When Yosef Abramowitz came to Israel, his dream was to do much more than just make Aliyah. He wanted to fulfill David Ben Gurion’s vision of harnessing the power of the Negev to make a solar energy fuelled Israel. But Yosef Abramowitz is not just a dreamer; he’s a doer. In six years he has done more to fulfill Ben Gurion’s dreams than anyone could have imagined, co-founding the Arava Power Company and recently launching a 4.95-megawatt solar field at Kibbutz Ketura - the first medium-sized photovoltaic field in the country. Now he is working on expanding his dream to other countries as well.
Abramowitz was not a newcomer to Israel when he made Aliyah with Nefesh B’Nefesh in 2006 with his wife Susan and five children. He had lived in Israel with his own family as a small child, from 1969 to 1972. But after ‘temporarily’ moving back to the United States in order for his father to earn a PhD from Brandeis, the Abramowitz family’s circumstances changed, his parents divorced and they never ended up returning to Israel.
Interestingly, Abramowitz’s interest in solar power began in high school, where he received an impressive regional award for a solar energy project. After high school, he was active in Young Judea and came back to Israel on their Year Course. During that important year, he spent time at a wonderful kibbutz in the Negev called Ketura. He connected with the people there, found it a comfortable home away from home and set down roots that would bear fruit for him in the future.
Meanwhile Abramowitz returned to the USA and went on to receive degrees in Public Policy from Boston University and Journalism from Columbia University, and served as CEO of a multimedia company for a decade. Winner of numerous awards, Yosef has an extensive global network, having served on the Executive Board of the World Jewish Congress and in other positions. He specializes in public policy, government relations, press, technology and corporate strategy. He has been co-nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the former Soviet Union, which was underwritten by the European Union and U.S. AID.
Fast forward to 2006; Yosef, married to his wife, Rabbi Susan Silverman, was enjoying his newly expanded family, having just adopted a second child from Ethiopia. They decided that this stage of their lives was ripe for making Aliyah and contacted Nefesh B’Nefesh from Boston to start making arrangements. The plan was to “hang out” on Kibbutz Ketura for a number of years to grow as a family and write books. Upon their Aliyah, Susan got right to it, writing a book on adoption and spirituality which is now in its finishing stages now. Yosef’s plans changed however, as he explains, “I got distracted on the first day by the unbelievable sun. On that day I said that someone should build a solar power system here because it’s really sunny. I decided to live it instead of write it.” From that moment he never looked back.
While the family experienced a relatively soft landing in Kibbutz Ketura being embraced by the warm, family atmosphere there, ultimately it proved challenging as far as acclimation, especially for their oldest daughter who couldn’t find her place in the local school. They moved to Jerusalem and have been very happy there with great neighbors and friends. “Being in Israel with kids is very different,” reflects Yosef. “In Jerusalem, the freedom and safety of our children is like nothing we could have experienced in Massachusetts. The kids couldn’t roam freely there and needed to be shuttled regularly for carpool. Childhood in Israel is healthy, and is the way it should be.”
Seems that Abramowitz is not exactly living the same carefree lifestyle he describes about his children, with nearly every waking hour – with the exception of Shabbat – dedicated to helping him fulfill Ben Gurion’s dream of a solar Israel. He works tirelessly to affect change in the Israeli government to further his goals. He has been working with the Bedouin sector to empower them and has already signed with five tribes on a deal for solar power. In fact, he has since expanded his solar Israel dream and is now taking this thriving Israeli business and promoting it in poorer countries worldwide to help them replace their dependence on oil for electricity through solar power. He also advises twenty different governments and is working actively with Haiti, Cyprus and additional countries. In case this work doesn’t take up every single moment of his day, he finds time to volunteer such as with the recent Schusterman ROI conference.
Abramowitz is quick to state his deep appreciation for organizations such as Nefesh B’Nefesh for being a partner in his incredible work. “Between now and 2020, this will be a 16 billion dollar industry,” explains Yosef. “It will have created countless jobs, and it wouldn’t have happened if not for Nefesh B’Nefesh. It’s a direct outgrowth of Aliyah.”
Abramowitz may modestly attribute credit elsewhere, but he has ranked on numerous Jewish publications’ “most influential” lists, and is a true visionary. As co-founder of the Arava Power Company, Israel’s leading solar developer, along with partners David Rosenblatt and Ed Hofland, he is considered a founding father of the solar industry in Israel.
Original article appeared in The International Jerusalem Post; article written by Laura Ben-David