The Annual Conference on the Life and Legacy of the Rambam (Maimonides) took place in Tiberias last week. Between lectures given by a wide variety of Rabbis, professors and academic experts, the participants of the conference paid a visit to the Setton Family Maimonides Heritage Center (Mercaz Moreshet HaRambam).
At the center, Arutz Sheva TV met with Rabbi Yamin Levy, president of the center, who spoke of the special message he believes can and should be conveyed through the character of the Rambam - that of a positive and productive coexistence of religion and science, spirituality and physicality.
It was in the late summer of 2003, when Rabbi Yamin Levy and a few personal friends visited the customary tourist sites in and around the city of Tiberias, as well as the gravesite of Maimonides, also known as HaRambam. When they reached the gravesite, the visitors were horrified as the gravesite was neglected and appeared in such a state of disrepair that it had literally become a place where people threw out their garbage.
The area was, itself, disgusting, but because it was at the grave of the great teacher and sage Maimonides made it all the more repulsive. It was during that visit to the burial site of HaRambam that the dream of the Maimonides Heritage Center was born. The vision of turning this place into a center for study, education, tourism and inspiration was beginning to find expression. The dream was, and continues to be, to transform the surrounding area of Maimonides’ grave and the entire city of Tiberias into a place befitting the legacy of the “Great Eagle” HaRambam.
Upon his return to the United States Rabbi Yamin Levy put into motion the steps necessary to purchase the dilapidated building alongside the grave. Within four months the building was purchased, renovations underway, the area cleaned up, architectural plans designed and thus began the Maimonides Heritage Center.
“Our goals were simple,” says David Justin of the Maimonides Heritage Center (MHC), “rededicate the gravesite of Maimonides as a place to visit, learn and be inspired. This in order to help rehabilitate the entire city and take it back from the drug addicts, and in turn help revitalize the economy of Tiberias. Few things are as rewarding as the feeling that comes from working for a higher purpose.”
Today the MHC is run entirely by volunteers. Rabbi Levy and his entire board work tirelessly and voluntarily on behalf of the MHC. Since its inception a number of programs have been put in place. The programs include:
1. Setton Family Hospitality Center Museum open to the public with multimedia and educational displays presenting the life and legacy of Maimonides.
2. Daily Lunch program at the Takhkemoni School in Tiberias serving hundreds of school children their only hot meal of the day.
3. Over 80 Food Baskets delivered on a weekly basis to needy families through out the city of Tiberias.
4. Sherut Le’Umi Midrasha (National Service Study Center) with 40 young women working throughout the city of Tiberias and studying at the MHC.
5. Avot U’Banim Program where fathers and sons come to our center on a weekly basis for Torah Study, refreshments and prizes.
6. Imahot U’Banot Program where Mother and Daughter come to the center on a weekly basis for Torah Study and prizes.
7. Mo’Adonim, 5 after school clubs through out the city of Tiberias serving over 600 children weekly.
8. Renovation of park and basketball courts in the city of Tiberias.
9. Disseminating and make available the teachings and texts of Maimonides to the lay student through our website and lecture series.