Remembering Teddy Kollek: Founding the Jerusalem Foundation

Remembering Teddy Kollek Founding The Jerusalem Foundation


Remembering Teddy Kollek: Founding the Jerusalem Foundation

The Jerusalem Foundation was founded 50 years ago by Jerusalem’s legendary Mayor, Teddy Kollek. Born to a Jewish family in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on May 27, 1911, Teddy was named after Zionist visionary Theodore Herzl. The values, education and culture Teddy inherited from his family nurtured a highly productive and self-confident youth, and later propelled his ascension up the ranks of power in the Zionist movement. In 1935 he sailed to the Land of Israel on the “Gerusalemme” to join other young pioneers in founding the Ein Gev kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee.

Teddy’s flair for getting jobs done earned him the confidence of the Zionist establishment - who tapped his abilities as spy, arms smuggler, and diplomat. After Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, his leadership skills were further cultivated as Director-General of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s office. Teddy’s political career climaxed when he was elected Mayor of Jerusalem on December 1, 1965. 

Teddy believed that cities were not merely places to work and sleep - but centers where culture is forged. He dreamed of Jerusalem brimming with theatres, museums, community centers, libraries and parks. Teddy became the driving force in founding Jerusalem’s iconic Israel Museum. A year later on September 22, 1966, the Israel Museum was the venue chosen to launch the Jerusalem Foundation, with his fundraising talents on full display. As the government and the municipality were unable to support Teddy’s visions, the Jerusalem Foundation began raising funds from philanthropists to help realize his dreams.

Despite his unrivaled resume, nothing could prepare Teddy for the consequences of Israel’s miraculous 1967 Six-Day War victory, as Mayor of reunited Jerusalem. While Israel’s government initiated massive housing developments to unite Jerusalem’s two halves, Teddy’s new role as Mayor of the world’s most contested city roused him to foster unity through building community, culture, and shared living. Over the next four decades the Jerusalem Foundation would invest more than $1 billion in over 4,000 projects that transformed the city.

After completing his final term in 1993 after 28 years as Mayor, Teddy left City Hall for his Jerusalem Foundation office, where he continued to work up until his passing on January 2, 2007 at age 95.

Guests from Israel and around the world attending the Jerusalem Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Conference will celebrate Teddy Kollek as the city’s greatest builder since Herod, who can rest peacefully knowing that friends and supporters alike will continue to nurture and develop his beloved city of Jerusalem.