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JNF National Conference 2016 Opens in NY

Adam H. Brill, Director of Communications
212-879-9305 x222
Opening includes Remarks from Israel’s Ambassador
to UN & Consul General in NYC;
Hundreds of Students Listen to Alan Dershowitz 
Discuss Israel and BDS;
Walking the Bible’s Bruce Feiler: 
“You Cannot Separate the Land of Israel from the Story.”

Ohio students at JNF NC2016.jpg
Students from The Ohio State University at JNF's 2016 National Conference

New York, NY: September 18, 2016 – Jewish National Fund (JNF) the world’s premier and largest Zionist organization—credited with building modern-day Israel—welcomed top Israeli officials and Jewish-American leaders in philanthropy on Friday afternoon when its National Conference 2016 opened in New York City with over 1,200 people in attendance.       

JNF’s National Conference 2016 features a ‘Who’s Who’ of Americans, Israelis, and hundreds of millennials (known as JNFutures) and college students from across the country attending a College Summit, as they expand the connection of the American Jewish community with Israel. The National Conference will also serve as a platform to showcase the vision of JNF and how it provides a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land and people of Israel for Jewish people everywhere.      

The conference opened Friday afternoon with Co-Chairs Laureine and David Greenbaum of New York welcoming a sold-out crowd. In his remarks Greenbaum said, “It’s been 10 years since we’ve had the national conference in New York City and 10 years ago we had only 200 attendees; today we have 1,200. We also have a bold vision for Israel’s future, and I am very pleased to share that JNF’s One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, is today over $410 million towards that goal.”     

Israel Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon offered his congratulations to the attendees saying, “The loudest voice in the UN doesn’t call out for human rights rather they call for the demonization of Israel. Thanks to Jewish National Fund, Israel leads the way showing the world how to care for its people, use and preserve our precious water, and protect our environment. In fact, Israel is the only country to enter this century with more trees than any other. And, while we have many challenges at the UN, I am proud to announce that this year, for the first time, the UN will recognize Yom Kippur as a holiday.”     

Russell F. Robinson, JNF’s CEO, presented the JNF CEO Heritage Award to Robert M. Wigoda, of Chicago, IL. Active for 30 years in JNF and a former president of the Chicago board, Wigoda serves as chief of the 20-member JNF Legal Committee, which is comprised of attorneys from across the U.S., all whom volunteer and work pro bono. Robinson remarked of Wigoda, “Bob is the true definition of a Zionist and a leader.”
Dani Dayan, Israel’s Consul General to NYC, who assumed his post only six weeks ago commented: “JNF is not, has never been, and will never be, ashamed of the word ‘Zionism.’ JNF is the only Jewish Zionist organization that dedicates itself to an issue mostly important to millennials, like environmentalism and self-reliance, transparency and entrepreneurialism. The relationship between Israel and America is a sacred bond. Our relationship, built on shared values and our shared heritage, would not be possible without the Jewish people of the U.S. behind us. The unity of the Jewish people is strong and will never be broken.”    
Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal’s deputy editorial page editor closed out the Friday afternoon plenary and spoke of recent terror attacks and offered points for the next American president’s foreign policy, and also reminded the standing-room-only crowd that “Israel is the one and only ally of the U.S. that actually defends itself without American boots on its soil. Terror is not an existential threat.”     
A few hours later, JNF hosted nearly 1,000 people for a sold-out Shabbat dinner. In welcoming all, and the 350 young people present, Robinson said, “If you ever wondered about the future of Jewish people, just look around and talk to the hundreds of young people present at our JNF conference and here tonight.”    
In her Shabbat message, Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl, of New York’s Central Synagogue remarked, “It’s so great to be with Jewish National Fund for this wonderful dinner with my tribe. JNF has been a beacon of light and shown true transparency with its funding in Israel.”      

A special conversation followed the dinner with Alan M. Dershowitz, Harvard Law School’s Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law (emeritus), and led by Carly Sobol, a student at The Ohio State University. “When I see college students out here, like you,” said Dershowitz, “I am so optimistic about students going out and taking a stand for Israel, and for JNF leading the way and allowing them to do so.”    
Dershowitz recalled his early connection to JNF growing up: My family had a shared telephone party line, and my grandmother had a JNF Blue Box there so that each person who wanted to use the phone would deposit a donation into the Box. It was always present where everyone could see it in our house.”     

He also shared how he came to be one of Israel’s most vocal supporters: “I defended African-Americans on death row, and I participated in the Civil Rights movement. 10 years after I began teaching at Harvard, something happened, the world turned against Israel and I focused my attention to that underdog, Israel. Also, my friend Elie Wiesel acknowledged the work I did for others, but advised that I wasn’t doing enough work for Jews. So, I went to the former Soviet Bloc, to help the dissidents. If I had to pick what I wanted on my gravestone, it would say, ‘Defender of Soviet Jews, and defender of Israel.’”   
Ohio State’s Sobol asked Dershowitz many questions relating to young people on campus, including BDS.  “Today’s BDS movement is designed to prevent a two-state solution, and it is designed to prevent peace,” said Dershowitz. “After 50 years, I have never seen a weaker group of individuals than tenured professors. They do not speak out for Israel. And, “harassment” has become a code-word meaning ‘free speech for me, but not for thee.’ And no college classroom should be like this!”  
Bruce Feiler, the New York Times columnist and best-selling author of Walking the Bible spoke at Saturday’s lunch and said, “Walking the Bible is what Jewish National Fund is doing through its wonderful work building up Israel and keeping the important history alive.“  
Speaking before a full room, Feiler opened his thoughts saying, “You cannot separate the Land of Israel from the story. Israel is much more alive today due to the connection of Zionism, the efforts to keep the history alive, and the people who are creating new communities where that important history took place. I am very fortunate to be among so many in this room who perpetuate this.”       
JNF’s National Conference annually attracts more than 1,000 participants from across the U.S. This year some of the scheduled speakers include: Ronald S. Lauder, JNF Chairman of the Board; Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s Minister of Justice; Daniel Atar, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Keren Kayemth LeIsrael; Abraham H. Foxman, National Director (emeritus), Anti-Defamation League;  Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove, Park Avenue Synagogue; Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Knesset Member and Zionist Union Chair Merav Michaeli, and many others.      

JNF strives to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is “greening” the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks across Israel, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.       

Driven by a deep sense of purpose and responsibility, JNF is in the midst of its unprecedented One Billion Dollar Roadmap campaign. The campaign—which takes us forward through Israel’s 75th jubilee—matches an ambitious financial target with a comprehensive strategic vision, enabling JNF to connect American Jews to the people of Israel as never before and implement unique projects to strengthen Israel for the long-term.   
Jewish National Fund’s 2017 National Conference will be held in South Florida November 10 -13, 2017. For more information, please contact Adam Brill at 212.879.9305 ext.222 or or visit 

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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.

JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.

JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.

For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit


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