In Gratitude: Joseph (Joe) Tugendhaft
​Geneva-Tel Aviv
2015 Yakir KH Award recipient
 
On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, at a festive ceremony held in Jerusalem, the Yakir Keren Hayesod award was bestowed upon former Chairman of KH Geneva and French-speaking Switzerland Campaign, Joseph (Joe) Tugendhaft. During this moving evening, a short video clip produced in his honor was screened, with deputy Director general for Europe at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Israel ambassador to Switzerland Aviv Shir-On saying warm words of praise about him. Joe  and the three other 2015 Yakir KH Award recipients were personally congratulated by both President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom they met earlier that day.
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Proudly showing the Yakir Award, as KH leadership and then Minister of Science, Technology and Space, Danny Danon, show their appreciation. From left to right: KH-UIA Director-General, Greg Masel; KH-UIA World Board of Trustees Chairman,  David Koschitzky; Minister Danon; KH-UIA Honorary President, Julia Koschitzky; Joseph (Joe) Tugendhaft and KH-UIA World Chairman, Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg.
 
 
The son of Holocaust survivors who spent World War II in hiding in Maastricht, Holland, Joseph (Joe) Tugendhaft was born a few months before the establishment of the State of Israel. He and his twin sister are the youngest of five children, one of whom was born in 1943, while their parents were in hiding. 
Joe’s father played a pivotal role in welcoming and helping the liberated deportees who returned to Holland after the war. An important community and Zionist leader, he no doubt inspired his son's future activism.


After a happy childhood and youth in Rotterdam, in the bosom of a traditional, Shabbat-observing family, Joe attended business school. After completing his studies, he moved to Switzerland, where his life took a new professional and personal direction. Joe began working for the Manor department store chain, where he learned the secrets of the business world. He climbed the rangs of the company ladder, eventually becoming chief buyer for the entire chain.
At the same time, he met Claire, who was personal secretary to Jacques Maus, whose mother Jacqueline was the 1990 KH Goldstein Prize recipient. Claire and Joe got married in 1970. On their honeymoon, they came for the first time to Israel on a journey that changed their lives. Their photo album of the trip ends with a picture of the plane that was to take them back to Switzerland, with the caption, "Israel, I leave you and my heart is crying". Since then, they came to Israel at least twice every year and started a tradition to hold the annual Pesach Seder at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv, together with family and friends from all over the world. Last year, they had 22 lone soldiers at their table.

After ten years at Manor, Joe decided that the time had come to create his own business and launched Repeat cashmere, today a well-known brand in wholesale and retail that specialize in cashmere. Since then, he and Claire are an inseparable pair, both personally and professionally.

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With President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, the other Yakir Award laureates, their family members and KH leadership at the President's Residence.

A first-rank Jewish leader, Joe has a particular closeness for Chabad and considers his meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson z”l, to be a milestone in his life. He participated in starting up Chabad in the Far East. A driving force behind Keren Hayesod Geneva and French-Speaking Switzerland, he currently served as its Chairman, a position he left a few months ago. Amongst dozens of outstandingly generous gestures on his part, he sponsored the performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Keren Hayesod's 90th birthday celebration on Mount Scopus in 2010. Another highlight of his years of KH activity were the opening of the annual Geneva Campaigns with Ehud Barak, Simone Veil, Nicolas Sarkozy and last but not least President Shimon Peres.
It was only natural that their total Jewish and Zionist commitment would eventuate with Joe's and Claire's aliyah, in 2013. Joe says that he feels a tremor every time he hears the Hatikvah. Summarizing decades of outstanding dedication, he says: "Keren Hayesod has transformed our lives. The donor receives much more than he gives. People don't realize this in real time, but when you look back, you understand the added value it gave to your life. That is tremendous”.

The worldwide family of Keren Hayesod-UIA sends its congratulations to Joe upon receiving the 2015 Yakir Keren Hayesod Award.
Thanks again for all that you have achieved until now, dear Joe, and best wishes to you and Claire for many more years of good health and happiness with your loved ones, as well as continued activity on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people!