Raya Strauss Ben-Dror: A Philanthropic Visionary

Raya Strauss Ben-Dror, born on February 11, 1940, is a businesswoman, social entrepreneur, and philanthropist. She co-owned the Strauss Group with her brother Michael and held key positions within the company's senior management and board of directors.

Raya Strauss was born in Nahariya, Israel. Her parents, Dr. Richard and Hilda Strauss, immigrated to Israel in 1936 as fifth-wave pioneers, along with their son Michael. They were among the founders of Nahariya.

They became farmers and cultivated various crops, eventually expanding to include cows. Over time, their cattle population grew, leading to increased milk production.

Raya, known for her excellent culinary skills, started crafting various dairy products from surplus milk, which she and her husband Michael sold to the residents of Nahariya and British soldiers in the region. This dairy enterprise eventually grew into Strauss Dairies in Nahariya.

Raya Strauss attended the WIZO high school in Nahariya and was an active member of the United Movement youth group. She also served as a commander in the "HaPoel Nahariya" sea scouts.

She studied marketing, business management, and public relations at the University of Haifa and later specialized in family business studies at Kellogg School of Management in the United States. She further honed her expertise in Business Social Responsibility (BSR) during her time in the U.S.

Raya Strauss married Zev Medin, and they had three children. Since 1984, she has been married to businessman Samuel Ben-Dror.

Business Ventures

From 1965 to 2005, Raya Strauss Ben-Dror co-owned the Strauss Group with her brother Michael Strauss. She played a significant role in the senior management and board of directors during this time.

Together with her brother, she established "Strauss Investments (1992) Ltd," focusing on investments in Israel and abroad, where she continues to serve as a joint president. Additionally, she holds shares in a private investment company under her exclusive ownership.

Following the merger of Strauss and Elite in 2005, Raya made the decision to retire from the Strauss Group and sell all her shares in the company. Since then, she has devoted most of her time to philanthropic activities and social entrepreneurship in Israel, in addition to her independent business ventures.

During her tenure at Strauss, Raya, alongside Michael Strauss, spearheaded several strategic moves that elevated Strauss into a leading international company. Notable accomplishments included forming partnerships with global giants such as Unilever, Danone, and PepsiCo-Frito Lay, positioning Strauss at the forefront of the food market in Israel and worldwide.

Raya was also instrumental in advancing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives within the company, including increasing donations and promoting social activities, along with implementing "Beautiful Israel," a program that established environmental standards within manufacturing plants and organizations. During her time at Strauss, Raya initiated the first-ever corporate social responsibility report in Israel.

Public Activity

Raya Strauss Ben-Dror has been a private supporter of various social organizations for many years. In recent years, her activities have primarily focused on improving the quality of life in the Western Galilee, the region where she was born and currently resides. Among other initiatives, she supports Keshet Eilon, a kibbutz-based dance troupe, where she serves as a patron.

She is also involved with Beit Ghetto Fighters, an institution dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, and the Galilee Medical Center, where she serves as the president of the Friends Association.

The Galilee Medical Center, serving a population of approximately 600,000 residents, has become one of Israel's leading medical centers, equipped with advanced technological facilities, research units, and top-tier medical professionals.

In recent years, due to the Israeli government's decision to treat wounded Syrian individuals, the Galilee Medical Center has emerged as a global hub for war injury treatment.

Raya Strauss Ben-Dror initiated the integration of the Galilee Medical Center into a nationwide pilot project (in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Philanthropic Fund for National Initiatives) aimed at reducing infections in hospitals. The medical center utilized the experience gained from treating hundreds of Syrian patients carrying drug-resistant bacteria in the design of this project.

Participation in the pilot program led to a significant decrease in infection rates. Together with Michael Iluz, the chairman of the Friends Association, Raya initiated the first-ever international conference on trauma and war injuries. The conference, held in October 2018, attracted experts from Israel and abroad to learn about the unique experience accumulated at the Galilee Medical Center.

As part of her efforts to realize the "Western Galilee Leap" vision (in collaboration with Gidi Grinstein's Reut Institute), aiming to improve the quality of life in the Western Galilee, Raya established the philanthropic project "Treasures of the Galilee" to promote tourism in the Western Galilee, increase employment opportunities, and enhance the income of local residents.

In October 2015, she launched the "Galilee Spirit" project, involving about 180 residents of the Western Galilee from diverse backgrounds, including religious and secular, local government leaders, factory managers, and social entrepreneurs, who work together to plan a leap in the quality of life in the region. Raya also actively volunteers alongside the industrialist Michael Iluz.

In addition to her extensive activities in the Western Galilee, Raya is involved with various social organizations in Israel, with a particular focus on two areas:

    1. As part of the United Jewish Appeal's partnership program, Raya filled several roles:

    2. Raya was one of the founders of the Israeli branch of the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), a network of Jewish philanthropists from around the world.

In 2015, Raya Strauss Ben-Dror established the Raya Strauss Ben-Dror Center for Family Business Research at Tel Aviv University, where her daughter, Dr. Na'ama Michael-Tsabari, serves as a researcher.

Awards and Honors

Raya Strauss Ben-Dror's long-standing public activities have earned her numerous awards and honors, including:

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