Yael Levin, executive director, Israel Bonds Vancouver. (photo from Israel Bonds)
For more than two years, the local Israel Bonds office was closed, and anyone wishing to contact Bonds had to go through Toronto. But, last July, the local office started to open again, initially for a few hours a week. By September 2017, it was open two days a week. Finally, on Feb. 1 this year, it reopened fully, with Yael Levin in the role of executive director.
Levin will be spearheading an effort not only to raise the profile of Israel Bonds here and find more investors, but she will also form a strategic plan and host a number of events each year for the community.
The reopening was championed by Israel Bonds Canada chief executive officer Raquel Benzacar Savatti, who wanted to ensure that Vancouver’s Jewish community is served.
“I know that smaller communities do feel the loss when organizations close their offices…. Although we kept in touch with our Vancouver clients through our other offices, it’s not the same as having a presence,” said Savatti. “Vancouver is a wonderful community, our third largest, and it’s important that we have an office to serve investors in this savvy financial hub.”
Savatti was hired in December of 2016 and had a number of other priorities to deal with before searching for the appropriate executive director for the Vancouver office. She credits Nadine Katz – who is still working in client services at the local office – with connecting her to Levin.
Levin comes to the job ready to work in English, Hebrew or Spanish. Born in Mexico City, Levin made aliyah in 2002. She lived and worked in Israel for four years and then moved to Vancouver for a couple of years before returning to Israel until 2012, when she came back to Vancouver with her family to stay.
“I love to work in my community,” said Levin when asked what appealed to her about joining Israel Bonds.
Since her return to Vancouver in 2012, Levin has worked for Jewish National Fund and, most recently, for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Pacific Region. At CIJA, she worked with members of the non-Jewish community and welcomes the chance to share the investment tool that Israel Bonds has to offer both within and outside of the Jewish community.
Having never defaulted on a loan since its establishment in 1951, Israel Bonds has a notable track record and a better interest rate than other comparable fixed-term investments. One of the highest-profile investors in the world, Warren Buffett, has been a vocal supporter of Israel Bonds. Savatti shared a story of a recent event that Buffett headlined for Bonds. In order to attend the event, investors needed to buy a minimum of $1 million in bonds. In the first three minutes of his address, Buffett challenged those in attendance to buy five more $1 million bonds, which he would match. She said the crowd responded.
While not everyone can invest so much, obviously, Savatti was clear that the mission of Israel Bonds offices throughout Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Europe is to raise awareness in the Diaspora of needs in Israel. In the early days of the state’s existence, funds were needed for basic infrastructure like roads and schools. Now, the money, which goes directly to Israel’s finance ministry, is used for projects such as high-speed trains and water desalination.
Savatti was quick to point out that, while things are going well with Israel’s economy at the moment, when the chips are down, it’s friends of Israel, both Jewish and non-Jewish, around the world who continue to support and invest in the state of Israel.
Another important job for local Israel Bonds offices like the one in Vancouver is to educate investors. Levin is actively engaged in the planning of two programs scheduled for this fall. One will be a financial literacy seminar for women and the other will be a larger community event with a keynote speaker of note.
Anyone who is interested in becoming involved as a volunteer for Israel Bonds can contact the local office, which is located on the third floor of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, at 604-266-1210. The hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Michelle Dodek is a freelance writer living in Vancouver.