An Exclusive Report from Russell F. Robinson
A week with Jewish National Fund
The week after New Year’s was celebrated around the world was a good one for Jewish National Fund. Four thousand young adults and students came to Israel on a wide variety of educational programs; we would have brought more but there was no more room.
No one else does what we do. As members of our leadership, Campaign Cabinet, and as major donors, you should take pride knowing that your investment truly connects American Jews and non-Jews to Israel in ways no other organization can claim.
Through our Birthright provider Shorashim, 68 filled-to-capacity buses a year shuttle Birthright students from around the United States all across Israel, to engage in a fully immersive 10-day cultural experience. Sign up now for Summer 2019 Birthright Israel using our exclusive JNF ‘Friends and Family’ Registration.
They were joined by hundreds more on our JNFuture Volunteer Vacation, college students on JNF Alternative Break, Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission, and professors on the Faculty Fellowship Winter Institute in Israel to learn, explore and discover all that Israel and her people have to offer. Read “Nobody does it better” in this week’s Jerusalem Post International Edition.
Watch the above video created by Sarah Charlton from The Ohio State University, a participant on our recent Caravan for Democracy trip for 80 non-Jewish student leaders seeing Israel for the first time and read the feedback of one of many who shared similar sentiments on their experience.
I would just like to thank the sponsors of Caravan for Democracy Leadership Mission for making this opportunity possible. I believe that leadership necessitates taking the time to learn new perspectives, to ask difficult questions, to go where out of one comfort zone is, and to experience. This trip has allowed me to do that and more with its diverse group of student leaders, speakers, and sites. As a result, I feel that I have gained a much better understanding of Israel as a country and about the world as a whole and I look forward to sharing that perspective with my colleagues back here in the U.S.
Birth to the Boardroom
From ‘birth to the boardroom’ is far more than a slogan. It represents the Israel continuum of engagement that only Jewish National Fund offers through our programming and trip opportunities. I believe this begins the moment a Jewish National Fund tree certificate arrives to parents welcoming a newborn child, forever connecting their infant’s legacy to the land and people of Israel.
But it doesn’t stop there. Not by a long shot.
During their formative years, 20,000 K-8 students are impacted by JNF programming in synagogues and Jewish Day schools across the United States. JNF’s newest society, the Sababa Society, engages tweens aged 11-14 and is designed to teach them the importance of philanthropy, requesting of them that they raise $2 a week. This age bracket also encompasses a B’nai Mitzvah platform through which Bar- and Bat-Mitzvah-aged kids perform mitzvah projects.
From tween to teen, today’s high school students are the key to ensuring our future, and that’s why we’ve seen remarkable success building a strong Zionist Jewish future in the Diaspora with our study abroad programs at Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI-JNF). Our curriculum provides a long term high school semester abroad in Israel, prior to college, and it works so well that I invite anyone to visit our campus to see it for themselves.
The six-week, eight-week and full semester abroad programs have welcomed and educated 28,000 primarily American high school students in 10th, 11th and 12th grade since 1972. The program includes General Studies, accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and Israel Studies, 4,000 years of Jewish and Israeli history via experiential learning, using the land as the classroom. Moreover, our campus survey found that AMHSI-JNF students are more likely to gain admission into their A-list colleges. Compared to the larger American Jewish population, our program alumni are much more likely to have a strong lifelong connection to Israel and Judaism. JNF’s independent study of alumni found that Jewish identity, engagement and a commitment to supporting Israel are manifest among those who attended AMHSI-JNF: 88% have a Jewish spouse; 65% participate in Jewish/Zionist organizations; 63% are members of a synagogue; 80% donate to Jewish charities.
AMHSI-JNF alumni represent today’s community leaders who are the backbone of Jewish life.
Jewish National Fund Chairman of the Board Emeritus Ronald S. Lauder recently wrote to our former Chief Operating Officer Harold Cohen upon his retirement: “One of the truly great joys that I have encountered in the Jewish world over the years has been working with the most outstanding and dedicated individuals. Throughout all that time, I would have to put you [Harold] at the very top of that list. The tremendous success that Jewish National Fund has achieved over these past 20 years was due, in no small part, to your involvement.”
“….Yes, you assisted me greatly during my presidency at the JNF, but it is also Israel and the Jewish people that have benefited from your hard work and tremendous skill. As you leave, you should know that you have left not just our organization but the entire Jewish world, in a better place.”
Throughout my time at Jewish National Fund I have looked to Harold for his counsel, experience and dedication to the cause. He has been my rock and has taught me and countless others so much about philanthropy, fundraising, donor relations, vision, and leadership. Like everything else, he made sure every action was done with precision and professionalism, just like his management of the multi-year rehabilitation project of JNF House (where he is pictured above not long after we moved back in).
I wish him, his devoted wife Barbara, and his loving family much happiness and joy in retirement.
A question for the CEO
In this new space, I will tackle and answer any difficult questions you send me. I recently received the comment “A 2018 economics poll shows that support among American millennials for the State of Israel is in decline. What is JNF doing to connect young individuals with Israel? “
I challenge any study on the decline of millennial support for the State of Israel. It is not true. Jewish National Fund’s fastest growing donor database is JNFuture, our group for young adults and professionals age 22-40. They are connecting with Israel not only by attending events—they are making major contributions and traveling to Israel. It is our responsibility, as organizational leaders in the Jewish community, to talk about the positive nature of what we are all about as the Jewish people—not just Jewish National Fund, but every Jewish organization.
We do not need to be divisive. We need to be saying, “Wow, you are part of an unbelievable dream!”
People want to be part of a winning formula and we are a winning formula, yet we are not telling the whole story. Too often, we think fundraising is about emphasizing how bad things are as a tool to raise money. Well, millennials don’t want to contribute to how bad things are. They want to give to how great things can be, and there has never been a greater start-up that has accomplished as much and provided such a return on investment as Jewish National Fund. We sell the reality, we talk the winning formula, and we are the reality.
With my very best wishes to you and your family,
Chief Executive Officer
Jewish National Fund