LONGTIME JEWISH PHILANTHROPIC LEADER RICHARD WEXLER TO LEAD JEWISH NATIONAL FUND CAMPAIGN TO RAISE $300 MILLION FOR MASSIVE NEW WORLDCLASS ISRAEL EDUCATION VILLAGE FOR GLOBAL JEWRY
The 16-acre site of the new JNF Israel Education and Technology Center is being designed as a state-of-the-art facility with beautifully landscaped outdoor space and will offer dormitory buildings, 100 apartments, dining hall, restaurant, cafes, synagogue, conference center, classrooms, community and leisure rooms while providing three unique centers within the village: the new southern campus of the ever-growing Alexander Muss High School in Israel (which annually educates some 1,500 students in its college prep study abroad program). AMHSI-JNF continues to experience increased enrollment and upon build-out will educate and house up to 5,000 high school students from the U.S. and other countries who come to Israel and study Jewish history for six week and semester programs as well as summer sessions; a Zionist Education Center (for 200 adults at a time) to study, live, and connect with Israelis and Jews from across the globe; and a Technology Center offering 100 college and post-college students one to two year-long internships in Be’er Sheva, where more than 60 global hi-tech and cyber companies have opened operations, have major headquarters, and interests. The village is expected to begin construction next year and open in 2024.
Last month JNF-USA formally broke ground at the location, just inside the Be’er Sheva River Lake Park that was built by JNF-USA. The park, which covers an area three times the size of New York’s Central Park, also offers a 23.5 acre lake, swimming pool, soccer fields, recreational activities, running paths, and a 13,000 seat amphitheater—all within close proximity and available for use by those staying at the new education village, and a quick walk to the largest indoor mall in Israel.
“I am incredibly excited to be part of this new chapter in Israel’s history and lead this fundraising effort,” said Wexler, a long-time real estate attorney specializing in land use and municipal law. “I’ve traveled to Israel over 75 times and spent my adult life advocating for the land and people of Israel yet it was on a recent trip with JNF-USA that I witnessed their grand vision that benefit hundreds of thousands of people every day from the north to the south. I’m grateful for this opportunity because it is only in Israel where you can witness the true impact of your investment on the next generation, and no organization does it better than Jewish National Fund.”
Joseph Wolfson, a Philadelphia, PA attorney and JNF-USA national board member who also serves as Chair of the Campus Initiative and Chair of AMHSI-JNF remarked, “Richard has spent a life giving back and volunteering with organizations that do great work in Jewish philanthropy and we are most excited that he joined our team to take us to the next level. Our work in Be’er Sheva is well known as it has transformed the city from a dusty backwater town to a booming hi-tech metropolis. The new JNF-USA campus will become a world recognized center of Zionist education and create generations of future Zionist leaders.”
JNF-USA President Dr. Sol Lizerbram of San Diego, CA added, “I recently met with leaders of some of Be’er Sheva’s largest hi-tech companies who are all looking for quality U.S. post-graduates to serve as Interns. We all agreed that it’s imperative to offer one to two year-long internships so students have the necessary training and experience to be successful in the years to come. For JNF-USA and for everyone, this new campus is a game changer for global Jewry while also serving as the gateway to higher learning and employment in the fastest growing city in Israel. We are working with JNF Australia, JNF Canada, JNF Scotland, and JNF UK to join us as we change the world.”
For Wexler, being a part of Jewish organizational philanthropy for over 50 years has had its moments yet none define his Zionism more than the chance meeting with his personal hero, former Gulag prisoner Joseph Mendelevitch, in Israel. “For more than 25 years I wore a bracelet in solidarity for this man who had done so much to escape the Soviet Union in order to get to Israel and lead an open life as a Jew. Eventually, in 1981, he was allowed his freedom after worldwide protest demanded his release. Years later, in 1997, I was leading a mission to Israel and visited a facility where former Russian Jews received job training when I recognized Mendelevitch, now one of the instructors. Of course I introduced him to the Americans with me and presented him with my wristband. After all, here was a man who embodied Zionism and was one of the purposes of my philanthropy. It brought everything full circle.”
Wexler previously chaired the Board of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, its Jewish United Fund and Community Relations Council. He served as Chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, and National Chair of the historic Operation Exodus Campaign, and National Campaign Chair of the United Jewish Appeal. Internationally, he served on the Boards and Executive Committees of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Jewish Agency for Israel, where he also Co-Chaired the Israel Department and served on the Board of the Ethiopian National Project. Wexler also Chaired the United Israel Appeal and as Founding Chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel North America. For his service and leadership, he was awarded his community’s highest honor, the Julius Rosenwald Award, and the Ma’Asim Tovim Award from the JDC. Wexler was also the elected the first Managing Partner of Sachnoff Weaver & Rubenstein and, thereafter, the Chair of the Real Estate Practice at Lord Bissell & Brook. He and his wife, Bobbi, have been married for 56 years, and are the proud parents of three and grandparents of eight.
JNF’S CHOICE OF BE’ER SHEVA AS SITE OF NEW CAMPUS
JNF-USA’s Blueprint Negev initiative, begun 20 years ago, has created the Be’er Sheva River Lake Park including the 23.5 acre manmade lake (with recycled water), Abraham’s Well historic site and visitor’s center, 13,000-seat amphitheater, walking paths, and many areas of beautification which have helped to spark construction and development. A new train system links Be’er Sheva with Tel Aviv via a 54-minute ride and ongoing urban development has witnessed development of new apartment buildings, single family homes, Israel’s largest indoor mall, a 26-screen cinema and IMAX theater, new neighborhoods and communities, restaurants, a burgeoning night life, and a renewed vibrancy and interest in the future of the region, all fueled by the addition of numerous hi-tech, cyber-tech and start-up companies who’ve put down long term roots. Additionally, JNF’s work with the Lauder Employment Center places thousands with new jobs each year at companies like HP, PayPal, Dell, and CISCO Israel, and the nearby Ben Gurion University, renowned for its quality education and professors on staff, offers transportation to campus from around the city. In short, every corner of the city has been impacted as the population continues to expand and good employment opportunities abound.
JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. Today, JNF continues to give all generations a unique voice in building and ensuring the prosperity of the land of Israel through their generosity and partnership with the people of Israel. JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.