PHILANTHROPY ROOTED IN FAMILY HERITAGE
A NEW ALLIANCE
When he established the Rashi Foundation in 1984, Gustave Leven already had to his credit decades of support for varied causes in Israel. However, the roots of his philanthropy go back much further.
In 1860, Gustave's grandfather Narcisse Leven was part of the group of young French Jews who founded the Alliance Israélite Universelle – the first, largest and most influential modern Jewish organization. The ambitious goal of Alliance was to protect the civil rights of Jews everywhere and improve their socioeconomic situation through progressive education, which was achieved by creating a huge network of schools. This network has educated over a million children to date, and imbued the concept of mutual responsibility with a new meaning: instead of offering charity to the needy, it gave them tools for self-advancement.
In the years that followed, Narcisse emerged as a major figure within Alliance, while engaging in other public activity that was mostly devoted to the welfare of fellow Jews. His son Georges, Gustave's father, also served as president of Alliance in his turn.
Narcisse Leven 1833-1915
Alliance school for girls in Marrakesh, Morocco
In memory of Gustave Leven, October 2018
Gustave was brought up in this environment of commitment to the less fortunate, and continued the family tradition by supporting projects connected to the French Jewish community. But he did not stop there. Surviving the Second World War convinced him to focus his efforts on strengthening the newly-founded State of Israel. And strengthening Israel meant investing in the country's most important resource: its people.
Thanks to his exceptional business success, Gustave had the means to realize his ambition, and he dedicated most of his fortune to this endeavor. Starting in the early 1950s he gave generously to various projects in Israel, making a substantial contribution to the education, welfare, health and security of its citizens.
Looking to deepen the impact of his investment, and also hand the torch over to the next generation, Gustave then decided to establish a foundation that would carry out his philanthropic work led by his nephew, Hubert Leven.
While Gustave guided the foundation with his vision and advice, he never held an official position in it. With great modesty and discretion, he always insisted on giving anonymously; instead of naming the foundation after his own family, he chose the name Rashi – the acronym of the great Torah commentator who lived in medeival France, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki.
Gustave Leven passed away in 2008 at the age of 94. With Hubert as president and other family members on the Board, the extraordinary legacy that began in Paris more than 150 years ago continues to inspire our work today.