If luck is all about being at the right place at the right time, then United Hatzalah founder Eli Beer has a very special brand of it. His path to success is one not only of luck but unabashed Israeli chutzpah.
“You need the combination of a great organization – which it is – but you also need some chutzpah. And I think the fact that I have that chutzpah is so important,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
Beer puts that unique combination to work every day when it comes to raising funds for an organization that since 2006 has treated 2.5 million people.
The non-profit, which started with 15 people, now boasts more than 4,000 volunteers. That kind of rapid expansion doesn’t come cheap, which is why Beer spends much of his time hitting the pavement to make sure the organization not only stays afloat, but also flourishes.
The growth of the organization is due to United Hatzalah donors and board members, who not only contribute monetarily to the organization but also become de facto ambassadors for it.
Take, for example, US Ambassador David Friedman. During his Senate confirmation hearing where he was vetted by legislators to see if he was fit for the position, Friedman spoke about his role as one of the original board members of United Hatzalah.
“You supported an organization called United Hatzalah, an Israeli organization of first responders who weave through traffic using advanced technology to save lives,” Sen. Bob Menendez said, reading comments Friedman provided to senate at the time.
“What makes the organization special is that it is comprised of Israeli citizens over the entire population – Jews, Muslims and Christians, religious and secular, right- and left-wing. They all operate under a single credo: treat patients in the order of the severity of their infliction, and never let any other considerations – political, religious or otherwise – influence your commitment to saving lives,” he added.
When asked if that philosophy drives his attitude toward Israelis and Palestinians in general, Friedman answered in the affirmative.
“I was in Israel this past summer at a session in the Knesset when an eight-year-old boy gave an award to a Muslim volunteer at United Hatzalah. The Muslim volunteer pulled his mother out of a burning car a year and a half earlier, saving her life. This organization represents the very best of the Israeli people and gives me hope,” he said.
Friedman, like other United Hatzalah board members, does more than just write a check.
Being a board member means working closely with Beer to decide how to move the organization forward so it can achieve its goals.
“All the people on the board are not just figureheads, they have an active role in the decision-making process,” Beer said.
However, securing high-profile people like Friedman is not easy and not every encounter with potential donors goes according to plan.
Take, for example, his meeting with Prof. Alan Dershowitz.
During an event at the President’s Residence, Beer approached Dershowitz asking him to be a member of the organization’s board.
“I never spoke to Alan Dershowitz in my life and when we met he said, ‘I heard so much about you, you do amazing work,’ and I said, ‘I’d love for you to be a member of our board,’” Beer recalled.
“‘I don’t join any boards,’ Dershowitz curtly replied and turned his back to walk away."
But if there is one thing that can be gleaned in the hour-long conversation with Beer and the Post, it is that Beer does not take no for an answer.
“I said, ‘Prof. Dershowitz, I guarantee that if you join our board, we’re going to save a lot more lives,’ He stops. Thinks for a second. He asks me, ‘Do you treat everyone equally?’” Beer remembers Dershowitz asking him.
Beer answered yes, explaining that United Hatzalah is open to and treats both Jews and non-Jews, to which Dershowitz replied, “I’m in.”
It’s the only board Dershowitz is actively involved in.
That encounter epitomizes Beer’s fund-raising prowess.
“Nobody would have gone to Alan Dershowitz and said, ‘You need to join our board.’ Nobody would have argued with him. I did not want to let go,” Beer said proudly.
“It is one of my great honors and privileges to serve on the board of Hatzalah which is the essence of pikuah nefesh – the saving of human lives before anything else. I don’t usually like to be on boards, but this is one that does so much good,” Dershowitz said in Miami Beach during an event in 2016.
“It’s very hard to get to these people, because everyone wants something from them,” Beer explained, saying that even at this stage in the game, securing face time with prominent and wealthy individuals remains a challenge.
But as Friedman stepped down from being an official ambassador of United Hatzalah to an official ambassador for the State of Israel, Beer was in search of his replacement.
A few months ago, Beer approached former US senator Joe Lieberman.
“‘My wife Hadassah will kill me if I join one more board,’” Lieberman joked at the time.
“Don’t worry, if she tries to kill you, we will save you,” Beer retorted.
“They couldn’t find anybody else,” Lieberman joked in a selfie video taken with Beer that was sent to Friedman and shared with the Post.
“Nobody can replace David Friedman. Don’t tell Hadassah that I agreed to go on another board. But, be’ezrat Hashem [with God’s help] you do beautiful work; how could I say no?” It is perhaps that overarching justification that unites all of United Hatzalah board members which ultimately turns their “no” into a resounding “yes.” And for an organization that relies 100% on donations, securing that kind of commitment is critical.
This article was written in cooperation with United Hatzalah.