Larry Goodman (center) with Prof. Rivka Carmi and Vice-President for External Relations Prof. Amos Drory.
The Lillian and Larry Goodman Open Apartments Program was officially named at a ceremony in the presence of Larry Goodman of Chicago, Illinois and his family on May 7, 2013. The Program is part of the University’s Community Action Department that runs a myriad of outreach programs in the area.
Goodman recalled how a chance encounter with an official from the Ministry of Housing, Gideon Vitkon – later Director-General of BGU – led to the allocation of the original 65 apartments to the program.
“Thirty years ago I was in Israel working with Project Renewal in the North. I met Gideon and he wanted to set up a meeting,” he explained. It turns out the two of them were going to be in Beer-Sheva the following day, so they arranged to meet for dinner. That day, Goodman heard from two women at BGU who wanted to launch a program where university students could live in the community in exchange for free housing, but they needed apartments to do it.
“I took them with me to dinner and I turned to Gideon and asked, ‘Does the government have any apartments available in this city?’ Two days later, he called me and said he could get some apartments. That’s how it got started,” Goodman recollected. Today the Lillian and Larry Goodman Open Apartments Program includes some 73 apartments located in Beer-Sheva’s most difficult neighborhoods.
President Prof. Rivka Carmi pointed out then that the second generation of Open Apartment beneficiaries was now living in the apartments.
“Open Apartments is the flagship program of our Community Action Department. It has been of enormous benefit to children, adults and the underprivileged communities that live in Beer-Sheva’s harshest neighborhood. We have students in the Open Apartments who themselves were neighborhood children who participated in the program. Not only are they attending the University, but they are participating in the program as a second generation. I don’t know if they would have made it to university at all without this program,” she said.
Director of the Community Action Department Vered Saroussi-Katz noted that for her, the University’s involvement in the neighborhoods around the University is very personal. “I grew up near an Open Apartments neighborhood. My parents forbade me to go near the area. It was too dangerous. Thirty five years later, the neighborhood is safer, thanks in part to our students,” she explained.
At the event, students and residents from the neighborhoods presented Larry Goodman with symbolic keys to apartments in all of the different areas where the Program is active.
L-R – Goodman Foundation representative and granddaughter Hailey Cole, Batsheva Levy, Sivan Politi, Vered Saroussi-Katz, Kiko Ayash, Prof. Rivka Carmi and Larry Goodman
Students from the Lillian and Larry Goodman Open Apartments Program with Larry Goodman