As I walk among the various facilities at the Keshet Eilon music center, I often think about Isacc Ribatzky, Keshet Eilon’s generous donor. Now, in these early days of spring, I find myself recalling him even more frequently than usual, as he died exactly six years ago. I met Isacc through the Shavit and Evan families on one of my visits to New York. He was introduced to me as a music-lover, and, indeed, that’s what he was. But apart from loving music, he was also extremely knowledgeable about it. He was familiar with a large number of works, missed no opportunity to hear new or well-tried interpretations of them, and the world of opera was especially close to his heart. An aesthete to his very fingertips, he was a renowned interior designer who loved art of every kind. Music, he believed, could make the world a place in which it is better and more agreeable to live.
After hearing from the Shavit and Evan families about Keshet Eilon and its mission, he began to meet up with me every year in New York at his apartment close by the Juilliard School. At these meetings he always expressed an interest in what was new with us, what we were planning for the coming year, how the Summer Course had gone and if we had discovered some new musical talent. Even though he no longer lived in Israel, which he had left in his youth, he was connected to it with every fiber of his being, and warmth and affection for the country and its inhabitants were evident in all his enquiries.
How painful it is to remember that our friendship was clouded from the outset by the knowledge that Isacc was ill. His cordiality, his lively interest in the world around him and his good spirits misled me always into believing that his condition was not so terribly serious. Thus, even though he promised me repeatedly that he intended to bequeath his estate to Keshet Eilon, I repressed this knowledge as something distant and therefore very vague, perhaps because I did not wish to believe how close he was to the end of his life. It was with the greatest sadness that I learned of my error: in the spring of 2013, six years ago, Isacc departed this life.
He kept his promise in full and left a large sum of money that enabled Keshet Eilon to flourish and bloom: his bequest was used to establish a scholarship fund to help string-instrument students who cannot afford to pay for their studies; to build some of the student accommodation and the accompanying cafeteria; and to commemorate him with the creation of the Isacc Lookout, a delightful scenic observation point that blooms anew every year in springtime.
Spring is the time when the forces of nature leap into action and garland our world with fresh leaves and flowers. Isacc’s generous hand is a driving force that has enabled Keshet Eilon to grow and its graduates to flourish. May there be many more people like him who, through their love for music, empower others to fulfil the promise of their talents and realize their dreams.
This week we mark the sixth anniversary of Isacc’s death. Were he to return now, he would derive enormous satisfaction, happiness and pride from the dreams his legacy has brought to fulfilment and the great extent to which, through it, he has helped musicians in Israel, the country he loved so much and whose image was forever before him.
May his memory be blessed.