On Sunday, March 14, ADI (adi-israel.org), Israel’s most comprehensive provider of residential and rehabilitative care for individuals with severe disabilities, hosted a virtual memorial ceremony and dedication to honor the life and legacy of renowned Los Angeles philanthropist and real estate investor Judah Hertz z”l, a champion of the disability community and a longtime supporter of both ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran and ADI Jerusalem.
While the ADI leadership gathered in the Negev to concluded the initial 30-day mourning period for Judah with moving words of tribute, hundreds of additional participants from across the United States and Israel tuned in via Zoom and Facebook Live, including the extended Hertz family and their closest friends. The ceremony also featured the dedication of The Judah Hertz z”l Memorial Garden and the renaming of The Judah Hertz z”l Safari Petting Zoo and Therapeutic Horse Farm, critical therapeutic resources that Judah was proud to help establish years earlier to aid in the advancement of ADI’s residents with severe disabilities.
“Judah, you understood in your sensitivity and purity of soul that children and individuals with severe disabilities were sent to this world to test our behavior. You, who built a massive business empire, understood that strength, money and power are temporary deposits in this world meant to be used to benefit the vulnerable, those for whom life had dealt a difficult blow,” said Major General (Res.) Doron Almog, Founder and Chairman of ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran, during the ceremony.
“You understood and taught others that the heart must listen to the voices of those who go unheard. You believed that each one of these individuals reflects the fragility of our lives and that we become better people when we act on their behalf.”
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel, and a Board Member of ADI, echoed these sentiments, praising Judah’s humility and lifelong desire to empower others, “nullifying his own will in pursuit of the greater good.”
“Every time I spoke with Judah, he would ask, ‘What else is needed? Who else can be helped?’ This was not a nullification of will stemming from helplessness or inability. On the contrary, he understood that everything we have in this world is meant to bring more goodness to it, and he was committed to providing the maximum benefit to others,” said Rabbi Rabinowitz. “While his heart was medically weak towards the end of his life, he will be remembered for having a very strong heart when it came to helping others.”
The Judah Hertz z”l Safari Petting Zoo and Therapeutic Horse Farm is a perennial paradise that plays host to an impressive array of beautiful and docile creatures that help promote individual growth, development and independence. By feeding, grooming, training and playing with the animals, the ADI residents learn empathy, cooperation, and the importance of maintaining personal space. Consistent interaction with the animals also helps the residents improve their motor abilities and cognitive function, allowing them to gallop headlong towards their therapeutic goals.
Speaking on behalf of the Hertz family, Judah’s eldest son, Yitzchak, expressed sincere gratitude to ADI for honoring his father in this way, explaining that Judah’s relationship with the organization was about much more than charity.
“We all feel so honored to have a real relationship with this organization that our father cared so much about. In the last decade of his life, supporting ADI became his largest philanthropic endeavor. It was something he set aside special time for and was constantly thinking about, because he felt a true emotional connection to the children of ADI. It wasn’t lost on any of us how important ADI was to him. He told us many times how extraordinary this place is and how grateful he felt to be a part of it. We are grateful that we have an opportunity to learn from him and continue his legacy.”
A staunch advocate of people of all abilities and a proud member of the ADI family, Judah chose to invest in numerous projects in the Negev and Jerusalem, including a classroom wing at ADI Jerusalem’s special education school and ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran’s Neuro-Orthopedic Rehabilitative Hospital, which is slated for completion in late 2021, among others. Judah was particularly inspired by the hospital’s projected regional and national reach, seeing it as a rare opportunity to make the greatest possible impact for people from all backgrounds and levels of need across Israel.