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In Gratitude: Vico Levy

​Outgoing Chairman of KH Brussels


Thanks to Vico Levy, outgoing President of Keren Hayesod Brussels  “Golden key” awarded by then KH World Chairman Moodi Sandberg

It was during the opening of the 2014 Campaign, on May 8, that Keren Hayesod Brussels bid farewell to its Chairman, Vico Levy. He completed a term of office of exactly ten years (2004-2014), filling this position with dedication, generosity and enthusiasm. We meet him in a well-known hotel in Tel Aviv, during one of his frequent visits to Israel. A committed observer of the Jewish world, he expresses both confidence and concern about recent developments.

Vico Levi

Vico Levy addresses the audience.

“Keren Hayesod’s main mission”, he says, “is education. We must provide a background for our young people, because material prosperity can lull them to sleep. Tradition and education prepare for thinking; we must return to the basics. We must never forget where we come from. Our fathers (I owe everything to mine) made it possible for us to study, to learn. We must know how to question ourselves. Aristotle already said that ‘doubt is the beginning of wisdom’. We are the people of questioning. Having said that, there is a time to reflect and a time to act. During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, it was the 25 year-old pilots who saved Israel. Go explain that to a 25 year-old European in 2014!”

Vico is uneasy about the future of European Jewry, and in particular, of the small Belgian Jewish community. “We are still a people in danger”,he says. “We must not repeat the terrible mistake of the 1930s. While German Jews saw themselves as Germans and Jews, the surrounding society defined them as Jews first, and then Germans (before driving them out of society, and the result is known). There are phenomena today that are beginning to repeat themselves. They remind us often, and less and less discreetly, like “booster shots”, that we are Jewish. When the Belgian Jewish physicist François Englert won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013, media coverage was minor. It was barely mentioned, for example, that he was a ‘hidden child’ during the German occupation (1940-1945). ”

“If this country, Israel, had existed 80 years ago”, he adds, “if its doors had been opened by ‘the key which is in the hands of the Jewish people’ (as the Keren Hayesod motto says), no doubt there would be six million more Israelis on this earth. Today, six million souls are watching us. Therefore, many people feel the need to ‘have a roof in Israel’ and buy apartments, to know that if necessary, they will have a country to take them in, where they will be defended, an island of stability”.
“Israel and the Diaspora”, he continues, “together make up the Jewish people. They have to give each other a sense of security, with Israel being the ‘life insurance’ “.
Referring to the “irrefutable law of numbers”, Vico explains: “There are in Belgium today approximately 600,000 Muslims and 30,000 Jews. We must therefore be realistic, our community no longer carries any weight on the national level”.

Against this troubled backdrop, the internal divisions within the community worry Vico equally: “A diversity of thought is certainly necessary and the debate must not be watered down, but when it comes to existential issues, we must be responsible for what we say and what we do. When it comes to Israel, everything is emotional, impassioned, out of proportion. ”
Vico views Israel with admiration, and he uses a concept from Disney World – “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT)” – to talk about it. He explains this surprizing definition: “Israel is the prototype of the human community of the future, with exciting experiments in all areas. And none of them are superfluous, since significant challenges lie ahead. It is necessary to prepare for a double wave of aliyah – one from Western Europe (look at what is happening today in France) and another from countries in distress, like Ukraine, the former Soviet Union and Turkey. There will be a great need for absorption and education. ”
This naturally leads to Keren Hayesod and the long years that Vico dedicated to our organization.

Vico Levi

4 presidents of Keren Hayesod Brussels in one picture!
From right to left: 2004 Yakir Award recipient, past president Adnan Kandiyoti; KH World Chairman Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg; KH representative in Belgium and Luxemburg Michel CerfOlivier Goldberg, new KH Brussels president; Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz; Victor (Vico) Levy and past president Pedro Weinreb.

“I succeeded top leaders like Adnan Kandiyoti and Pedro Weinreb”, he says. “A new chairman who will give his all has now taken office, and we can expect a lot from him. In general, throughout the years, I have had the privilege of meeting some fantastic people at all levels, from the grass-roots to leadership. I experienced some very touching moments, which sometimes brought me to tears. I had so many experiences at Keren Hayesod! I remember, among others, visits to schools for at-risk children and youth, whose families were absolutely incapable of providing an education for them; these children were almost alone in the world. This touches you most deeply. In late 2010, for example, we were very touched when we visited an elementary school in the Galilee for children from very disadvantaged backgrounds. We were moved to tears”.

“Keren Hayesod’s trump card, which we must preserve with all of our might is that we know how to talk to people at all levels – even if we sometimes give the impression of approaching the donor repeatedly and insisting on getting even a small donation” ,he adds with a smile. “At Keren Hayesod, I encountered humility. I encountered generosity. I encountered solidarity. I also met people for whom we provided help, while enabling them to preserve their dignity. I am happy and proud that I was able to join this endeavour and will gladly remain part of it. ”

The worldwide Keren Hayesod family thanks Vico for everything that he has done and will continue to do for Keren Hayesod and Israel, and wishes him many more years of involvement and success in all his endeavours!