Striving to be “game-changers” is what motivates the Dahan Family.
Whether it’s being amongst Israel’s pioneer families, transforming the campus of Bar-Ilan University, or strengthening Jewish institutions in Baltimore, generations of Dahans have made a difference in Jewish life and the world at large. It is a legacy that Nick Dahan and his wife, Mira, embrace enthusiastically and continue to build upon.
Visionaries for Peace
Nick and Mira just don’t talk about Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). They live it. Even as he was being interviewed from his home in Owings Mills, Maryland, Nick was preparing to meet with a major US philanthropist to join with him and other investors to build a Green Industrial Zone in Baltimore. According to Nick, this project will transform the area around Johns Hopkins University Medical Center by “inspiring a sense of hope and delivering on that promise with jobs.” He added, “This same model will be used in the Middle East, as part of a Visionaries for Peace plan I’ve developed … Job creation is key to creating a more peaceful region.”
The enormity of this project would be too daunting for most people — but not Nick Dahan. He learned from his late beloved parents, Haron and Rachel, that nothing extraordinary gets accomplished without a great deal of hard work and the fortitude to overcome obstacles.
A Family Tradition
When it comes to letting no challenge stand in the way of success, Nick learned his lessons well from his father, Haron. After joining the Haganah at age 16 and fighting for the establishment of the State of Israel as a member of the Irgun, Haron later came to the United States in the late 50s with virtually no money. From this unlikely background, Haron became one of Baltimore’s top home builders, and went on to help build Bar-Ilan into the major university that it is today.
A walk through the Bar-Ilan campus in Ramat Gan will take you past the Dahan Exodus Building, the Dahan Unity Park and Amphitheater, the Dahan Department of Sephardic Jewish Studies, and the Aharon and Rachel Dahan Center for Nano-Energy, which is rated as one of the best in the world for nanotechnology research on green energy.
Building a Better Bar-Ilan
Before he died two years ago, Haron was a leading visionary in securing the establishment of the new Bar-Ilan Medical School in Sefad. “Dad decided to make a game-changing gift that will strengthen the Medical School for decades to come. Through his generosity, the School will be able to provide scholarships that will keep Israel’s best and brightest medical students in the country, as well as have the necessary funds to buy equipment and purchase additional space.”
During their visit to the campus earlier this year as part of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University 60th Anniversary Celebration Mission, Nick and Mira met with many of the students who received Dahan scholarships this year. They are part of a long-line of hundreds of Dahan scholarship recipients over the years.
“It was gratifying to hear from them how much this scholarship assistance made a difference in their lives. One student came up to me and said he wouldn’t have been able to attend the University without this help. He told me it was a God-send for him. I know my parents would have been very pleased that this young man can now strive to fulfill his dreams,” said Nick.
Focusing on Education
Making people’s dreams come true is at the core of the Dahan family’s legacy. “Dad was the embodiment of the American dream. He learned the real estate business from the ground up. We moved around quite a bit as a family, which was hard for us, but he never gave up on his dream. Finally, everything came together in 1968 when he established Caddie Homes in Baltimore. In the 1980s, he added Dahan Homes. He became affluent, and focused his philanthropy on the cause of education, which he believed in strongly. The two main objects of his philanthropy were the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore and Bar-Ilan University in Israel.”
What Nick likes most about both the Community School and Bar-Ilan University is that “both educational institutions reach out to include all denominations of Jews.” He added, “That’s what attracts me so much to Bar-Ilan. It has a spirit of unity that opens the door for Jews of all backgrounds to better understand each other.”
Idealism “That Might Just Work”
Mira said, “I suppose we are idealists at heart, but we would like to believe that we are able to ground our sense of idealism in a way that might just work. If given half a chance, we will do everything in our power to help those who choose to make the world a little bit better, and to leave it behind a little bit safer.”
Education has played an important role in Nick’s life, and it is a central part of his project to maximize the potential of youth in Baltimore and the Middle East. After earning his law degree from the University of Maryland Law School, Nick used his legal knowledge to further strengthen the family business. He worked with his father for 30 years, and became Vice-President of Caddie Home and President of Dahan Homes. Nick personally sold, designed and built over 1200 custom homes in the Baltimore region and helped to develop dozens of new communities. He married Mira in 1975, and they have three daughters – Rachel, Lily and Erin. The Dahans are now proud grandparents of nine grandchildren.
Their dream now is to make their “beloved Baltimore” a better place to live for all its residents. “Baltimore has been good to our family, and we want to give back. My optimism grows out of the belief that when you have the power to make things better, you have an obligation to do so,” said Nick.
He added, “Our project will help grow our economy, protect the environment and weaken the hold of extremist thinking. It has the potential to stabilize and revitalize Baltimore’s inner-city, and be replicated in the Middle East and enable the people who live there to reclaim a sense of dignity and pride.”