An Exclusive Report from Russell F. Robinson
I write this Robinson Report from my home to yours as the aroma of Marci’s chicken soup fills every room. As you and I prepare to gather around our Seder tables this evening, there’s no denying that things feel different. Fewer chairs, a smaller brisket, and yes – less people. In singing the Ma Nishtanah this year and asking, “why is this night different from all other nights”, one can also ask, “how is this Passover different from all other Passovers?” While all four children in the Haggadah could answer the latter, the question we should be asking is “how isn’t this Passover different from all other Passovers.”
With so much upheaval in our world, I’d like to tell you about something that’s remained steadfast. It’s an organization called Jewish National Fund - and we are the movement with the size, scope, and strength that has been, and always will be, there for the land and people of Israel, and Jewish people everywhere.
Before the world went into lockdown, we...
...were already working with our affiliate organizations in Israel to prepare them for this new reality. In the north, we worked with Western Galilee Now, small businesses and local artisans to establish our Online Mitzvah Marketplace: Shop Israeli Goods ‑ an online store and 'home‑shopping‑network' style platform enabling Israeli businesses to sell their products to U.S. consumers as they no longer have foot traffic through their doors. Admittedly, this initiative isn’t a silver bullet, however, it is just one example in the broader tapestry of initiatives we’re supporting to help our family in Israel weather the current storm and prepare for the inevitable bounce back. Please consider showing your support for Israeli small businesses by visiting jnf.org/shopping today.
A week earlier, we saw the window to bring students studying at JNF’s High School in Israel, our American semester abroad program, back to the U.S. closing rapidly as governments around the world tightened travel restrictions. I’m thankful we have a world-class JNF operations team that immediately swung into action and within 24 hours, secured an entire El Al Boeing 787 Dreamliner to bring our students home. Although the students’ parents are thankful to have their children back, this was an emotional time for many of our teens. Imagine being asked to leave such an incredible environment like High School in Israel, where you were forming lifelong friendships with other Jewish teens; where you were fully immersed in thousands of years of Jewish history – your history; and where you were just beginning to truly feel connected to the land and people of Israel. Make no mistake, their story does not end here. Rather, this is only the beginning of our lifelong journey with these teens as they become part of our Israel Continuum, an initiative that empowers our community’s youth to become change makers and community leaders. We are already receiving new enrolments for High School in Israel programs later this year. If you have a teen or college student interested in participating in one of our programs, let me know or click here for more information.
“Social Distancing” means we must...
...become closer than ever before (virtually, at least). Let’s remember that many of our ‘young-at-heart’ community members may be feeling especially isolated right now. Feeling isolated, whether you are young or old, isn’t good for your soul, spirit or health. Accordingly, Jewish National Fund has launched a suite of inspiring and uplifting on-demand and interactive content to keep you and your family engaged while you stay at home. Whether you’re interested in hearing from everyone’s favorite Jewish actor, Hal Linden, learning how to bake challah with Jewish National Fund ‘First Lady’, Lauren Lizerbram, or connecting with global water expert, Seth Siegel, there’s something for everyone at jnf.org/ondemand. You can also view over 400 inspiring Jewish National Fund videos today by subscribing to our YouTube channel here.
In addition to our virtual offerings, the Jewish National Fund team has been making phone calls to our older partners – our donors – to see how they’re doing and to find out if there’s anything we can do for them. In Israel, our affiliates like MAKOM have been responding to the needs of the elderly, young families, and children with disabilities by providing food, support, and a friendly face to speak to – albeit from a safe distance. MAKOM, like many of our other affiliate organizations, now have additional needs. My team and I have been working with them to identify their immediate needs and to understand how we can continue to help. It’s times like these that our affiliates in Israel appreciate more than ever the benefit of partnering with an organization like Jewish National Fund, where our size and scope enables us to act quickly and at scale. You can view the list of immediate needs at jnf.org/immediateneeds.
Although these are uncertain times, something beautiful is happening. We are all taking a collective breath and realizing what truly matters. Many of us are spending more quality time with our immediate family. Others are picking up the phone or messaging friends and family who they haven’t spoken to in a while. In truth, when so much of the noise in our lives is removed, we gain a new perspective and a greater sense of clarity. As people take stock of their world, so many seek to renew their connection to the land and people of Israel. At Jewish National Fund, we are innovating in ways to help our community connect. When I see hundreds of JNFuture supporters (our fastest growing demographic) from across the country come together via Zoom to light candles just before Shabbat, I know that our Israel Continuum remains strong, our supporters remain committed, and that a new and even brighter chapter for Jewish National Fund is right around the corner.
May I wish you and your family a Happy Passover – “next year in Jerusalem” has never sounded better!
Wishing you and your family well,
Chief Executive Officer
Jewish National Fund
P.S.: We are giving some extra cheer to your Passover Seder. What better prize to give the 'finder' of the afikoman than a tree planted in Israel by Jewish National Fund! Visit jnf.org/trees and enter promo code "Passover" for your (or your child’s) complimentary tree certificate and signify their place in our People's history as a builder of the land of Israel. Your certificates will arrive in about ten days.