Matthew Bronfman is not only confident that Israel’s financial markets are not endangered by the recent worldwide financial turmoil, he is so calm about it that this week, he is allowing himself to devote much of his attention to entirely nonfinancial endeavors. While many of his colleagues are busy panicking, Bronfman is concentrating on the first local Limmud Conference for Jews from the former Soviet Union, which will take place on September 25 and 26 in Ashkelon.
Bronfman chairs Limmud FSU and will participate in three sessions during the conference, including one titled “Why do I invest in Israel?” More than 1,500 Russian speakers from all over the country are expected to attend the event, which will feature 170 lecturers leading 150 sessions on various aspects of Jewish identity, culture and history.
Limmud was founded 25 years ago in the U.K. and its model of volunteer-based educational events has since been imported to 35 Jewish communities all over the world.
Meanwhile, despite the turmoil on Wall Street, Bronfman is sanguine about the local financial scene. “There is no danger for the Israeli banking system, not at all,” said Bronfman, the controlling shareholder of Israel Discount Bank and chairman of a New York-based investment firm.
Commenting that he hopes the Israeli public does not panic about Israeli banks, as there is absolutely no reason to, Bronfman told Haaretz last night that his bank would be paying NIS 250 million in dividends to shareholders next month, as planned.
Bronfman, whom TheMarker listed as the 33rd most influential man in Israel earlier this month, said he allows himself to spend time on the Limmud conference because he believes the world market is in good hands.
“I have a lot of faith in Hank Paulson,” he said, referring to the U.S. treasury secretary, who is widely credited with the $700 billion bail-out Washington has provided to stabilize the economy. “I think he is taking the right actions at the right time, and that he is acting very quickly and very decisively.”
While Bronfman acknowledged that this is a “very difficult time” for the financial markets, he said he is confident that “the system as a whole will be absolutely stable. The governments are stepping in to make sure it will be.”