We are saddened by the passing of Chaim Topol, founder of Jordan River Village, the SeriousFun camp in Israel.
Chaim Topol’s commitment to serving the children living with serious illnesses in the Israeli region was unmatched and his legacy will live on through the lasting impact of Jordan River Village on the children and families it serves.
As leaders, entertainers, and individuals from all around the world share their loving thoughts in support of Topol’s family and the people of Israel who adored him, we at SeriousFun Children's Network join them in mourning the loss of an icon and champion for children. His ever-caring spirit, and his profound impact on thousands of families, will be remembered by our community near and far.
In honor of Topol, here is a message from our friends at Jordan River Village:
We at the Jordan River Village are deeply saddened by the loss of our President and Israel Prize laureate, the late actor Chaim Topol z”l. Our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time. Topol, who was the founder of the Jordan River Village, served as its chairman of the board from its inception until 2020 when he was appointed president.
Topol first learned about the idea of the Jordan River Village from his friend, the late actor Paul Newman, founder of the Seriousfun Network of camps in the US. Together with Murray and Marilyn Grant (z”l), Topol helped bring the dream of a place for sick children and their families to life.
Topol was an inspiration to all of us due to his unwavering dedication to the village. He visited regularly, interacted, and encouraged the campers, and accompanied them during their stay. Often, you could find Topol acting as camp counsellor, whether he was assisting at the climbing wall, performing alongside the children on stage, dancing, or participating in other activities, Topol was always there for the children.
Shalom Ashkenazi, the current CEO of the Jordan River Village, said of Topol: "Like every Israeli, I knew Chaim Topol as an admired and beloved actor. It is a great privilege to take part in his life's work, which expresses Chaim's wonderful personality. His moving legacy will continue to inspire Jordan River Village's effort. Thanks to his perseverance and investment, the Jordan River Village became the tremendous and significant enterprise that it is today for thousands of girls and boys and thousands of families who are privileged throughout the year to come to the Village and celebrate life. Topol will forever remain an inseparable part of the village and his legacy will continue with us for generations to come. May his memory be blessed."
Topol's work and contribution to the Jordan River Village were recognized with the President's Award for Volunteers in 2014, and last year he received the prestigious Knesset Speaker's Award.
In 2015, Topol said, "The Jordan River Village is the most important thing that I am connected to in my life, besides family."
Topol recounted a conversation he had with Paul Newman in 2001. Paul Newman had told him while he was visiting a camp he had founded in Connecticut, that he would be very proud if a similar summer camp was established in Israel. Topol replied that in a small country like Israel, we don't have the luxury of building a summer camp that operates only two months a year, but a need for a village that could operate year-round. Topol then set out to turn that dream in to reality.