The spirit that propels the efforts of those of us involved with the Maimonides Heritage Center is based on a strong conviction that Rambam’s intellectual and humanitarian legacy is not only relevant but a compelling religious and philosophic voice in modern man and women’s search for a spiritual community and personal equanimity. The reemergence of Rambam’s worldview can have a potentially profound influence both in the diaspora and in Israel.
We founded the Maimonides Heritage Center in 2004 after a visit to the city of Tiveria. Being a student of HaRambam, I remember thinking that the burial place of one of the most important and influential figures of Judaism will be a beautiful landmark. Instead I was horrified to find that the gravesite of Maimonides was completely neglected and in such a state of disrepair people threw their garbage and appliances on the grounds. The building immediately adjacent to Rambam’s grave was a crack-house for drug addicts and troubled teens.
The only inspiration I found on that visit was a call to action. The entire city of Tiveria was poverty stricken. Unemployment was rampant, the schools were in poor condition, and the governance of the city was plagued with corruption. Upon my return to Long Island I called upon friends and community leaders and founded the Maimonides Heritage Center.
Today, fifteen years later, the Burial site of Rambam has been renovated, the crack house is a Hospitality Center, Tiveria built its first mall and modernized its promenade. Drugs and prostitution have been significantly curtailed and the schools, through our hot lunch initiative and educational support have significantly improved.
Our educational programs have reached hundreds of thousands around the world. Our social service and chesed programs have changed the lives of countless men women and children in the city of Tiveria and our Hospitality Center and Museum has hosted over 400,000 guests in the last 10 years. The cumulative boon for the economy of the city of Tiveria has resulted in her reclaiming, with pride, its status as the capital of the North.
There is still so much more to do. I urge you to get involved. You can start by studying Rambam’s legacy, create an MHC chapter in your community and make a meaningful donation to the Maimonides Heritage Center so that we can continue our sacred work in the city of Tiveria.
Yamin Levy, Rabbi
Maimonides Heritage Center