Jewish National Fund-USA CEO Honors Israeli Ethiopian Advocate in Most Touching Way Before Simchat Torah

Jewish National Fund-USA’s Chief Executive Officer, Russell F. Robinson surprised Israeli Ethiopian advocate, Naftali Aklum with the announcement that a Torah would be donated to Israel’s Ethiopian community in Naftali’s late father’s name through the organization’s Be Inscribed program.


New York, NY – October 8, 2020: Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) Chief Executive Officer, Russell F. Robinson, joined Israeli Ethiopian advocate, Naftali Aklum on the Nachum Segal Network with Nachum Segal to discuss the incredible contribution Israel’s Ethiopian community has made, and continues to make, to the land and people of Israel. The trio also discussed JNF-USA’s record-high 2020 campaign result and the organization’s Be Inscribed program in the lead up to the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah.


Click here to listen to the full interview.

“How is it that JNF-USA…always forms really solid relationships with immigrant groups in Israel?” asked Segal. Robinson responded: “Our relationships, our work, and our people, are not dealing in the hallways of the Knesset. Rather, they are dealing with [the people] on the streets of Be’er Sheva, Kiryat Shmona, Akko, Sderot, and the Arava. Now, why does that mean anything? Because it shows that it is a relationship between the Diaspora and Israel. A relationship that, let’s face it, started when Avraham said ‘lech lecha’ – go forward to a new land. No one else, no other people have a land as part of their existence except for the Jewish People.” When you meet and get to know the Israelis on the street in the cities of Israel, and you get to help a nation still under creation, you are part of 4,000 years of ‘lech lecha’ continuing.”


Robinson continued: “Placing Torahs in Synagogues in the Gaza Envelope, especially in ones that are just a few yards from the Gaza border really tells our enemies that ‘we are here,’ and that Torah is also a symbol that ‘we are here.’ Two-thousand years ago you thought we were gone, but ‘we are here!’” said Robinson.


Sofer on Masada


During the interview, Robinson discussed how JNF-USA began to scribe a Torah for Israel’s Ethiopian community: “Naftali called and wanted to donate a Torah to the Ethiopian Synagogue in Be’er Sheva where JNF-USA works, and he said to me ‘listen, I’m going to raise some money and I could do a couple hundred dollars here and there’…and immediately, one of our partners (donors) heard about Naftali’s request and immediately said ‘you know what, anonymously, I want to [fund] that Torah and I want it in the name of Naftali’s father.'

Naftali Aklum

Image: Israeli Ethiopian advocate, Naftali Aklum


“I don’t know if Naftali knows this right now – but when that Torah is finished, we’re going to have Be’er Sheva’s Ethiopian community come up to Masada and we’ll dance that Torah down into the Ethiopian synagogue. This Torah that has [Naftali’s] father’s name on it will be read, studied, and celebrated for hundreds of years to come – and it’s an honor for JNF-USA to be part of it.”



Image: (L-R) Michael Blank, Russell F. Robinson, Dr. Sol Lizerbram, and Lauren Lizerbram stand on top of Masada at a recent Torah dedication


Following Robinson’s announcement, Segal asked Aklum if this was the first time he was hearing about the Torah being dedicated in his father’s name. Aklum replied: “Well, I knew that Russell and JNF-USA were thinking about placing a Torah in our Synagogue in Be’er Sheva, however, this is the first time that I learn that the Torah will be donated in the name of my father.”


Emotionally, Aklum paused and said: “If you will see me now, I’m very excited. It’s not only me and my family. It’s our whole community hear in Be’er Sheva. We have more than 10,000 Ethiopian Jews living in this city – one of the first Israeli cities that received the Ethiopian Jews in the 80’s and to hear news like that – from people, our brothers and sisters in America, coming and donating a Torah to our Synagogue – that’s the beauty of being a Jew – being a part of what we call the Jewish People. Russell – I love you!"


Aklum added: “I don’t want to call JNF-USA an organization. It’s really one big family that takes care of each other.”


For more information about Be Inscribed, visit



Media inquiries: Stefan Oberman, Jewish National Fund-USA Director of Communications.


P: 212.879.9305 x222


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.