As published in the Jewish Exponent on November 29th, written by Matt Silver
Update (Dec. 3, 2019): This event has been rescheduled for March.
The American Friends of the Kaplan Medical Center will host its first gala on Dec. 2 at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood and celebrate two women, Vered Nohi and Linda Richman, who have devoted their careers to strengthening ties between the United States and Israel.
Nohi, who is executive director of the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, and Richman, who recently retired as the American Technion Society’s executive director in the Philadelphia region, will be the first “Women of Valor” honorees as part of an evening that will feature a performance by vocal recording artist and six-time Grammy nominee Neshama Carlebach.
“She’s a voice from heaven,” AFKMC National Director Lou Balcher said of Carlebach. “She has such a spiritual voice that it raises people to new heights from the beauty and soul of her music.”
Proceeds will go toward completion of a new pediatric oncology unit and a high-tech cardiac center at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, Israel.
Balcher feels recognition for Nohi and Richman is overdue.
“Vered has such a critical role in the Philadelphia Jewish community’s connection to Israel that it’s such a privilege to be in the position to honor her,” he said. “And Linda … this whole thing comes from Linda.”
In her role, Richman was charged with raising not only funds but the profile of Israel’s top-ranked polytechnic university in this area of the mid-Atlantic — a position she held for 15 years. Before that, she’d been doing philanthropy consulting for various Jewish organizations. Then she went for an interview at American Technion.
“The interview was long, and it was a process, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give up consulting,” Richman said. “And then one of my friends at the time said to me, ‘Why are you debating this? You do consulting work, but that’s raising money for everybody else’s passions. Israel and education are your passions.’ “And I said, ‘Oh, my God, I hope that job’s still open.’”
Israel was, indeed, Richman’s passion. She first traveled there in 1987, dragging a reluctant sister who ended up falling in love with it so much that she later moved there herself.
“That trip changed our lives. I knew I wanted to go to work for Israel after that in some capacity, but I didn’t know how,” she said. The job itself wasn’t always easy. “I held all of the roles you could possibly have in development, because sometimes it was a two-person office, sometimes it was a one-person office,” Richman remembered. “The job meant meeting a lot of people, and a lot of dinners … But it was worth it.”
The American Technion Society “was a wonderful place,” she said. “It was definitely a family — the donors and the professors and the whole combination.”
Nohi’s story, meanwhile, is still unfolding.
When she became the executive director of PICC six years ago, there was still an Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia. Nohi worked closely with both Yaron Sideman and Elad Strohmeier, both of whom led the local consulate until its closure.
Sideman is now the consul general to the mid-Atlantic region, while Strohmeier is the Israeli embassy’s official spokesperson to the United States in Washington, D.C. Nohi’s the only one of the three in the same job — though the job has changed considerably. It’s grown in scope since the closure of the Philadelphia consulate — to the point where some, like Balcher, have taken to calling Nohi “the de facto or unofficial consul general of Philadelphia.”
Meantime, Ambassador Dani Dayan, the consul general at the Israeli Consulate in New York calls Nohi “Israel’s ambassador to Pennsylvania.”
Vered’s main charge is fostering economic connections and partnerships between players and markets in the U.S. and Israel. Officially, her region is limited to Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs, South Jersey, and Delaware. But PICC serves a greater population than it used to. Just last week, for instance, Nohi visited Bethlehem, where the chamber facilitated a partnership between the local Catholic diocese and an Israeli technology company to improve living conditions for those in Bethlehem’s Senior Catholic Housing.
“We’ve expanded in the absence of a consulate in Philadelphia,” Nohi said. “We work up to North Jersey and across to State College and Pittsburgh and up to the Lehigh Valley.”
But Nohi isn’t complaining about the increased responsibility. On the contrary.
“All this innovation is tikkun olam — it makes the world and friendships better,” Nohi said.
Nohi often finds herself brokering joint ventures in areas of industry that are cutting edge. Just last week, PICC hosted a cybersecurity conference, bringing leaders in cyberinnovation from Israel and across the Philadelphia region.
The work may be high-tech, but Nohi’s experience tells her it’s all about networking.
“At the end of the day, it all boils down to relationships,” she said. “I am excited to learn about all the innovation that exists. It’s fascinating. The good news is … I don’t need to know too much. I just need to know enough to connect the right people and companies.”