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Giving Heart and Soul

Donor and philanthropist Caroline Simon symbolizes the act of giving. Students from Bnei Akiva in Beer Sheva met with her and heard about her Bnei Akiva experiences in London, her willingness to extend a helping hand, and her enormous contribution to the Ben Gurion University. Photo: Dani Machlis


Translated from the Hebrew by Norman Silbert

When she was young, Caroline Simon was a member of Bnei Akiva in London.She never dreamed that almost seventy years later she would be interviewed by students from the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in Beer Sheva as a subject of their history project.The interview evolved into an impressive work, the pride of Ya'akov Dazanhushuli and Yochai Titan, twelfth-graders in the yeshiva. These two dynamic students were deeply impressed by Caroline and their enthusiasm was evident."She showed us that money is not everything in life" they wrote in the summary of their project which was carried out under the guidance of their teacher Alex Lavon."We learned that quality of life is not measured by money but by deeds, particularly helping others."

 "When I believe in something completely my enthusiasm becomes infectious.People I ask to help quickly learn it is easier to say yes to me than to refuse. My contribution inspires others."  

Born in Cardiff, capital of Wales, Caroline visited Israel for the first time in 1954 with friends from the London branch of Bnei Akiva. She looked around and was immediately smitten. Her love of the Holy Land was intimately linked to the love of her life, Arnie Simon, then a soldier doing military service after making aliyah from Canada several years earlier.They married and served together in the Intelligence Corps. After the Yom Kippur War, Caroline volunteered at the Beit Loewenstein Hospital. She spent two and a half years with IDF soldiers who had sustained injuries, helping them physically and emotionally.She even organized a wedding for one of the injured soldiers and his girlfriend, pulling strings to ensure that Amidar made an apartment available to the couple and helped to furnish it through donations.Later, in an interview with a university newspaper Caroline said: "If helping those soldiers was all I have ever done I would be content."

From 1979, Arnie was involved in the university. Initially, he was liaison officer of the Friends of the Ben Gurion University, which he later headed.After the second president of the university, Ambassador Yosef Teko'a, used his diplomatic skills, the Simon family moved from Kfar Shmariyahu to the Negev. Major General (Reserves) Shlomo Gazit had met Arnie during their service together in the army and when he was appointed president of the university in 1982 he offered Arnie the position of assistant.On hearing that Caroline and Arnie were moving to the south, the first president, Professor Moshe Prywes immediately seized the opportunity and offered Caroline a position in the Faculty of Health Sciences.At 83, she is still active, sharing her experience and wisdom with the faculty.

Married for 54 years, Arnie and Caroline were warm-hearted and generous philanthropists.The first project they participated in was the Pediatric ICU at the Soroka, University Medical Center.

Arnie had strong emotional ties with another project that was launched in 2003: The Trading Room in the Guildord Glazer Faculty of Business and Management that was donated in memory of his parents.

Caroline and Arnie did much more than make financial contributions.They invested heart and soul in Ben Gurion University.Throughout the years the couple supported the Faculty of Health Sciences, helping medical students, providing scholarships and encouragement.In 2009 their contribution enabled the opening of Caroline House – a student center for the Faculty of Health Sciences.At the consecration, Caroline noted: "I have always been captivated by the dramatic developments in the world of medicine. Some people use their money to buy yachts.My pleasure and satisfaction come from seeing this building available for the benefit of the students."

In the casual atmosphere of the ceremony, Arnie described to guests the moment Caroline found out that a donor had bequeathed her a substantial estate: "She was standing in the kitchen peeling potatoes for supper.I walked in with the post and told her.She didn't stop peeling and just said; 'I don't need that money.' We quickly agreed that we wanted to dedicate the money to Caroline House."

This wonderful couple was also generous in their support of the university Sports Center where Caroline exercised daily in the gym, also donating equipment to the Open Apartments Project in which students carried out maintenance work in apartments of the elderly and needy.

In 1984, in a ceremony at the home of State President Herzog, Arnie was presented with a token of appreciation as an "outstanding employee of an academic institution in Israel".Ten years later the Ben Gurion University bestowed on him the honorary title of Doctor, in recognition of his contribution

Caroline spent two and a half years with IDF soldiers who had sustained injuries, committing herself to helping them physically and emotionally.She even organized a wedding for one of the injured soldiers and his girlfriend, pulling strings to ensure that Amidar made an apartment available to the couple 

 Arnie retired in1994 but continued as an active member of the university Board of Trustees, working on behalf of the university to his last day.

When asked about her secret to raising such generous sums of money for the university's projects, she answered with a smile: "When I believe in something completely my enthusiasm becomes infectious.People I ask to help quickly learn it is easier to say yes to me than to refuse. My contribution inspires others."

Sometimes, the high praise she receives makes her feel a little uncomfortable and she has an original response to explain her motives: "My work is pure egoism.Some women enjoy spending time in cafés and shopping.I enjoy helping and giving."

Caroline Simon is an active member of ESRA Beer Sheva branch.

 

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Wednesday, 30 November 2022

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