Donor Matches $145,000 Student Fundraiser Supporting Israelis

By JD Krebs


After students from Jewish National Fund-USA’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss) raised an impressive $145,000 for Israelis displaced in the wake of the Hamas massacre on October 7, philanthropists Sheila and Larry Wilensky were so inspired by their achievement that they generously decided to match the funds raised by students.


For the Wilensky’s, who split their time between Palm Beach and Atlanta, supporting Israel has been ingrained in them for a long time. “As a 55-year supporter of Jewish National Fund-USA and another 25 years of putting coins in the pushke in my home growing up, I have always been attuned to the needs of the Jewish people,” Sheila said.


When she first heard of the invasion, Wilensky immediately wanted to help. “I was informed hourly of all that was transpiring,” she said. “And I could not just read about the destruction and needs of ‘Our People,’ the Jewish Israeli people, and not do something.”


Larry and Sheila Wilensky

Larry and Sheila Wilensky


Evidently, the Muss students felt the same way. At the campus located just outside of Tel Aviv, the students created over 1,600 care packages for displaced Israelis which included towels, shampoo, and soap, as well as personal messages of support. Within the week, the decision was made to end classes and send the students home.


“I was kept informed of this through emails and was aware of their flights from Tel Aviv to Boston within days of the attacks,” said Wilensky. She also noted that even after the students left, the Muss campus was still able to do some good. “When the students left their dorms, displaced individuals and families from the towns and kibbutzim were re-located to those dormitories.”


However, the care packages weren’t enough for the students, who also decided to fundraise for southern Israeli communities. “It was amazing,” Sheila said. “The boys and girls began making phone calls, texting prior to their departure from Tel Aviv, and by the time they landed in Boston, they had raised $145,000.”


The story inspired Sheila and Larry, who already knew they wanted to do something. So, they matched the students’ pledges, donating an additional $145,000 as a way of supporting both Israelis and the students who wanted to aid them. “Larry and I needed to ‘stand up and be counted,’” she said.


The pledge is in addition to their continuing support for Muss, Jewish National Fund-USA’s college prep, study abroad in Israel experience that blends traditional accredited classroom studies with an experiential Israel studies program that uses the land of Israel as a living classroom.


“The Wilensky’s matching of the students’ pledges is a sign of their extreme generosity and dedication to the land and people of Israel,” said Muss President Ron Werner. “And their continued support of Muss shows their innate understanding of the value in preparing the next generation of Zionist leaders. They get how important it is for young Jews to have a strong connection with the land and people of Israel while making them feel empowered to make a difference as they enter adulthood.”


Sheila and Larry previously pledged $1 million dollars to Muss. To commemorate the gift, the main education building was dedicated in their name.


“We committed to Muss during the pandemic, and for this commitment, Jewish National Fund-USA recognized us with the education building being named in our honor,” she said. “We stay committed to the Muss Schools and family, hoping when the war ends our boys and girls will return to Muss and bask in the Israeli sun once again.”


Matching what the students raised is the Wilensky’s way of continuing their support for Jewish students everywhere.


“Our support of the school, the children that attend, and their commitment to the State of Israel is important to Larry and me,” Sheila said. “We hope our legacy will be seen in the next generations that study, live in, and be a part of the Israeli experience, and use that experience to advocate for the Jewish State.”


The students are still actively fundraising and can be supported here. To learn more about Alexander Muss High School in Israel, visit


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