With about 299 more Amnon Rodans, United Jewish Communities’ goal of raising $300 million in emergency aid to Israel would be a cake walk.
The 51-year-old Israeli American, dialing feverishly from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Piedmont, Calif., raised a whopping $900,000 in about four days last month using the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay’s donor list and his own Rolodex.
“While I was the conduit, it’s really not about me — it’s about the community,” Rodan told the Forward. “It’s wonderful to see our community here come together in such a strong way in a time of crisis…. It is incumbent upon every one of us to make a sacrifice. Our sacrifice is easy: It’s writing a check. For Israelis, it’s sacrifice at a much higher, more difficult level.”
For Rodan, it’s personal. His cousin, an Israel Defense Forces commando, recently took a Hezbollah bullet; a medic had to crack open his chest on the battlefield to save his life.
Rodan’s parents’ families emigrated from Germany to Mandate Palestine, and his father was a career IDF soldier until going to work for Ampal-American Israel Corporation in 1960. That work brought the family to Los Angeles for five years, and after returning to Israel for high school and his own three years of military service, Rodan earned an undergraduate degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a master’s from Harvard Business School. He settled near San Francisco in 1981 and is now retired after helping launch several high-tech startups as well as assisting in the ventures of his wife, dermatologist Katie Rodan.
Rodan insisted that his fundraising feat didn’t take much arm twisting; that’s not his style, he said, and besides, “everybody wants to participate…. People just have to be contacted and sort of asked to join in the fight, in so many words.”
But federation CEO Loren Basch told the Forward he’s awestruck by the man who brought in three quarters of the federation’s $1.2 million goal.
“I have been at this for 30 years and have not seen one person, single-handedly, shoulder so much of a communal accomplishment,” Basch said.
Rodan — who is active with the federation, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Berkeley’s Judah L. Magnes Museum — isn’t done.
“It would be a horrible injustice, a horrible mistake, if this effort were to stop now,” he said. “We need to make sure the community is strong and vibrant for the future.”
This story "A Master of the Rolodex" was written by Josh Richman.