An Exclusive Report from Russell F. Robinson
I’d like to take this opportunity to share two personal experiences that left a deep impression on me…
But first - I am writing this Robinson Report exhausted and exhilarated having returned from Jewish National Fund’s 2019 National Conference in Washington, D.C. While you can see photos and videos from our National Conference on JNF’s Facebook page and on Humans of JNF, nothing can replace the incredible experience of being there and seeing first-hand so many young people with so much energy coming together in support of Israel. Of our nearly 1,300 participants, half were under the age of 40!
Something that never ceases to amaze me is the incredible connections we foster between Americans and Israelis. During the conference, many Israeli affiliates told me how amazed they were to meet people from North Carolina who knew so much about Sderot or students from Colorado who knew so much about the Arava – but that’s what we do at JNF: we bring together incredible people who do incredible things for the land and people of Israel.
Friends, I’m exhausted and exhilarated after connecting with so many of our dedicated lay people who gave up their time and money to be with us in D.C. We gain strength from each other’s passion, exuberance, and excitement – and I know that will never change!
A young woman from York University ran up to me at National Conference to say thank you. She told me that she came because her friend said she’d enjoy herself, yet, by the end of the weekend, she realized that she had gained so much more. She now felt like she had the information she needed to feel proud of her love for Israel and had the tools to go back on campus to represent Israel as a Jew –not to do battle, but to celebrate Israel’s greatness and complexity.
Perhaps my most poignant memory from National Conference was seeing Bob Levine stand up at the closing dinner to sing “Hatikva” – and let me tell you, he sang it with so much power in his lungs that for a guy who’s been involved with JNF for over half-a-century, people were saying, “Wow, what an incredible thing to see.” It really is amazing how “Hatikva”, a song of hope, can touch the hearts of all who sing and hear it.
Behind the Headlines:
I was surprised to hear that…
…there are people from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem traveling to the Gaza envelope on ‘art-tours’ to see the beautiful way the bomb shelters that we provided to the region’s residents have been painted. As you may recall, years ago we started to paint bomb shelters in the region to ensure that the children who must use them feel (slightly) less petrified going to them – as opposed to running into grey stone buildings.
To be frank, I hate that we need to have bomb shelters at all, however, after seeing people from other areas of Israel drive down to view the art on our shelters, it’s clear that it’s had a positive effect. We have visitors coming to the area who are spending money on mundane things like coffee, lunch, and gas. This seemingly insignificant action goes a long way to boosting the local economy and provide jobs and income to local residents. In addition, I can tell you that the residents of the Gaza envelope feel so grateful when they see people visiting their communities in solidarity with them.
Often, our contributing partners will travel to Israel to see the bomb shelters they donated, and after their visit, they write to me about their experiences. You can put your name on a school or a library, yet, seeing a plaque with your name on it on a bomb shelter makes you realize that you are saving the lives of children. It’s a unique and wholly unexplainable feeling.
Do you know someone who can help us fund 20 additional bomb shelters that are still needed in the Gaza envelope? Please call us at 800.JNF.0099 to find out more.
When I asked Geri Shatz to…
...chair JNF’s Yeruham Taskforce, no one knew where Yeruham was or the challenges the town faced. Now, Geri has fallen in love with a place that probably never would have been on her radar had it not been for JNF. On a recent visit to Yeruham, I witnessed a beautiful meeting between Geri and Yeruham’s 37-year-old mayor, Tal Ohana. For those who don’t know, Tal is a fourth-generation Moroccan immigrant. She has dedicated her life to helping people and is the youngest mayor in Yeruham’s history. Here we were at a meeting with two women from entirely different worlds and I am witnessing this incredible encounter listening to them talk about how they are going to change Yeruham, as if they think they’re going to change the entire world – yet, for them, they are.
To be candid, finding funding for Yeruham has been difficult. It’s not a ‘sexy’ area and most people have never heard of the town. However, let me tell you that this place has so much going for it. If you were to visit Yeruham today, you’d see a beautiful lake surrounded by trees that were planted by Iraqi Jews back in the 50s. I can tell you that back in the 50s, no one would have imagined that a 37-year-old woman would be running the town, and I can say with absolute certainty that they would never have envisioned that another woman on the other side of the world would be raising money for housing, fire engines, and other projects in Yeruham. Yet, here we are – with two trailblazing women from two different worlds who supposedly had nothing in common before they met, yet are now making the world a better place, one Yeruham at a time.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our professional staff who make so much of what we do happen. I can honestly say that there are no egos on our team – only people who come to work every day looking for ways to support their colleagues, lay leaders, donors, and ultimately the people and land of Israel and the Jewish people. So, just like my other team, the Dallas Cowboys, may we continue to keep winning!
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, a time of introspection and reflection, I encourage you to reach out to me with feedback on what JNF-USA is doing that you feel works, doesn’t work, or could be done differently. Drop me an email or give me a call!
With my very best wishes to you and your family,
Chief Executive Officer
Jewish National Fund