Robert “Bobby” Goldberg has been a prominent philanthropist and activist in the Jewish community for decades. For the last 30 years, he’s been working to create a partnership between Beit She’an and the Jewish community in Cleveland, its sister city. He sat as board chair for the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland as well as treasurer of United Jewish Communities, an umbrella organization for the recently combined Council of Jewish Federations, Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and United Israel Appeal. His dedication to the Jewish community worldwide goes unmatched, with decades of experience bringing Jews to Israel and the United States. We sat with him and talked about his life and the motivations behind all of his amazing ventures.
Question: How did you get started with your work with INHFA and Beit She’an?
Answer: Three decades ago or so, Cleveland was asked to consider entering into a relationship in a city in Israel, and Cleveland came with a delegation that I lead, because at that time I was chairman of the Cleveland Federation with 4 other members of the Cleveland community. And we visited a number of communities primarily in the north But when we came to Beit She’an it was different from the other communities. We saw challenges there and we’re up to the challenge. We went back to Cleveland and although the vote was not unanimous and thankfully since I was chairman I got my way. And we decided to partner up with the city of Beit She’an and also Emek Beit She’an. We met with the mayor, Ben Lulu and Ygal Shahar who was leader of the regional council. Ygal Shahar was the biggest influence on me as to why I should come here. And when he told me that Los Angeles was in Beit She’an for project renewal, they called me and said whatever you do don’t go to Beit She’an, it’s very hard to work there. And what pushed me to do that was Los Angeles telling me not to. We came here and started working with the city and the regional council and things started happening. We brought Clevelanders to the region, we brought Israelis from Beit She’an t o Clevaland, the Clevelander got really into and loved the people that were coming here. When they came to Beit She;an they loved it as well. Beit She;an is different, it’s not the typical Israeli city, we didn’t want them to have the Tel Avivian experience, we wanted them to go to a place with what I consider real people, and it’s been a big success, I’m confident this relationship will last forever.
Question: Beit She’an has a beautiful Roman Theater, can you tell us your feelings about the project, and the impact you feel it will have?
Answer: It’s important for Beit She’an to bring in tourists, and this is the only attraction that can bring tourists. Once they come they bring money to the city and everyone will benefit. And it’s different, it’s different from any other place you can find in Israel, and having the Roman theater developed will be one way we can attract more people to our city here. Also, I’m an honorary citizen of Beit She’an, which is an important fact. I hope for it to be a real economic drive, hopefully there will be a hotel built so people can stay here overnight. The restaurant will be busier, the city needs business and they need a lot. They need more tourists to stay in Beit She’an, not just stop on a bus and go away, they should be able to get off the bus, see the site, see the city, stay the night, spend more money and spend more time.
Question: We heard you are quite the talented musician, what’s your favorite instrument to play?
Answer: I play the saxophone but it’s questionable how good I am, but I am thinking of bringing a group from the states and playing with them here.