitting down to your meal, now recognize where the food comes from. Taking three seconds to acknowledge basic details of the culinary dish placed before you can set the tone for rest of the meal. Something as simple as verbally acknowledging the work of the cook, especially if it is a parent or spouse, can have a profound effect on your mood. Paying attention to all of the individual ingredients can make the experience even more tasty.
On a deeper level, every time any food is consumed, Jewish sources tell us one should recite a blessing of recognition prior to taking the first bite. A common misconception is that the blessing or bracha that is said before eating is a form of thanksgiving. This is not accurate; while the after-blessing of Birkat Hamazon clearly mentions the act of thanksgiving, the initial blessing makes no mention of thanks. It is a statement acknowledging that God is the Creator of the food (Blessed are you Hashem … Creator of ….).
- Remove Distractions
Imagine our reaction to someone in a movie theater who is on their phone half of the time. Would we have the same reaction to the ever-so-common sight of someone munching down an entire meal while consumed with an iPhone, TV or computer screen? One cannot fully enjoy a meal while answering emails or scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed.
Unlike many other religions whose ordinances promote abstinence from physical pleasures, Judaism incorporates the pleasure of eating in every one of its holidays. However, we rob ourselves of this enjoyment every time we mindlessly eat.
Don’t care about enjoyment? Distracted eating causes your digestion to be less effective in breaking down your food, leading to less flavor and increasing the possibility of bloating, gas and constipation. Trying to lose weight? Research shows that the more you distract yourself during a meal, the more pounds you add. Doing simple acts of mindfulness, such as paying attention to the smell, taste, appearance and texture of the food, can keep the focus on your meal.
- Chew, Swallow, Wait… Repeat.
Ever mindlessly wolf down a meal in one minute? Scarfing down an entire meal can leave you feeling disheartened, but it can also leave you with unwanted extra fat on your hips.
Taking your body off of autopilot mode while feasting has great spiritual benefits as well. In describing ways of going against animalistic eating habits, the great nineteenth-century Iraqi sage Rabbi Yosef Hayim, in his famous book, Ben Ish Hai, gives a recommendation that is sure to slow your scarf. He writes that one should not reach for the next bite until the previous bite has been completely swallowed.
Speaking from experience, this one tip is much easier said than done. However, once mastered, this habit is sure to leaving you feeling in control and elevated, especially if you take it to the next level and put down your utensil between bites.
Now that you’re satiated and your spirit is recharged, it’s time for some thanksgiving (without the turkey). Saying thanks is much harder when you have somewhere else you want to go. Maybe that’s why the only biblically ordained blessing is the Grace After Meals and not the blessing before the meal (Deuteronomy 8:10).
Being appreciative is a core Jewish value. In fact, Jews are called Yehudim from the word L’hodot, or to thank. Messages of appreciation are found in the stories of our forefathers and foremothers. Gratitude permeates the entire Jewish experience, from the first words that are uttered by our lips when we wake up in the morning, “Modeh Ani”, to the thrice-daily communal prayer service throughout the day.
Surprisingly, recently discovered side benefits of gratitude include improved health, increased self-esteem and even better sleep. Taking the extra minutes to appreciate our privileged satiated stomachs should now seem more meaningful and hopefully a little easier.
Although not practical for every meal, striving towards these goals should help us lead more meaningful, in-control and healthy lives. For what it is worth, I will personally vouch for it!
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