Donor Stories: Spotlight on Rona & Ira K.
Ira Kellman has fond childhood memories of joining his grandmother at the Yiddish theater when they held benefits for Mizrachi Women of America, the organization known today as AMIT. As an adult, after he and Rona married, AMIT was “an obvious place for us to be involved,” he said.
“When I was a young bride, that was the activity,” Rona said of AMIT events at the time. “It was a nice social outlet.” For the Kellmans—who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary—what began as a social outlet has turned into a decades-long involvement with AMIT and an incredible commitment to supporting the organization and its mission of building Israel through innovative education.
Today, the Kellmans are members of AMIT’s President’s Circle, the giving society that sustains AMIT with annual gifts, and Rona serves as the associate chair of the board of governors.
Over the years, the Kellmans have contributed both time and money to AMIT, have joined numerous missions to Israel, and have visited about a dozen AMIT schools. They have been honored at the annual dinner and served as dinner chairs honoring their fellow AMIT enthusiasts. They have also graciously opened their home to AMIT students on multiple occasions.
Still, Ira is the first to admit that Rona has taken the lead when it comes to their participation with AMIT.
“Rona’s involvement has grown in many ways,” he said. “She’s willing to put in the work, she’s competent at it, and she does it successfully.”
He cites Rona’s efforts spearheading the Gayl Schechter chapter’s Purim basket campaign as just one example of her dedication. She got involved as the person who planned the routes for the package delivery—she was like a human Waze—and ended up running the entire program, which in the last five years has raised more than half a million dollars in support of AMIT’s children in Israel.
Rona also heads up her chapter’s book club, handling most of the logistics “with the exception of selecting the books,” as she put it. She’s happy to do it, because she strongly believes in AMIT’s mission and feels “it’s a great organization raising money for good causes.”
“Every time I go back to Israel, everyone is doing their job so well,” she said. “It’s so advanced, and you look at the kids and they’re doing magnificent things, just really accomplishing a lot, so you know that the organization has its head in the right place.”
On their most recent trip to Israel, just this past month, the Kellmans visited Yeshivat AMIT Kfar Ganim, in Petach Tikva, and were impressed by how involved and engaged all of the students seemed.
“I think it’s doing a great job with the kids that need the help the most,” said Rona—and that says a lot coming from a retired New York public-school system psychologist.
“Generally, we’re in development towns and in places where everybody needs a leg up, and once AMIT gets into the system, it seems like the kids really get a boost. The statistics certainly bear it out, with the 86% average bagrut (matriculation) rate.” Ira’s grandmother, z”l, would certainly be proud.