An Exclusive Report from Russell F. Robinson

As we head into the final weeks of the year I want to say thank you for making a difference for the land and people of Israel through Jewish National Fund. Please take a look at the good we did together this year.

Your support has impacted people’s lives. When we began our journey 116 years ago we did not have the opportunity to send out reports like this. Jewish National Fund went door to door telling people about our hopes and dreams—our 2,000-year dream of returning to our ancestral soil, unifying our people, and reestablishing our homeland so Jews across the world would have a place to call home. In 1948, we raised our flag, our Star of David, bringing pride to all of us. We began to build our future in the Negev and the Galilee, and new cities like Tel Aviv. Today, we are doing so much more. At JNF’s National Conference in South Florida last month, we had the largest amount of participants ever with more than 1,200 in attendance including 250 college students from over 100 campuses across America, and more than 100 JNFutures, our young leaders between the ages of 22-40. Our future looks strong. Be a part of it. Register now for next year’s conference in Phoenix before early bird rates expire on Dec. 31.

Go North Picks Up Steam
JNF’s Go North Task Force met at National Conference and informed me of the progress on the key areas of employment, education, tourism, and healthcare. Discussion on the Lake Montfort project took place and the task force will spend several hours there in March assessing the project’s development. A priority for us is marketing this new site and fundraising around the country. Ido Eisikovits spoke about Green Horizon’s commitment to expand in the North and to include the Druze community. Green Horizons received a $500,000 gift to support programming in the North. Aaron Kula advised that he received a Fulbright fellowship from the U.S. State Department to offer music programming in the Western Galilee and the Central Arava, to include music conservatories in the North and hopefully a future regional music festival. The task force is looking for a liaison for this exciting new possibility. Michal Shiloah Galnoor reported that the Western Galilee Tourist Information Center in Akko is seeing increased tourism, and that Western Galilee Now is growing rapidly with new members. Ann Zinman will serve as the task force’s liaison with the Housing Development Fund (which just announced that to date it has completed 700 housing sites across the North and South and plans to build another 800 in the next 18 months. The task force will return to Israel March 19 - 22 for further project review and in depth meetings.

Investment Makes A Huge Impact at JNF
This story is too good not to share…Dara Gever is a senior campaign executive in the Philadelphia office. Here’s her story and how it relates to the above photo:


Years ago I went on a trip that changed my life. It was a free, JNF-led trip to Israel for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim teenagers from the Greater Philadelphia area. What I found most fascinating was that the travel itinerary would include religious sites common to the three monotheistic traditions and training in coexistence. Before the bus took off for JFK the staff introduced Gene Epstein, the man with the vision and extraordinary generosity to make our trip a reality.  What I remember most about meeting Gene in 2007 was that he was smiling and waving as though he had just won the lottery, not as though he had just spent a portion of money equal to some lottery winnings on a group of teenagers he had never met. I waited ten years before I saw that smile and wave again, this time as a 26-year-old, now working for Jewish National Fund -- my dream job. I can say that the most meaningful day of my professional career was having the opportunity to meet Gene and Marlene Epstein, the philanthropists who believed in me as a teenager, telling them what a difference they made in my life, and thanking them. When you are young and somebody believes in you, it has an impact nobody can foresee. In 2006, I was not sure what I was capable of, but I knew that I wanted to make their investment worthwhile. Today, I hope I have made the Epsteins proud.


Approximately six months ago, as part of Jewish National Fund’s mission to spread the word about people living out their passions and doing fascinating work in and for Israel, we launched a podcast called IsraelCast. Well, IsraelCast has had some amazing figures since it launched in May. We are now at 18 episodes and 11,500 downloads. Our most popular one is still Alon Ben-Gurion, with over 1,000 downloads. This success would not have been possible without the foresight and direction of the Jewish National Fund Social Media Committee, and all the hard work put in by co-Chairs Vivian Grossman and Alicia Yaffe, and the host, Steven Shalowitz. The quality of these shows and the reach they are getting speak for themselves. Thank you everyone for listening and keep spreading the good word about IsraelCast. Additionally, another unique platform that helps JNF get the message out is Facebook Live. At our National Conference alone, we’ve reached 250,000 viewers on their newsfeeds, 25,000 have watched our programming, and we’ve garnered approximately 2,500 comments, likes and shares.

International Day Of Persons With Disabilities
We believe passionately that the inclusion of people with disabilities and special needs should be woven tightly into the fabric of Jewish life. The fact that nearly 13% of Israel’s citizens are considered physically or mentally challenged is an opportunity for us to live our values. Jewish National Fund provided services to more than 45,000 children, youth, and adults with special needs in 2017. International Day of Persons with Disabilities was commemorated this past Sunday and Col. Tiran Attia (Res.), director of Special in Uniform, called to thank our donors for our partnership with Special in Uniform. Tiran told me that “Together we are changing the fabric of Israeli society by helping create a more caring and inclusive country and promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in the IDF on a national level. With my heartfelt thanks for your support in helping our soldiers live the quality life they deserve.” Please watch the just aired i24NEWS story that spotlights Maj. Riki Golan and JNF’s Special in Uniform program.  


Halutza Update
In the communities of Halutza, which are located adjacent to the Gaza and Egyptian borders, residents can now seek medical attention at the new Helmsley Charitable Trust Halutza Medical Center, and soon, a new dental clinic, pharmacy, and physical therapy clinic will open. The 6,600-square-foot bombproof building has already served over 7,000 residents. In 2017, 35 new families moved to Halutza, 1,000 children enjoyed the new Sunset Park in Naveh, and a new synagogue there is scheduled to soon open. Additionally, a packing plant was dedicated by the the Vener family for Young Farmers Incubators program in B’nei Netzarim. Going forward, a 40,000-sq.-ft. community center is in the planning stages and scheduled to break ground in 2018. When completed, more than 18,000 people will use the facility.

Journalist Gil Hoffman Travels to all 50 States With JNF
Jerusalem Post Chief Political Correspondent and Analyst Gil Hoffman, together with Jewish National Fund, made history earlier this week when Hoffman delivered a lecture about peace and politics in the Mideast at Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu, thus becoming the first speaker to deliver a paid lecture about Israel in all 50 states. Hoffman’s Hawaii talk was co-sponsored by Jewish National Fund and part of an ongoing lecture series in Hawaii meant to educate locals about Israel and help them advocate for the Jewish state. Last year, Hoffman delivered an Israeli Independence Day lecture in Alaska (although technically it was still Israeli Remembrance Day because it only became dark at 11 p.m.) That lecture was also organized by Jewish National Fund. Hoffman, a member of the JNF speakers bureau, offers a selection of lectures, including “Red States, Blue States and the Jewish State: An Insider’s Look at America’s Impact on the Future of Israel and the Wider Middle East,” “Peace, Politics and Plutonium: A Maven’s Guide to the Middle East,” and “70 Reasons for Optimism about Israel’s Future,” on campuses, at synagogues and churches. To bring Hoffman to your community click here.

Faculty Fellowship Bridges Academic Connections
Twenty-three professors from universities and colleges across the U.S. will soon experience a once-in-a-lifetime and insightful journey as they prepare to depart on our 2017 Inaugural Winter Faculty Fellowship Program in Israel. Participants will spend 11 rigorous days from December 27 to Jan. 9, 2018, traveling throughout Israel, meeting Israeli professors from their respective disciplines and with the same, or similar, research interests, all with the goal of developing collaborations, research projects, co-authoring articles, and establishing exchange programs between faculty and students. The trip is a fully-paid intensive program to Israel for full-time U.S.-based academics from a recognized university/learning institution. I recently heard from Dr. Gregory Melchor-Barz of Vanderbility University who shared that he has been invited by the Martin Buber Society of Fellows, Humanities and Sciences, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to participate in a sponsored research trip next summer to collaborate on a research project with Dr. Oded Erez who both met on Faculty Fellowship. His message: “Collaboration and partnerships really work to bring U.S. and Israeli colleagues together! I want to thank you for making this connection possibleand fostering and encouraging such opportunities.”

For Your Eyes Only
Jewish National Fund’s Gina Raphael, a Century Council and President’s Society member from Beverly Hills, who recently spearheaded our 9/11 campaign honoring first responders on the West Coast, shared with me last week that she had been crying all last Wednesday with tears of respect for our vital work. Apparently, her daughter Sydney had planned to attend the New School in Manhattan as its fashion program is one of the top in the country. Well, the New School recently included pro-BDS supporter Linda Sarsour on a panel on anti-Semitism and after much public outcry opposing her participation, continued with the event. Gina let me know how upset that Sydney was over this and decided not to make application to the school. According to Gina, this was Sydney’s ‘hineni’moment — a product of her Jewish education and all the Zionist efforts at home. Thank you Sydney, and Gina, for standing tall and for shouting loud and clear to the Jewish people everywhere, “Here I am.”

As we enter the Holiday Season, my best wishes to you and your families for a Happy New Year, and Peace for all.

Chief Executive Officer
Jewish National Fund

P.S. - If you have not yet made your year-end, tax-deductible donation, please donate now.