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October 13: Alan Slifka and the Abraham Fund

Lawrence Bush
October 12, 2016
Alan B. Slifka, a philanthropist who co-founded (with Eugene Wiener) the Abraham Fund Initiatives in 1989, the first nonprofit organization outside Israel dedicated to furthering coexistence between Israeli Arabs and Jews, was born along with his twin sister in New York on this date in 1929. Slifka was a product of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School as well as Yale and Harvard, and worked in finance for more than three decades, founding Halcyon Asset Management, a $10 billion company. In 1977, he became the founding chair of the Big Apple Circus and its New York School for Circus Arts. In 2001, he founded the Slifka Program on Intercommunal Coexistence at Brandeis University, which offers a master’s degree in conflict resolution and the cultivation of peace. The Abraham Fund, which Slifka enjoyed describing as a “coexistence mutual fund,” has provided millions of dollars in grants for anti-racist educational programs and Arab-Jewish collaboration in theater, education, social work, and music. “People from completely different backgrounds and cultures sit around the [circus] ring and laugh at the same time, worry at the same time, and applaud at the same time. The ambassador of Israel once told me, ‘I come to this event every year, and it gives me hope for the world.’ ”--Alan Slifka

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.