An Exclusive Report from Russell F. Robinson
Making an Impact - Tu BiShvat Across America
While some say that donors are not giving as often or as much to Jewish philanthropy, I am happy to report that our numbers at Jewish National Fund tell a far different and fantastic story. JNFuture, JNF’s community for young professionals, is our fastest growing demographic donor base; attendance at our annual events is up; and this year, 22% of the people who purchased trees during Tu BiShvat were new donors. These new donors contributed to nearly $200,000 in revenue. Wow!
I am also very proud to share that this Tu BiShvat, we reached over 55,000 students in schools across the United States. Boxes of “Tu BiShvat in the Schools” activities were sent to a total of 444 schools (including day schools, religious schools, and preschools), which contained posters, stickers, an educators’ guide with detailed lesson plans, packets of seeds, tree planting forms for all children, and a Tree-Meter poster (to track tree sales).
Approximately 1,000 congregations received a Tu BiShvat mailing containing a letter, as well as a Tu BiShvat poster and tree order forms, encouraging them to celebrate Tu BiShvat with Jewish National Fund and to plant trees in Israel. Our Israel Advocacy and Education Department led more than 120 community-wide Tu BiShvat events, and we launched a new website, www.jnf.org/treesource, containing easy to download Tu BiShvat resources, such as a variety of Tu BiShvat haggadot for leading Seders, sermons, interactive activities, online games, and so much more.
Together with My Israel Tree experience, the Sababa Society, and Plant Your Way, Jewish National Fund is strengthening the connection with the next generation of Zionists and their bond with the land of Israel.
JNF on Campus and in the Community
As the leader in connecting college students to the land and people of Israel, we partnered with 135 AEPi chapters in 37 states and sent them our specially designed JNF Tu BishBox. The kit included materials designed for college students so they could celebrate and hold a Tu BiShvat Seder and learn more about Jewish National Fund’s work in environmental sustainability. Jim Fleischer, Chief Executive Officer of Alpha Epsilon Pi, shared with me that, “AEPi is thrilled to be partnering with JNF on this Tu BiShvat educational project for the second consecutive year. Our undergraduates benefit greatly from these opportunities and our partnership serves to make our campuses and Jewish communities stronger.” Additionally, our 18 JNF Campus Fellows have been promoting Tu BiShvat at their local Hillels, Chabads, and Greek life organizations.
Jewish National Fund also partnered with the Consul General of Israel in Florida and planted new trees in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Miami Beach. In the photo above, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Dean Trantalis (center) and other city officials, joined in planting a new tree with JNF lay leaders and professionals on Tu BiShvat.
Together with our Positively Israel programming on college and university campuses, we bring expert speakers, celebrities, and representatives from JNF projects to present how Israel is making the world a better place. We also engage students—Jewish and non-Jewish—and faculty via Alternative Break, Nefesh on Campus, Birthright Israel: Shorashim, Caravan for Democracy, and the Faculty Fellowship program.
A Daily Commitment to Israel
This story just warms my heart so much that I have to share it with you. Dr. Rosaline Barron and her husband, Dr. Alan Barron, were in the audience last summer when we held our Gaza Town Hall event in Boston, which was part of an 11-city, two-week campaign to share the story that the media wasn’t telling about the fires and destruction in Israel. Rosaline found the town hall “moving and life-changing,” and decided then and there to do something for Israel every day. She would “plant a tree every day of my life as my way to fight terrorism.” The Newton, Massachusetts couple have been involved in other Jewish causes over the years, but feel compelled to make sure they are doing everything they can for Israel. In fact, her new mantra is, “What have I done for Israel TODAY?” Ask yourself this question, and please take a moment to read this wonderful story that made national headlines here.
Saluting a Hero
Planting a new tree in Israel is often synonymous with the birth, or passing, of a loved one. Any milestone or momentous occasion is a good reason to plant a tree in our ancestral homeland; and you can do so by visiting jnf.org/trees or calling 800.542.8733. But what do you do when you choose to remember a loved one who served in uniform? Jewish National Fund’s Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem is the place to honor our brave soldiers, no matter which branch of military or in which country they served. Recently, I met with Florence Paley of Palm Beach, who shared with me the eulogy of her late husband, Edward, given in 2012 by their son, Steven, along with some photos taken during Edward’s U.S. Army service. During WWII, Edward served in the 10th Mountain Ski Troop in the 87th Regiment in the mountains in Italy fighting the Germans. His wartime mission included intelligence gathering and he would often go beyond the front lines to get what he needed. For his acts of courage and bravery, he was awarded both the Bronze and Silver Stars during the war. In the photo above, taken in May 1945, Major General Hayes presents Private First Class Paley with the Silver Star. Gen. Hayes was reported to say that day, “You have the combat infantry badge, the Bronze Star, and now the Silver Star. I am proud to have you in my command.” Edward Paley was a true war hero, went on to lead a successful life back home, and raised a beautiful family. Next time I am in Israel, I will look for his plaque, and salute him for his service to our nation.
Question: Jewish National Fund has a long history of dedicated donors who stay involved for many years. Why do you think donors remain in such a long tenure with Jewish National Fund?
Our lay leaders and supporters tend to get involved and stay involved for 20, 30, and 40 years, and some even for a lifetime. They are the true livelihood of Jewish National Fund, because we are a lay leader-driven organization. We are a better and stronger organization because of the thousands of volunteers from across the U.S. who are engaged, and we utilize their talents for marketing, social media, corporate governance, and fundraising. With our 19 unique and very involved Task Forces, lay leaders team up with the people of Israel to make an impact on specific program areas or projects. They are invested, often from the inception of an idea and see it through fruition, creating relationships which help our Jewish National Fund volunteer system continue to grow. It is the strength of what organizational philanthropy should be about, and it ensures our existence for hundreds of years to come.
Additionally, Jewish National Fund, unlike any other organization, provides opportunities for American Jews to engage with the land and people of Israel from a very young age through to their adult years, and beyond. This is what we refer to as JNF’s Israel Continuum. From the iconic JNF Blue Box and Tu BiShvat programs for schools, to our programming for college campuses and engagement with young professionals with JNFuture, Jewish National Fund is there for every stage of life and offers opportunities for involvement for anyone who cares about the land and people of Israel.
With my very best wishes to you and your family,
Chief Executive Officer
Jewish National Fund