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Illustration of David Baskin - Founded a nonprofit to benefit Israel's poor

Class Notes

David Baskin | Founded a nonprofit to benefit Israel's poor

As David Baskin walked around a kibbutz, formerly occupied by Israeli soldiers, he came across “a room bursting with stuff that had been discarded.” Shirts, shoes, jeans, sweaters, radios, and Game Boys—all items either too bulky or otherwise cast off by “lone soldiers,” as they called IDF soldiers without families, and left behind. “A light bulb went off in my head,” Baskin says. “Twenty-two percent of the people in this country are living in poverty. Soldiers were getting released. They accumulate things, mostly clothing, and that clothing can be used to provide basic assistance for those in poverty,” he says. When Baskin delivered 60 bags of clothing, books, and small electronics to Shanti House, a home for at-risk youth, he was taken aback as the children tried on the clothing or sat with a book. “You can connect with people through very basic acts,” he says. “These things matter—they provide dignity to people.”

That first donation became the basis for Ani Shlishi, a nonprofit Baskin co-founded that same year to benefit those living below the poverty line, regardless of region, race, or religion. The organization is named after Baskin’s beloved childhood baseball coach, Ross Freeland, who lived by a basic philosophy: “First comes the greater good. Second comes others. I am the third.”

“‘I am the third’—Ani Shlishi in Hebrew,” says Baskin, “means putting other people before yourself.”

As Ani Shlishi’s mission began to garner more attention, retail stores in Tel Aviv started donating new clothing items to the cause—something Baskin calls “a real game-changer.” This allowed the organization to create “pop-up” retail stores all over the city—at colleges, concerts, and social gatherings—offering new and gently used clothing sold by volunteers. With this new revenue stream, Baskin and his staff are now able to provide vocational training for needy Israelis, including lifeguard courses, paramedic training, and woodworking—“practical skills to give someone a tool kit to live self-sustainably, to live a life of happiness.”

He tells a story of a young man, homeless since 14, who was living “from bench to bench.” With the help of Ani Shlishi, he was able to get into drug rehab and begin a program to become a paramedic. “He told me that he never had any control in his life before,” says Baskin. “This is the first time he’s regaining control.”