The Sapir Center for Jewish Education and Culture was founded in Jerusalem almost fifty years ago, in 1974. Its goal is to create connections between different groups and sectors of Israeli society, and to strengthen Jewish culture and heritage as a common foundation of knowledge and values.
At the time, Rabbi Menachem Hacohen, the Rabbi of the Histradrut Workers Union, looked for a way to reduce the alienation and disputes among Jewish-Israeli society And it was to this end that he sought to stablish the “Center for Jewish Heritage”. In order to gain widespread social support for the center, he began assembling a board of trustees, while also raising initial funds.
Rabbi Hacohen says: “With the help of my friend Yossi Sarid Z”L, we approached the Minister of Finance Pinchas Sapir and convinced him of the center’s importance. That’s how we obtained the initial budget to establish the center. Sapir advised us to add his friend, the industrialist Yisrael Pollack from ‘Polgat’, to the board of trustees. Fortunately, Pollack also recognized the importance of the idea and even took upon himself to serve as the center’s chairman of the board of trustees. Yisrael Pollack devoted a lot of energy to fundraising and invited a group of senior businesspeople to his home, including the managers of Israel’s large banks, who also joined the board. This enabled us, at the first meeting, to recruit a significant initial sum to establish the center”.
How did the center get its name?
After the Center for Jewish Heritage began operation in a small building in the Old City, it held weekly seminars in basic boarding school conditions and study evenings in various apartments that it rented in the Old City.
In the summer of 1975, in the middle of a Torah scroll inauguration ceremony in the synagogue of Moshav Nevatim in the Negev, Pinchas Sapir suffered a heart attack, collapsing onto Rabbi Menachem Hacohen’s shoulder, and dying a few hours later. The traumatic event and the fact that Sapir had assisted the center in its early stages, led Rabbi Hacohen to the decision to name the center after Sapir.
The Center's Activity over the Years
During its many years of activity, the Sapir center has conducted numerous seminars and workshops on Jewish-Israeli identity, encounters between religious and secular people, all-night study sessions for the general public, and other activities. The Center has produced placards for educational institutions and communities around the cycle of the year, published books in the field of Jewish culture and the ‘Mahanaim’ journal, operated information centers for questions about Judaism, and much more. The Center’s team of teachers and facilitators was diverse and included people from all sectors and with a diverse range of Jewish-Israeli identities. Among them were Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Prof. Yisrael Eldad, Shmuel Hasfari, Prof. Yehoyada (Yaki) Amir, Rabbi Hanan Porat, Rabbi Dr. Danny Levi, Dr. Ilan Ezrahi, Dr. Haggai Misgav, Rabbi David Rosen, Yossi Pnini, Dr. Pinchas Blumenthal, Nurit Herman, Rabbi Betzalel Landau, Rabbi Shabtai Yudalevitz, Rabbi Shlomo Fuchs, and others.
Esteemed public personalities joined the center’s management with its foundation including: Abba Eban (the center’s first president), Yisrael Pollack (Chairman), Beno Gitter (Chairman), Yigal Alon, Aryeh “Lova” Eliav, Nava Arad, Haim Bar-Lev, Arnon Gafni, Aryeh Disenchik, Hanna Semer, Moshe Sanbar, Shimon Peres, Yehoshua Rabinowitz, Herzl Rosenblum, Elimelekh Rimalt, Avraham Shapira, Yosef Sarid, and many others.
List of Signatories on the Cornerstone Scroll
Golda Meir | Ephraim Katzir | Menachem Begin | Rabbi Shlomo Goren | Simcha Erlich Shlomo Avni | Yekutiel Federman | David Glass | Yehoshua Rabinowitz | Gideon Patt Mark Moshevitz | Yigael Yadin | Yitzhak Yitzhaky | Shlomo Hillel | Shimon Peres Arnon Gafni | Zevulun Hammer | Hillel Seidel | Shneor Peleg | Avraham Melamed Raanan Weitz | Yitzhak Navon | Adiel Amorai | Haim Drukman | Yeruham Meshel Yosef Geva | Abba Eban | Mordechai Elgrably | Gad Yaacobi | Aharon Abuhatzira Moshe Schnitzer | Haim Bar-Lev | Yehuda Ben-Meir | Aharon Yadlin | Michael Federman Moshe Sanbar | Moshe Shamir | Uzi Baram | Geula Cohen | Yigal Alon Mordechai Ben-Ari | Yossi Sarid | David Golomb | Arye Zimuki | Menahem Hacohen David Calderon | Meir Amit | Amnon Linn | Mordechai Virshuvski | Yosef Burg Moshe Mandelbaum | Ora Namir | Aryeh Eliav | Arik Nehemkin | Arieh Dulzin Avraham Shapira | Eli Moyal | Eliezer Avtabi | Elimelekh Rimalt | Yisrael Pollack Nava Arad | Jacques Amir | Amos Hadar | Aryeh Disenchik | Ephraim Reiner Moshe Mann | Meir Pa’il | Meir Talmi | Ernest Yefet | Hanna Semer Avraham Harman | Shulamit Aloni | Michael Harish | Aharon Meir | Avraham Zilberberg Aharon Dovrat | Imri Ron | Haim Shastel | Avraham Agmon | Sam Rothberg | Teddy Kollek | Avraham Friedman | Herzl Rosenblum | Moshe Baram | Pinhas Scheinman | Rina Tal | Devora Hacohen | Aharon Uzan | Daniel Rosolio | Yaffa Sapir | Gershon Rozov | Amiram Sivan | Amos Sapir | Ze’ev Geller | Haim Kimhi | Yehuda Gil | Moshe Beno Gitter