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Abramowitz in 2006
|Born||1964 (age 55–56)|
|Occupation||Business leader, activist|
Yosef Abramowitz is President and CEO of Energiya Global Capital as well as co-founder of the Arava Power Company. He is an activist and former candidate for President of Israel.
Abramowitz was born in 1964. He lived in Israel as a child from 1969–1972, before returning to Boston. While living in Massachusetts, he attended the Solomon Schechter School of Greater Boston, and graduated in 1980 from Hebrew College Prozdor and in 1982 from Brookline High School. He is a Young Judaean; having worked at Camp Sprout Lake, CYJ California, and was a camper, counselor and unit head at Tel Yehuda, and he participated in the 1982–1983 Young Judaea Year Course in Israel program on a Hadassah scholarship. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Jewish Public Policy from Boston University in 1986, where he studied under Elie Wiesel, Howard Zinn and Hillel Levine, and a Master of Arts in Magazine Journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1991, which he attended on a Wexner Graduate Fellowship. He is married to Rabbi Susan Silverman and they have five children, two of whom were adopted from Ethiopia. Silverman, a well known activist for religious pluralism and international adoption, was recently named to The Forward 50 Most Influentials list, as well as Jewrotica's Top 10 Sexy Rabbis of 2013.
Named by CNN as one of the top six Green Pioneers worldwide, Yosef Abramowitz serves as President of the Arava Power Company (2006–2013) and is now focused on serving as CEO and President of Energiya Global (2011–) founding both companies with partners David Rosenblatt of New Jersey and Ed Hofland of Kibbutz Ketura.
Arava Power is Israel's leading solar developer and a pioneer in mid-size and large-size solar fields. Arava Power built the first grid-connected solar field in Israel and closed on $300 million for the next eight solar fields in Israel, with a further $1.2 billion worth of projects in the pipeline. Energiya Global develops affordable solar projects worldwide, with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.
An entrepreneur, environmentalist, educator and human rights activist, Yosef was featured on CNN's "The Next List" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta  in 2013 for his life's work, including efforts in bringing solar power on a commercial basis to developing nations. Yosef was named to The Jerusalem Post list of 50 most influential Jews worldwide in 2011, 2012, and 2013, joining the ranks of Mark Zuckerberg (#1), Shimon Peres (#22), Jon Stewart (#27), and Bar Refaeli (#50) among others—including Sarah Silverman, who happens to be his sister-in-law. He was also named by Calcalist, a leading economic daily, as one of Israel's top environmentalists in 2010 and, in 1991, as the most influential Jewish student leader of the previous decade, according to Moment Magazine. Abramowitz was named by Haaretz as one of 2011's top ten most influential Anglo immigrants. He has been co-nominated 3 times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his human rights work with Union of Councils for Soviet Jews in the former Soviet Union. Yosef was also awarded "Person of the Year" by the 2012 Israel Energy and Business Convention.
In 2006, he moved from Newton, Massachusetts to Kibbutz Ketura. In 2006, he was named to the 3rd spot on the Atid Ehad Knesset list, 2008 Abramowitz was elected to the 19th spot on the Israel Green Movement Knesset list, and, along with his wife, was part of Naomi Tsur's Ometez Lev party for the Jerusalem City Council.
Arava Power Company
Abramowitz co-founded the solar industry in Israel and the Arava Power Company in 2006 with David Rosenblatt of New Jersey and Ed Hofland of Kibbutz Ketura. He has served as the company's President. Arava Power Company's mission is to supply 10% of Israel's electricity needs through solar energy. Specifically, APC works with kibbutzim, moshavim, and Bedouins in the south of the country.
In August 2008, Siemens Project Ventures invested $15 Million in the Arava Power Company. In a press release published that month, Peter Löscher, President and CEO of Siemens AG said: "This investment is another consequential step in further strengthening our green and sustainable technologies". Siemens now holds a 40% stake in the company. On 21 November 2010, the Minister of National Infrastructure, Uzi Landau, signed a Power Purchase Agreement with Ketura Sun Company (owned by Arava Power Company) worth an estimated 250 Million NIS. The agreement is valid for twenty years and guarantees that the energy produced at Ketura Sun will be transferred to the Israel Electric Corporation's power lines. It is the first PPA in Israel with a solar energy company. In December 2010 Bank Hapoalim signed an agreement with Arava Power to extend a loan of 80 Million NIS to APC in order to fund the Ketura Sun project (valued at ~100 Million NIS). In 2011 Arava Power established the first commercial solar field in Israel in Kibbutz Ketura. On 22 May 2012 Arava Power announced that it had reached financial close on an additional 58.5 MW for 8 projects to be built in the Arava and the Negev valued at 780 Million NIS or approximately $204 Million. APC President and Co-Founder Yosef Abramowitz stated, "Our work is not yet done. Israel needs to adopt the European Union goal of 20 % Renewables by 2020 and this major milestone by Arava Power is proof positive that it can be reached. Furthermore, an injustice must be corrected by creating a special quota of solar fields for Bedouin land owners, who are locked out of the current solar program."
Abramowitz said in a 2010 interview with The Jerusalem Post: "We are implementing Prime Minister Netanyahu's vision to cease use of fossil fuels within a decade and [help Israel] develop alternative energies for itself and the world". Abramowitz calls solar energy the "energy of peace"; in a 2008 interview he said "To realize that the same sun shines equally on all of us, is owned by none of us, and can supply our energy needs in abundance, inherently promotes peace. The sun doesn't recognize borders." Abramowitz has met with energy ministers and officials from over four dozen countries to assist them plan for a solar energy future for their countries.
Energiya Global Capital
Abramowitz is the President, CEO and co-founder, along with David Rosenblatt, Ed Hofland, and Howie Rodenstein of Energiya Global Capital, founded in 2011. Created to address the urgent need to expand access to renewable energy throughout the world, currently Energiya Global is working on projects in Rwanda, South Africa and the Southeastern United States.
The humanitarian angle is a part of Energiya's "quadruple bottom line." "In addition to being profitable, the company seeks to benefit the environment, bolster communities, and project an image of Israel as an "emerging superpower of goodness" that exports solutions to the world's most intractable humanitarian problems: water, medicine, energy and agriculture." said Mr. Abramowitz. "The human race bears a moral and practical imperative to provide power for all, while also transitioning from burning fossil fuels to harnessing renewables."
Energiya Global Capital is the first Israeli company to become a founding member of President Obama's "Power Africa" Initiative and sub-initiative "Beyond the Grid." Over an initial five-year period, Beyond the Grid will leverage partnerships with 27 investors and practitioners, including Energiya Global Capital, committing to invest over $1 billion into off-grid and small scale solutions for the underserved market of sub-Saharan Africa. These private sector commitments will help Power Africa meet and exceed its commitment to provide access to 20 million new connections for households and commercial entities, providing electricity to millions of households in sub-Saharan Africa.
In cooperation with Dutch developer Gigawatt Global and its co-founder Chaim Motzen, in 2014 Energiya Global completed the first utility-scale solar field in eastern Sub-Saharan Africa – on the green hills east of Rwanda's capital, Kigali. The 8.5 MW field is located at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, both a home and an educational institution for hundreds of children, most of them orphans whose parents were killed during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The $24 million power plant added 6% to Rwanda's power generation capacity. "It's phenomenal for Rwanda because our energy is much cheaper than diesel. And then the youth village enjoys the benefit of technical training. This way, graduates of the village will be able to spread solar power all over Rwanda and then East Africa," says Abramovitz. The Rwanda solar field is a proof-of-concept to successfully develop and finance commercial-scale solar fields throughout Africa and in the developing world. "It is a game-changer for humanity and the environment."
The U.S. affiliate of Energiya Global – Energiya USA – won a $30 million contract to build a 17.68 MW solar field in southeast Georgia in 2014. It will be the first utility-scale solar field in that part of the state. The 79-acre field will be constructed in Glynn County, Georgia and is expected to be interconnected by the last day of 2015. The power purchase agreement with the Georgia Power Company promises 20 years of solar power.
Abramowitz hopes that "within a decade or so, some 1 billion people in the developing world will benefit from solar generated electricity." Energiya Global is located in Jerusalem and is actively involved in the Israeli capital city's efforts to go green. In 2013 Energiya Global co-sponsored the Cool Globes exhibit outside of the Old City's gates. Cool Globes is part of the city's Green Pilgrim initiative, with the purpose of inspiring a call to environmental action.
Abramowitz founded the anti-apartheid and divestiture movement at Boston University. However, Abramowitz refused to participate in any protest event for which he was not the keynote speaker, so consequently he was not among those arrested at the largest anti-apartheid demonstration held on BU's campus, the BU-eleven. Years later, he took part for the first time in direct action, and was banned from pre-democratic South Africa, and led in 1997 the successful campaign to reinstate $7 billion to the United States federal budget as corrections to the Welfare Reform Act. Abramowitz served as the president of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews from 1997–2007, and has been co-nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the keynote speaker at Russia's national human rights convention in 2004. He helped to establish the Ethiopian Atid Ehad political party in Israel. Abramowitz is an active advocate of solar power in Israel, for both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. While investigating the burning of Jewish homes in Ethiopia, Abramowitz was held up at gunpoint. He has helped organized various human rights demonstrations in 23 countries.
He has been arrested two times. The first arrest, outside of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. in October 1985, was on behalf of Boris Lifshitz. "The U.S. Supreme Court overturned [Abramowitz's] conviction, setting precedent on First Amendment rights outside embassies." The second arrest was on behalf of Ethiopian Jewry. Israel Border Police beat Abramowitz outside of the Jerusalem Convention Center at the World Zionist Congress in 1987. The then-newly elected Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Mendel Kaplan, freed him from the police van before police could transport him to jail.
Abramowitz has led two hunger strikes. The first was a fourteen-day strike that protested Boston University's investments in South Africa during the apartheid era. Abramowitz was banned from pre-democratic South Africa for his anti-apartheid leadership. The second was during Abramowitz's time serving as the chairperson of the World Union of Jewish Students. This two-week strike was held on behalf of the Soviet Prisoner of Zion Alexei Magarik, "who was subsequently released from prison and flown to Israel. [Abramowitz] organized 23 demonstrations and events worldwide in February 1987 for the most successful ever International Jewish Student Solidarity day for Soviet Jewry." Alexei, subsequent to his release from solitary confinement and his release to Israel, was the last Prisoner of Zion in the USSR.
Along with Anthony Bedard, George Lundskow, and Jeff Weaver, the case Abramowitz et. al. v. Boston University helped set a precedent for free speech rights at private institutions in Massachusetts.
Honors and awards
- 2014 Bonei Zion prize for Entrepreneurship and Technology, Nefesh B'Nefesh
- Featured on a 30-minute CNN "The Next List" episode in 2013
- Named Person of the Year for 2012 by the Israel Energy and Business Convention
- Chosen as one of CNN's Green Pioneers of 2012
- Named by PV Tech as one of the most inspiring global solar CEOs
- 2012 Captain Sunshine Green Prophet Award
- 2011, 2012, 2013 Named to The Jerusalem Post list of the world's 50 most influential Jews worldwide
- 2011 Named by Ha'aretz as one of the most influential Anglo-immigrants
- 2010 Named by Calcalist as one of Israel's top environmentalists
- 2009 Profiled in "Jewish Sages of Today" by Targum Shlishi
- 2004 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education
- 1996–2004, 14 journalism awards
- 1998 Charlotte Bloomberg Award
- 1990–1994 Wexner Graduate Fellowship
- 1998–2000 Co-nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize for work in the former Soviet Union
- Israel's 'Captain Sunshine' May Say 'Aye, Aye' To Presidential Run
- First E. African utility scale solar field, run by J'lemites, reaches financial close
- Civil Disobedience, a Love Story
- Israel's Energiya to build solar field in Georgia
- Captain Sunshine Announces Run For President
- Could Sarah Silverman Be Joining Israel's First Family?
- The Sun Keeps Shining On Yosef Abramowitz
- Kaptain Sunshine, The Luckiest Guy On The Planet
- Abramowitz Settles Score With Israel's Bureaucracy
Writings and educational innovation
Yosef Abramowitz pioneered the Jewish webzine, in 1996, and websites that he established have recorded over half a billion page views, and have reached more Jews than ever before with an affirming, inclusive and relevant message about Jewish life.
Abramowitz, in partnership with Martin Kaminer and others, founded or co-founded many magazines, editorial projects, and pioneer programs, including Jewish Family & Life!, BabagaNewz (with Sue Laden, Mem Bernstein and the Avi Chai Foundation), JVibe (with Alisa Silverman), JBooks (with Judy Bolton Fasman), SocialAction.com (with Rabbi Sue Fendrick), Sh'ma (with Susan Berrin and Amir Cohen, where he also served as executive editor), MyJewishLearning.com (with Edgar M. Bronfman, and Hebrew College), InterfaithFamily.com (with Ed Case), and Jskyway.com (with Jon Woocher and JESNA). With Marcela Kanfer Rolnik, Abramowitz launched for Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman birthrightisrael.com, through which over 300,000 young people have come to Israel on programs.
He has served as a columnist for The Daily Free Press (1983–86), Israel Scene Magazine (1988–90), Moment Magazine (1993–95), Jewish newspapers (1998–2004), The Chronicle of Philanthropy (2004–2006), Ha'aretz English edition (2010), and The Jerusalem Post (2013–).
Two of his articles, "Mystery of the Missing Millions" (1997) and "Israel and the Sudanese Prisoners" (2006), were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Abramowitz served on the Executive Board of the World Jewish Congress from 1987–1990. Abramowitz says his inspiration comes from: "Jewish peoplehood, which has been my big passion for the last decade."
Abramowitz and his wife, Rabbi Susan Silverman, wrote the best-seller Jewish Family and Life: Traditions, Holidays, and Values for Today's Parents and Children, which was published by Golden Books from St. Martin's Press on 15 September 1998. It was subsequently also released in paperback. Approximately 50,000 copies were sold. He is the brother-in-law of comedian Sarah and actress Laura Silverman, and the family appears in Sarah's hit book, The Bedwetter.
Other writing credits
- Chapter in What Israel Means to Me, with Alan Dershowitz, 2006
- How Americans Feel About Israel, with Steve J. Rosen, AIPAC, 1984
- Jews, Zionism, and South Africa, 1984, second edition, 1985, B'nai B'rith / Hillel
- Sex, Lies and Leadership, JFL Books, 1987, with Ronnie Friedland
- Life on the Fringes, A Feminist Journey Toward Traditional Rabbinic Ordination, by Haviva Ner-David, JFL Books, 2000
- Jewish Student Activist Handbook, World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) 1986
The family are members of the Reform Kol HaNeshama congregation in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Baqa, under the leadership of Rabbi Levi Kelman. In February, 2013, Rabbi Susan Silverman and daughter Hallel, then 17, were arrested with eight others as part of the monthly Women of the Wall prayer service for wearing prayer shawls. (They were given civil disobedience training from Abramowitz the night before, which was utilized). The news of the arrests went global and viral, as Jerusalem Post reporter Tovah Lazaroff tweeted that Sarah Silverman's sister and niece were under arrest. Their arrest catalyzed a global movement for change, with Women of the Wall making historic strides for religious freedom at Judaism's holiest site. The courts sided with religious freedom.
The monthly prayer sessions are a family event, with police protecting Women of the Wall and their supporters. The Forward documented the family's role in the video, "Family of the Wall," produced by Harvey Stein.
Abramowitz is a sought after speaker on a wide range of topics, from impact investing, peoplehood and an Israeli vision for global solar power. An early leader of promoting peoplehood, he owns the Trademark for "Peoplehood." He has addressed audiences in dozens of countries, and speaks at prestigious events like the Milken Institute, the General Assembly, and major business conferences in Israel and abroad. He was a featured speaker in Abu Dhabi at a Gulf-wide solar conference, and often makes time to speak to student leadership groups, particularly an annual lecture for the Argov Fellows at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, ROI events and classes at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
Abramowitz is a featured speaker with the Jewish Federations of North America, and recently was a scholar in residence for the Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston and UJA Federation of Toronto. He addresses the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C. on 2 March 2015.
On 10 July 2013, a group spearheaded by the Israel Electric Vehicle Association and Abramowitz won the bids in liquidation court for both the operating company and the intellectual assets of Better Place. Efi Shahak, chairman of the Association, led the transformation of the operating company from a monthly burn of $8 million to less than a $1 million, saving the company and making it viable. "My goal isn't to run Better Place," Abramowitz said at the time. "My goal is to save the dream and have others run it. " As part of the court decision, 350 Better Place cars were awarded to the new group to sell, but the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety has blocked the sale and even appealed to Israel's High Court of Justice to block the sale. This, along with the database for billing drivers $250,000 a month proving to be unusable, undermined investor confidence. On 25 August, the deal to acquire the operating company was cancelled and outstanding matters are going through the courts. On 25 August 2013, The Central District Court agreed to sell the assets of the defunct Better Place electric car company to the Tsahi Merkur's Success Group for NIS 11 million.
Abramowitz served on the student committee of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday Commission, which founded the national holiday in the United States for the civil rights leader, and met secretly with Coretta Scott King in 1985 to help the King family's campaign to have the King papers donated to the King Center, from Boston University.
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