Former Soviet Refusenik Addresses Crisis in Ukraine at JNF-USA’s Breakfast for Israel in Austin


AUSTIN, Texas, March 25, 2022 —Several hundred community members joined Jewish National Fund-USA in person at Congregation Agudas Achim and virtually via live stream on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, for its 10th Annual Breakfast for Israel in Austin.


Marina Furman, Bruce Zimmerman (Event Chair), Brad Greenblum (Austin Board of Directors Chair)


Kyiv-born Marina Furman, a former Soviet Refusenik (a Soviet citizen and especially a Jew who was refused permission to emigrate) who serves as Jewish National Fund-USA’s Executive Director, National Major Donor Advancement, captivated the audience with a powerful and emotional keynote speech about the horrors taking place in Ukraine and the troubling similarities to what she personally experienced as an activist who risked her life for freedom.


Rabbi Yosef Levertov, Stu Wallock (Southwest Board of Directors), JP Newman, Steve LeBlanc


“I did then what Ukrainian people are doing now. Together with other Refuseniks, I said no to [the] Soviet regime. No to discrimination, no to persecution, and no to not allowing Soviet Jews to make aliyah and to immigrate to Israel…it was a very scary experience.”


Furman’s speech also touched upon the rise of antisemitism and how courage and defiance can be the most powerful weapons against antisemites, who come after Jews because they think they are weak.


Heilla Lain, Juli Berwald, Lauren Halpern (Women for Israel Committee Member), Esther Jenkins, Suzanne Newberg


“You have to stand tall; you have to be proud; you have to look antisemites in the eye and know who you are and not apologize. Because it’s hard to fight people and hate people who stand tall and stand proud.”


Attendees also heard from Event Chair, Bruce Zimmerman; Chayla Furlong, JNF-USA’s Director in Central Texas; and Brad Greenblum, Chair of the JNF-USA Austin Board of Directors, who spoke about the impact JNF-USA and the Austin community have had on the land and people of Israel.


Josh Prywes, Reagan Weil (JNF-USA Executive Director, Southwest), Gary Solka, Brad Greenblum


“Because of you and the charitable gifts you made to Jewish National Fund-USA in 2021, JNF-USA was able to provide over 200 computers to families of children with special needs so they could virtually access ongoing therapy and support during this pandemic,” said Greenblum. “Because of you, JNF-USA was able to rebuild the Western Galilee Tourist Information Center after last year’s conflict in Israel. Because of you, JNF-USA sent over 1,000 kids to Israel and was the only organization that was able to send American Jewish students on study abroad programs throughout the entire past year. Because of you, we were able to do that and so much more as we all work to continue to build a strong, secure, and prosperous Israel.”


Evan Golden, Eric Dermer, Jennifer Jacobson, Susan Fern, Jason Epstein, Lori Dermer


Jewish National Fund-USA will be hosting several incredible events in Austin throughout the year including the upcoming Women for Israel Luncheon taking place on Wednesday, May 11, and its Breakfast for Israel taking place on Thursday, December 15, featuring acclaimed Israeli actress, producer, writer, activist, and author, Noa Tishby.


Beth Sher, Nora Lieberman, Chayla Furlong (JNF-USA Director, Central Texas), Suzanne Schlesinger, Patti Sokol


Couldn’t attend the Breakfast for Israel? Click here to view and share the recording.


For more information, contact Chayla Furlong, JNF-USA Director, Central Texas at 512-410-1438 x948 at




Media Contact:

Jennifer Milton

561.447.9733 x 875


About Jewish National Fund-USA

JNF-USA is the leading philanthropic organization for Israel that supports critical environmental and nation building activities in Israel’s north and south. Through its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, JNF-USA is developing new communities in the Galilee and Negev, connecting the next generation to Israel, and creating infrastructure and programs that support ecology, individuals with special needs, and heritage site preservation.