Dear JNF Campaign Leaders:


This past Tuesday more than 1,200 people came together for the annual Jewish National Fund Winter Connection brunch at the Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida. The annual gathering exemplifies JNF’s strength as a national organization with no community or regional boundaries, where our donors, even “Snowbirds”, have a year-round relationship with JNF.

The first Winter Connection program took place six years ago with 180 people in attendance, and this year was a sold out event with many people on the wait list. Wow! I know our Center of Excellence is hard at work processing all of the donations made, and I suspect that from all the pledge cards I saw being filled out, the fundraising results will be as excellent as the event itself.  It was a great team effort, and I want to thank and congratulate JNF professional staff and lay leaders who made Winter Connection 2018 such a great success.

The next opportunity for us to join together in a warm climate is March 9 – 12 for our annual Major Donor Weekend in Phoenix. This year we are at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. We start off with the Arizona breakfast event Friday morning featuring Ambassador Danny Ayalon and then join the JNFuture group for a beautiful Shabbat dinner Friday night. There will be learning sessions during the weekend as well.  Click on this link for more information and to register:  jnf.org/azweekend

Shabbat Shalom,



Bruce K. Gould
President Elect and Vice President, Campaign

D’Var Torah

By Yossi Kahana

As we celebrate Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, some of you may wonder how it was that February was chosen. 
February was chosen because of this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim.

Now that the Jews have received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai (in last week's parashat Yitro) and accepted the Torah, G-d teaches them the laws that are part of this Torah. In this week’s parsha, Mishpatim, we learn that The Torah demands that we be extra nice to strangers, widows and orphans. These defenseless people especially deserve our kindness.

But what should one make of the discussion of a Ger and its placement adjacent to the discussion of widows and orphans, two categories of people who are often seen as venerable. 

In modern Hebrew the word Ger means convert, but that could not be the Torah’s meaning here, as the children of Israel were saved, in part because we chose not to convert to the Egyptian culture during our time in Egypt. Therefore Ger is often understood in this context to mean a stranger, a person who stands out from the crowd.  When G-d created us in his image, He could have chosen to make us all the same with the same strengths and weaknesses, the same looks and the same ideas, but he did not. By choosing to make each of us unique, he signified the importance and the power of our uniqueness. Our difference, that which makes us strange to others, is precisely what allows us to see the world from alternative perspectives and find solutions to challenging situations, while growing in the process. Angels don’t leave footprints; it is because of our challenges, faults and our individuality that people are able to have an impact on the world.

While our differences - that which makes each one of us what someone else may call strange - can be a person’s biggest asset, it is also vulnerability as articulated in Mishpatim. When faced with a stranger, a person who is different, whatever the cause of that difference  we should not punish them for that difference but embrace them as we would want to be embraced.

During February - Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month -- we call special attention to the need for the Jewish world to do more to include members of our community with special needs, to make them feel at home, to make them feel welcome, to make them feel loved by people as they are loved by G-d. Through accessibility and therapeutic services, Jewish National Fund works tirelessly to empower all children and people with special needs in Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,


JNF’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel

Last week, Alexander Muss High School in Israel welcomed our February mini-mester session. Students arrived in Israel from across the country, including 10 Philadelphia Impact Fellows who will serve as ambassadors for the school and for Jewish National Fund upon their return home in March. Over the course of the eight weeks, our teens will study over 4,000 years of Jewish and Israeli history as part of our Israel Studies curriculum, using the land as the classroom, while keeping up with their General Studies from home.

Updates from Israel

Employment Training in the Negev

Residents of the Negev recently completed a website development course in Wordpress at JNF partner Eretz Ir’s NetGev Arad. The graduates learned how to build, design, promote and maintain websites, and are now qualified to build sites in WordPress. Mazal tov!

Tu BiShvat Tree Planting in Gush Etzion

Last Friday morning 20 families joined in a Tu BiShvat tree planting in Gush Etzion with the Shaer Family in memory of Gil-ad Shaer hy’d - one of the 3 boys murdered by Hamas three years ago. The event took place on the new promenade and soon-to-be lookout, in memory of the 3 boys and Ezra Schwartz  hy’d. The 20 families in attendance are bound by all naming a child born in the last three years “Gil-ad” in his namesake.

TuBishvat at the Heritage Sites

Last week we celebrated Tu BiShvat at the heritage sites! Many of the heritage sites, like the Minkov Citrus Orchard Museum in Rehovot, offered special family activities to celebrate the holiday, as well as teach visitors about the holiday’s connection to the site. Often referred to as the “New Year of Trees”, Tu BiShvat is a holiday about agricultural growth and development in the land of Israel. It is this important initiative, and its role in Israel’s history, that many of the heritage sites, including Mikveh Israel, Kinneret Courtyard, and many more, seek to teach and exemplify.

Special in the IDF

This week, a group of new soldiers finished their pre-induction course (Gadna), a one-week program of discipline and military training under commanders from the Nahal infrantry brigade. The soldiers are now ready to integrate into a variety of military jobs.