Arizona Philanthropists Bring Music to Israeli Desert School


Susan and Lee Berk sponsor renowned jazz musician Tamir Hendelman, in Arad Conservatory workshop


Phoenix, May 16, 2023 — Located in Israel’s Negev Desert, the Arad Conservatory, recently renovated and revitalized with the help of Jewish National Fund-USA, sponsored a workshop for students featuring Tamir Hendelman, renowned jazz musician and performer, thanks to the support of local philanthropists Susan and Lee Berk. About 50 students participated in the workshop, where they got a firsthand introduction to jazz improvisation skills, complementing the classical education they receive at the conservatory.


Tamir Hendelman leading a workshop


Susan and Lee Berk serve on Jewish National Fund-USA’s Arts & Entertainment Task Force which works to support culture-related initiatives such as the conservatory in Arad. The city, which is some thirty miles east of Be’er Sheva, had been neglected for decades until Jewish National Fund-USA, in partnership with the city, began to change the region’s narrative. Now, the city is undergoing a renaissance as its mayor partners with Jewish National Fund-USA to create high quality of life opportunities and in turn, attract new residents from Israel’s crowded central cities.  As such, the conservatory has been completely remodeled and renovated to serve more than 400 local students with a world-class music education. Speaking of their work with the Task Force, Lee Berk said, “[this visit] demonstrates a recognition that Arad is achieving important milestones in music education… this community has a bright future.”


For Hendelman, an Israeli who moved to the United States at the age of twelve, returning to Israel with the Berks’ support and partnering with Jewish National Fund-USA and the Arad Conservatory was a meaningful and enriching experience. As the founder of the Spirit of Israel Ensemble, he is passionate about using music to build bridges between communities.


“There is a feeling that something is blooming here,” said Hendelman. “Arad’s support of the arts makes it a very special place, and I was very impressed by how the city has partnered with Jewish National Fund-USA to bring more culture to the city. Music education that starts when kids are young is so important, and the fact that the conservatory has been remodeled to be bright, colorful, and inviting just shows how invested they are in the next generation.”


For the students, being introduced to jazz improvisation was a novel experience. Hendelman remarked that their principal encouraged them to push themselves, try new things, and open their minds to new ideas, which is part of what makes music education so valuable as students are given the opportunity to stretch their imaginations.


Hendelman and the Berks continue to partner to bring art and culture to the Phoenix Jewish community as well as the people of Arad through a variety of concert and workshop opportunities.


To learn more about upcoming events or get involved with Jewish National Fund-USA, contact Itzik Becher at or  480.447.8100 x982



Media Contact:

Mara Fahl

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About Jewish National Fund-USA

Jewish National Fund-USA builds a strong, vibrant future for the land and people of Israel through bold initiatives and Zionist education. As a leading philanthropic movement, the organization supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south as it develops new communities in the Negev and Galilee, connects the next generation to Israel, and creates infrastructure and programs that support ecology, people with disabilities, and heritage site preservation, all while running a fully accredited study abroad experience through its Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Learn more at