Chaim Topol was an Israeli actor, singer, and producer, best known for his iconic portrayal of the character Tevye in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" and his role in “Salah Shabati.” Sadly, Topol passed away at 87 last week after suffering from Alzheimers for a year. Topol has left a great legacy behind, including his entertainment work, but also so much more.
What many people don’t even know is that Topol was majorly involved with the Jordan River Village: a unique nonprofit organization in the lower Galilee of Israel that provides free, year-round programs and activities for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. The village is designed to give these children a fun and safe environment where they can be themselves, meet others facing similar challenges, and experience a range of exciting activities that they may not otherwise be able to enjoy.
Topol has been a passionate supporter of the Jordan River Village since its inception in 2001. He first learned about the organization through his friend and fellow actor Paul Newman, who founded a similar camp in the United States called the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Impressed by the impact that the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was having on children with serious illnesses, Topol decided to get involved with the Jordan River Village and help bring the same kind of experience to children in Israel.
Over the years, Topol has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and support for the Jordan River Village. He has donated his time, energy, and resources to help the organization grow and thrive, and has even participated in several fundraising events and campaigns. He has been a spokesperson for the Village, using his platform as a celebrity to bring attention to the important work that they do. In addition to this, he also served as the chairman of the organization’s Israeli board for countless years.
Thanks in part to Topol's efforts, the Jordan River Village has been able to expand its programs and reach more children and families than ever before. Today, the village serves thousands of children from Israel and around the world, providing them with an unforgettable camp experience and a much-needed break from the challenges of their illnesses.
In recognition of his incredible work with the Jordan River Village, Topol received numerous awards and honors, including the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Performing Arts and the Presidential Medal of Distinction. He never let it get to his head, though. When receiving the Israel Prize, he felt bad taking it because he knew so many people that have deserved it and never got it. He was also always quick to credit the “real heroes” of the Jordan River Village: the children, families, and staff who inspire him every day with their courage, resilience, and love. He would especially emphasize the staff, which was made almost entirely of volunteers in such a spirit of giving that is not seen in many places.
Although kids with disabilities go through so many physical challenges in daily life, one of their hardest things they have to deal with is feeling included. This camp allows them to feel like they belong and that they are on the same level as everyone else there.
Besides the Jordan River Village, Topol also served on the board of directors of Variety Israel, which helps children and youth with special needs.
In conclusion, Chaim Topol was not only the talented performer that contributed to Israeli culture and helped Israelis connect to their roots, but also a dedicated philanthropist that made a profound impact on the lives of countless children with disabilities and life-threatening illnesses.
Through his support of the Jordan River Village, he helped to create a safe space where these children can feel safe, supported, and loved, and has given them the chance to experience joy and adventure in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Topol's legacy of generosity, humbleness and compassion is an inspiration to us all, and his work with the Jordan River Village will continue to touch lives for generations to come.
Image Description: Chaim Topol poses with children at the Jordan River Village, which he helped establish and served as chairman of its board. Courtesy of Jordan River Village
Image Credit: As appears in the page https://forward.com/fast-forward/539169/chaim-topol-known-worldwide-for-his-starring-role-in-fiddler-on-the-roof-dies-at-87/