JNF Sends More than 1,000 Young People to Israel This Winter
January 28, 2016
Adam H. Brill, Director of Communications
JEWISH NATIONAL FUND SENDS MORE THAN 1,000
YOUNG PEOPLE TO ISRAEL THIS WINTER
Students and Young Professionals Use Time
to Connect to their Roots and Give Back
In the last month, Jewish National Fund (JNF) has sent more than 1,000 young people to Israel to learn, explore, and volunteer in the Jewish homeland on trips like Taglit-Birthright Israel, Caravan for Democracy, Alternative Break for college students and young professionals, and as high schoolers studying at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI-JNF).
“JNF is creating incredible opportunities for young Jews to connect with the Jewish state, to discover and examine their cultural and religious roots in an experiential context,” says Yishai Goldflam, JNF’s executive director of Israel Advocacy and Education. “Whether we’re talking about high school students learning about the 4,000 year-long history of Israel during a semester at AMHSI-JNF, or a college student giving back by volunteering on JNF’s Alternative Break, it’s amazing to see the passion grow in these young adults.”
Non-Jewish students travel to Israel on the Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission, which allows campus leaders who have not been to Israel previously to experience the country with eyes wide open and to “challenge any preconceived notions many Americans may have about these places,” according to participant Hannah Britton. “On Caravan we form our own opinions of Israel as a developing nation, and just how much it’s advanced in the small amount of time that it’s actually been a country.”
Since 1999, Taglit-Birthright has enabled some 500,000 participants to visit their ancestral homeland, many for the first time. On Birthright Israel: Shorashim – Ultimate Adventure with Israelis & JNF, 49 young professionals from throughout the U.S. arrived in Israel on January 6 for their free 10-day trip. As with all Taglit-Birthright Israel trips, their itinerary was crafted with the aim to strengthen bonds with the land and people of Israel.
“I’m loving this trip,” said Justin Levy, from Middletown, New Jersey. “We’re hearing different kinds of perspectives from people of all walks of life, and it’s fascinating. The trip and the people are everything I had hoped for,” said the 26-year-old, who works in federal law enforcement.
Another trip, JNF’s first-ever JNFuture Volunteer Mission to Israel, saw 33 JNFuture members successfully raise $67,000 to volunteer on various Blueprint Negev projects in Israel’s southern desert area. Participants, ages 24-38, hailed from across the U.S and all came with the same shared desire to give back in a meaningful, hands-on way.
Simon Schwartz, a JNFuture member and co-chair of the mission, spoke passionately about Israel, the Negev Desert, and the work JNFuture members do there: “I see us as continuing Ben Gurion’s dream and really making the desert bloom with our efforts.”
According to Schwartz, JNFuture is this generation’s way of giving back, not through the traditional JNF Blue Box or planting of trees, but rather being “involved in the growth of infrastructure and water development in Israel.” “It’s really important to me to raise awareness of this aspect of JNF,” Schwartz added.
Founded in 1972, AMHSI-JNF is an academic and experiential program for high school students offering formal classroom study and experience-based learning. The program is now funded and operated by Jewish National Fund; AMHSI-JNF provides students with the context and framework to form their own sense of Jewish identity in preparation for college and life beyond.
While some of the students had been to Israel before, many others came for the first time. Lilly-Anne Nettheim, 16, from Australia, had always wanted to go to Israel but didn’t know when and how it would happen. When she learned about AMHSI-JNF from a friend, she decided it was an experience she couldn’t pass up.
"I couldn’t picture what Israel would look like. I looked at photos online, but that is never the same," says Nettheim. "It is amazing! Also this experience would not have been the same without the group I was with–I just really loved it."
Some Jewish students from college campuses across the U.S. chose to do something more with their winter break by traveling to Israel and volunteering on a range of unique projects in the country’s south through JNF’s Alternative Winter Break program. Students arrived for seven intense days of community building and volunteer work in places like Halutza, a thriving Negev community focused on settling and farming the desert; Wadi Attir, a model for building sustainable desert communities in partnership with the Negev's Bedouin population; and Earth's Promise, an urban organic farm located in Be'er Sheva, the booming capital of the Negev.
Eve Tenenbaum, 20, from Florida Atlantic University, helped recruit for the trip and took a leadership role during JNF's Alternative Break program for a second time this year. "I get to see the follow-up from the work that I did a few months ago, and how one group of 20 students changed the course for the next group of 40 students," Tenenbaum explained.
Tenenbaum was especially happy to see the results from her work with Earth’s Promise from her previous visit. "When I was here last time, the place was totally different–we were picking up trash and generally cleaning up," she said. "This time, we were harvesting citrus trees. I can't believe how much it has changed in such a short period of time."
For those looking to Spring Break 2016 and getting their your hands dirty while giving back to the land and people of Israel, JNF’s Alternative Break registration deadline is fast approaching. Make sure to confirm your spot at jnf.org/break by January 29th for an unforgettable experience.
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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 www.jnf.org.