Nov 20, 2015  By Jewish National Fund  Category: Travel,

'You have to dream big': Meet Myron Stayman, a man on a (mega) mission

Myron Stayman

Myron D. Stayman is many things. He is a husband, father, and grandfather. He is a top wealth management professional with Merrill Lynch. He is also a Jewish communal lay leader involved in the Dade and Broward County Jewish federations in Florida, as well as his synagogue and Jewish National Fund. 

But mostly, he is a man on a mission.

"Who am I? I am a Jew. The Jewish people will survive without me. 
But maybe they will survive better if I am a part of them. That is who I am. That istikkun olam," Stayman says during a recent interview in a Jerusalem coffee shop.

With passion and poignancy, Stayman recalls the first time he witnessed JNF's work. It was on a solidarity mission to southern Israel during the 2008-2009 Gaza war, also known as Operation Cast Lead. He says he saw then -- and continues to believe -- that the work JNF does in Israel is "important, vital, and necessary."

"We are supporters of Aleh Negev-Nachalat Eran, which serves the underserved. We fund the Special in Uniform program, which allows individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to take part in the military like their peers. They prepare gas mask kits or work at military stores, printing shops, kitchens, and many other jobs," says Stayman, barely catching his breath. 

"There's Neveh Michael Children's Village, which provides refuge and a loving home for more than 300 children and youth at risk. In Beit She'an we are building a youth center. Over the past three decades JNF has helped build over 250 reservoirs, which has raised the amount of recycled water in Israel from 4 percent to over 85 percent today."

He continues: "These programs are the future of the Jewish state."

Stayman was not always a Zionist. As a young boy in a traditional Jewish household, he attended regular Hebrew school and planted trees in Israel. His family always had a JNF blue box around, but he says he had little understanding of its significance. After losing his father and undergoing a period of soul searching when he had his own children, Stayman says he realized how necessary the state of Israel is to the success, sustainability, and safety of the Jewish people in the diaspora.

"Israel is a rock. The way I see it, there are two choices: I can do all I can to help the people and State of Israel while I am in America or I can tell my wife, 'Pack up, we're leaving!" Stayman says. Now, as JNF vice president of Israel relations, and a Negev Society and Century Council member, Stayman is on a new mission -- a mega, billion-dollar mission.

Stayman is chairing JNF's next Mega Mission, which is scheduled for spring 2016, and he and his team of lay leaders have changed the name to the $1 Billion Dollar Roadmap Mission. The goal: to raise $1 billion in 10 years, using the top-gifts mission as a launching pad. 

"It's ambitious, but you have to dream big," Stayman says of the plan. JNF has already raised 20 percent of the funds, or $325 million.

Stayman said he encourages Jewish and non-Jewish clients and friends to consider donating to JNF. "Many donors,” he says, "prefer to have a say in where their money goes and enjoy the social aspects of involvement with philanthropic organizations. JNF provides both a hands-on experience and meaningful social engagement opportunities. I love it."

"Each person has to take a personal inventory," Stayman adds. "Decide, who am I? What do I want to do? What am I doing here? If you are successful in life, why not share that success?" Stayman asks. "Besides, I am never too sure who gets the greatest benefit from my involvement with JNF -- the organization or me."