Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Jack Fleischer: Sportswriter, JFK and Truman colleague, JNF all-star

Jack Fleischer with Harry S. Truman.
Jack Fleischer may perhaps be best known as the person who coined the phrase "and now to honor America" that we hear so often before the playing of our national anthem at sporting events, but he's also remembered for his commitment to Israel through his support of Jewish National Fund. Proceeds of the many charitable gift annuities he established with JNF were used to plant a forest in Israel in honor of his parents, Matilda and Julius Fleischer.

Fleischer, who was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and passed away on July 21, 2015, in Palm Beach, was an ardent supporter of Israel, a JNF annuitant, and a member of World Chairman's Council, a society reserved for donors whose lifetime gifts total $1 million.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Beyond BDS: College activist has passionate plea for pro-Israel adults

Hayley (right) on her campus.
By Hayley Nagelberg, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign class of 2019

I have always cared about Israel, and I have spent the past four years actively advocating for Israel through political means and campus-based activism. I have learned an incredible amount about the Middle East, and I have been trained to present myself professionally and speak in front of crowds large and small. I now know more legal terminology and persuasive rhetoric than I thought possible. I can make my points eloquently and with impact. 

And yet, while I consider myself to be an effective and passionate advocate for Israel, I'm convinced something has been getting lost in translation between pro-Israel college students and the pro-Israel adult world.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Autism no barrier for my son's beautiful bar mitzvah at the Western Wall

Bar mitzvah of boy with autism at Western Wall
The author (center, holding Torah) with his son Gershon on his left, celebrating Gershon's bar mitzvah at the Western Wall.

By Yossi Kahana, director, JNF Task Force on Disabilities

Thousands of families from Israel and around the world have celebrated bar mitzvahs at the Western Wall, the Jewish world's most important place of prayer. Each week, the Western Wall plaza fills with joyous, emotional families who have arrived to celebrate their sons' bar mitzvahs at the site, the source of Jewish inspiration and yearning for centuries, and a symbol of the fortitude and strength of the State of Israel.

In a special ambiance of unity and holiness, a young bar mitzvah boy and his family have an unforgettable experience as a new link is created in the eternal chain of generations -- that of Jewish families in particular and the Jewish people as a whole. It's no surprise several generations of the same family have celebrated their sons' bar mitzvahs in this way.

Thirteen years ago, my family and I started marching on our own special journey when our son Gershon was born and diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Last month, we also arrived to the wall to celebrate our Gershon's bar mitzvah. With Gershon, it's hard for me to say "bar mitzvah" because he is not yet ready for the responsibilities of the Torah's commandments, and we don't really know when he will be. Yet it was a special day. Emotional, but special.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Jack Rose got scholarship help as a kid, now pays it forward in Israel

Jack Rose of Maryland (left), with JNF-Green Horizons liaison
Ido Reichman-Eisikovisits and Joel Friedlander of Delaware. 

When Jack Rose was growing up in his native New York City, he never could have imagined the life he'd lead as a philanthropist and leader in the Jewish community. 

Jack was raised by a loving single mother who worked multiple jobs to put food on the table. Thanks to a scholarship provided by his local Jewish social services organization, Jack and his sister got to discover and experience the outdoors at a summer camp -- an opportunity that left a lasting impact on him. As an adult, Jack became a talented engineer and worked his way up the corporate ladder through hard work and long hours, eventually building a professional reputation for himself and always exploring ways to give back. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Not the Israel of their youth: Baby Boomers see country anew on JNF tours

Over the course of nearly 20 years, over 500,000 young Jews have traveled to Israel with Taglit-Birthright for an unforgettable opportunity to connect with the country. Alleviating the fear that the next generation of Jews will drift further from their Jewish traditions, Birthright has become an institution for Israel education and learning. Parents and grandparents "kvell" when their children return from such a transformative experience, living their Israel experiences vicariously through Facebook and Instagram photos, and also feeling newfound appreciation for Judaism and Zionism and pride in their heritage.

But loving all Israel has to offer isn't just for the younger generation, as a recent Jewish National Fund (JNF-USA) Sunshine Tour for travelers 55 and over proves. "This is not the same Israel I grew up with," one participant said. "This is an adventure in context with the land. It is living history and it's really spectacular."

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Tzedakah in the new year: Charity helps donors as much as recipients

The week between the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is an auspicious time to give charity to merit a good year and a long life. As we recite on these holy days, "Teshuvah, Tefilah, Tzedakah -- repentance, prayer, and charity -- alleviates the negative decree. May we all be worthy of being written in the book of life for the coming year. To donate, click here

By Yossi Kahana, director, JNF Task Force on Disabilities

Tzedakah. It's the Hebrew word for charity -- for giving assistance and money to the poor and needy, and to other worthwhile causes. It's the responsibility to give a portion of one's personal substance for the common good. But it's more than giving money. Done properly, tzedakah requires the donor to share his or her compassion and empathy along with money. Judaism teaches that donors benefit from tzedakah as much as, or more than, recipients.

In the Torah portion Re'eh, we find the mitzvah of aser te'aser, literally translated as "tithe you shall tithe," referring to the obligation to set aside a 10th of our earnings for charity. Since the word for "tithing," aser, has the same root as "wealthy," ashir, the Talmud interprets this verse as "Tithe in order that you shall become wealthy."

Monday, August 27, 2018

The meaning of Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah ... it’s one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. It's the Jewish New Year, anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, a day of judgment and coronation.

The Jewish new year greetings for this time of year reflect our prayers for a good, sweet year ahead. On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, we wish l'shanah tovah tikatevu v'techatemu: "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." The main thing is to wish each other a good, sweet year with all our heart – because that is what God values most.

Rosh Hashanah is packed with mitzvahs, special foods and traditions but the central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram's horn, on both days of the holiday.

Why the shofar?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A new JNF tour of Israel from a Torah perspective

By Deby Goodman

My husband Jeff and I have been involved with the Jewish National Fund For almost 40 years. We are the immediate past co-presidents of the Orange County Region of JNF -- Jeff, in fact, was founding president of the region many years ago and is a third-generation JNF volunteer. As a former firefighter, Jeff is a member of the Fire Fighters and Rescue Task Force. I'm a member of the Disabilities Task Force.

We've been on countless tours and missions to Israel, and lots of trips on our own to visit our kids and grandkids. But on all those tours and missions, there was something missing.  I consider myself a religious Zionist, and my Zionism, and hence support for Jewish National Fund, springs from my Judaism. JNF does wonderful, fantastic things in Israel, and affects every single Israeli, every single day, including the Torah community. But we weren't seeing this aspect being highlighted on our various trips.   

So I decided to create a tour that would look at JNF's work in Israel from a Torah perspective, both in terms of how our various projects tie into the Torah and Biblical history, and how they affect the Torah community in Israel. Thus was born the latest JNF tour, titled Israel: From a Torah Perspective. It will take place from March 4-11, 2019.

Friday, August 10, 2018

What I saw on the ground in Israel as the Gaza border crisis rages on

Ariel and Aleta (left) at the inauguration for the delivery of the first fire wagon funded by JNF.

By Ariel Grunberg
My wife, Aleta, and I were in Israel this summer and able to experience firsthand the tragic eco-terrorism being brought upon those living on the Gaza Envelope over the past few months. As members of the Jewish National Fund Gaza Envelope Task Force, we had visited the area many times and grew to know and care for many living on the border. With trepidation, we looked forward to visiting our friends to see for ourselves what had occurred.
Yedidya Harush, our guide and amazing JNF liaison from the Halutza communities, picked us up at at the Ofakim railroad station and took us to Gama, an area that had been consumed by fire. I was so saddened to see this and then I became angry. I asked myself how people could do such a horrible thing as to destroy wildlife and their natural habitats, forests that purify the air we need to breathe, and agricultural lands that provide food for a hungry world. The sheer cost just to replace what was burned is in the millions. Farmers lost so much -- land that was ready to yield crops and trees that took years to grow were gone, destroyed.

Friday, July 27, 2018

In Israel, artsy bomb shelters bring comfort, beauty to kids in crisis

The painted bomb shelters in Israel's Negev desert create beauty from trauma.

Chaya, 9, used to get off the bus one stop early on her way home to Yated, a moshav in southern Israel. 

One day, her mom asked Chaya why she got off at the bus stop farther from home. The stop closer to her house, Chaya replied, houses an ugly gray bomb shelter, and looking at it made her feel bad. The shelter at the previous stop, on the other hand, looks pretty, she said: "It’s painted and gives me a better feeling." 

A local artist, along with local kids, painted a mural on the bomb shelter as part of a JNF project to beautify shelters and make them less threatening to kids in the communities along Gaza's border. Since March, more than 450 flaming kites, balloons, and rockets have been launched from Gaza at the Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev regions of Israel. The devices have terrorized residents and scorched thousands of acres of agricultural land and forests. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Fast fire wagons from JNF aid Israelis under siege along Gaza's border

Credit: Israel Fire and Rescue Services
Fires from incendiary devices shot across the border from Gaza have scorched thousands of acres in Israel's south. 

The families who call the Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev regions of Israel home have had an extremely traumatic few months.         

Since March, over 450 flaming kites, balloons, and rockets have been launched at their communities from Gaza. These terrorist devices scorch thousands of acres of agricultural land and forests -- resources the communities rely on as their main source of economic development.  

The fiery devices also spark emotional and physical damage, stoking fear and post-traumatic stress disorder in both adults and children forced to flee to shelters.

Monday, July 23, 2018

First-time JNF mission leader calls Israel trip 'powerful, life-changing'

Author Lisa Grier (bottom center) with her mission participants.
By Lisa Grier

After traveling internationally for two months in a row, first to Israel, and then to China, I am so happy to be back home in the great USA. We are very lucky, as Jewish Americans, to have the opportunity to visit Israel whenever we choose and to support it through amazing nonprofit organizations like Jewish National Fund. The trip to Israel was the first mission I led as a JNF professional. I never wanted it to end. 

Our mighty 47 travel participants became like a family: a family united in the patriotism we feel for Israel and all its inhabitants. After working for Jewish National Fund for a little over a year and a half as director in Orange County, Long Beach and Palos Verdes, I finally had the opportunity to bring people to our homeland and really touch, see, and feel all the incredible things we do in Israel every day. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

From Hawaii to Yerucham: Don Wong on why he works to develop Israel's desert

Don Wong, third from right, with friends on Ride for Yerucham 2018. The first time Wong visited Yerucham,
he was struck by the residents' pioneering spirit.
Ride for Yerucham 2018, a four-day mountain biking trip through the desert of southern Israel, took place at one of the top seven spots in the world for mountain biking. Among those cycling through the Negev in March to raise money for the fast-growing little town southeast of Be'er Sheva was Don Wong, a retired management consultant from Kaneohe, Hawaii, and a member of the Jewish National Fund's Yerucham's Task Force since last year.

Don, an evangelical Christian with a background in public health, first visited Israel in 2001 on a Bible teaching tour. He started planting trees through JNF, and felt his connection to Israel strengthen even more after he and his wife Vivien, a retired radiologist, joined the JNF Doctors for Israel Tour in 2014 (Vivien will return to Israel in October to teach radiology residents at the Galilee Medical Center.) We spoke to Don about his passion for Israel and his involvement with JNF and Yerucham. Here are his answers, lightly edited.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Desert days in Israel on JNF trip remind student that water is life

Student Owen Harrison participated in JNF's latest Caravan for Democracy trip.

Owen Harrison, a student at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, participated in JNF's Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission, a 10-day, fully subsidized trip to Israel for non-Jewish student leaders who've never been.

By Owen Harrison

For most of my life, I've had the privilege of never to having to worry about water -- where it’s coming from, or if it will run out. However, that luxury has begun to change for many people. There's a growing water crisis: People living in South Africa are currently allotted 6 gallons of water a day; to put that into perspective, the average American uses between 80-100 gallons of water daily. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Joe Adler, an immigrant’s story

By Joe Adler

Some come to America to escape oppression, others because of lack of opportunity and hunger. Most, however, are drawn to our country’s promise of a better tomorrow, not just for themselves, but, more importantly, for their children. For me, it was my mother's idea... 

I arrived in the United States at age 15, unaccompanied, after a two-week voyage on board the trans-Atlantic Israeli Zim Lines cruise ship SS Zion, in June, 1957.

My story, however, began 16 years earlier, in 1941, when my parents, Olga and Aaron Adler, escaped Hungary on board the Darien II, the very last refugee ship out of Europe.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Multicultural agriculture school in Israel plants seeds of hope, diplomacy

The author, Ron, right, with his new friend Mohammad, at AICAT.

By Ron Werner

What would you say if you walked into a classroom in a remotely populated region of southern Israel to find the room filled with students from Africa and Southeast Asia learning and loving Israel? The majority of the students come from countries that don't have diplomatic relations with Israel; so, if you hadn't seen it with your own eyes, you might not have believed it. This is hope, this is the future. This is AICAT: The Arava International Center for Agricultural Training.  

A few weeks ago I visited AICAT, and it was easily one of the most amazing places I have ever seen.

Monday, May 28, 2018

U.S. Navy couple Marchel and Alice Tevelson generous in life, legacy

The Tevelsons, Alice and Marchel

Alice J. Tevelson and Marchel Charles Tevelson of La Mesa, California, shared a great love for each other and the life they created together. 

Married in 1957, Alice gave up her teaching career to become a Navy wife. Charlie, as he was known to his family, was a graduate of Temple University and a decorated commander in the U.S. Navy, serving in World War II and Vietnam. Charlie served in the U.S. maritime and naval forces on active duty and as a civilian for a total of 54 years. In 1972, while on active duty and having completed several decorated combat tours, Charlie became director of the Navy’s worldwide humanitarian mission, Project Handclasp. He held this position as both an active duty commander and civilian director until 2006.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Under the acacia tree: Celebrating a rite of passage in Israel's Arava

Photo: Tamir Eytan
The bat mitzvah girl, Alexia, in the Central Arava.
By Barbara Bader

In 2013, my husband Abe and I were talking about taking our first trip to Israel. He remembered, as a child, collecting donations for Jewish National Fund, using the blue box. I did some research, called our Long Island, N.Y. branch of JNF, and thus began our relationship. During that trip, on the Spirit of Israel Mission in April 2014, we visited the usual amazing places: the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the modern city of Tel Aviv, the beautiful Galilee. As wonderful as this was, nothing pulled at our heartstrings the way our visit to the Arava region did!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Garden of Peace dedicated at LOTEM's Ecological Park

By Lynne Merriam

This past year, we dedicated the Garden of Peace at LOTEM's site in Emek HaShalom, the Valley of Peace. I wanted this Garden to honor my husband, Fred Merriam, who exemplifies being a man of peace. Fred and I have been to Israel many times. Now that we are part of the Jewish National Fund Disabilities Task Force, we have felt an even greater connection to Eretz Yisrael. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mother's Day thoughts from Jewish National Fund leader Nina Paul

Nina's mother, Shirley

By Nina Paul, president, Jewish National Fund Women for Israel  

As Mother's Day approaches, I thought I would share some thoughts about my mother Shirley (z"l) and my daughter Lainey, both of whom are my role models. 

My mother, at the age of 28, (an old maid at that time) ventured out on her own to Los Angeles from New Haven, Conn., by train. Scary as it must have been to travel on her own, she carried on with her dream vacation as her girlfriend decided to stay behind for a man she had recently met. As fate would have it, she met my father, and three months later they were married and she moved to Los Angeles.

Leaving a family far behind and starting her own family was not common in those days. My parents had a wonderful 46-year marriage. Unfortunately, my father Ted (z"l), predeceased my mother by 20 years. During their love affair, they raised a family, and worked side by side in creating a very successful business. They endured many hardships along the way, including raising a child who was brain damaged at birth. My brother Louis is the middle child and I am the "baby." Despite her many challenges, she volunteered at her synagogue and with many Jewish organizations throughout her lifetime.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dispatch from the front lines of the devastating Israel floods

The Arava Search and Rescue Team on the ground.
The Jewish National Fund Arava Task Force spent the past week in Israel, and their time there happened to coincide with the devastating storms in the area. Below Task Force chair Rebecca Fischer shares her impressions of being there during this trying time. To help with rescue efforts sorely needed in the area, please visit here.  

By Rebecca Fischer, Jewish National Fund Arava Task Force chair

I just returned from Israel. This was my 17th trip to Israel and I believe my 10th time in the Arava. This trip was unparalleled. We had an incredible time in the Hevel Eilot Region Sunday through Tuesday and the Central Arava Tuesday through Thursday, where we saw the fruits of our time and money literally rising from the desert.  

We met as a Task Force to review the projects proposed to us by both regions on Wednesday afternoon at Nof Zuqim, and to decide which projects we want to recommend to Jewish National Fund for support. However, we soon found ourselves trapped in the dining hall as a result of the sand and rain storms brewing outside, the likes of which none of us had ever witnessed. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Powerful theme of JNF doctors trip to Israel: Treating all with humanity

Members of the 2017 Doctors for Israel Mission to Israel.
By Dr. Fredric Cohen, co-chair of JNF's Doctors for Israel Mission

We came together from all over North America -- New York and Dallas; Toronto and Tampa Bay; Philadelphia and Paramus -- all with the same goal, to experience and to support. We walked the sparkling, modern, and very upscale shops and eateries of Sarona, built around the historic Jewish National Fund-renovated first buildings of a nascent Tel Aviv. We heard about the trials and tribulations of pre-State pioneers, and the birth pangs of the current State of Israel. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

On JNF Makor Mission, the thrill of seeing Israel's desert come alive

By Rachel Sofaer

There's no better way to start the day than overlooking the beautiful cliffs of the Negev desert, and that's how the day began for a group of dedicated American Jews visiting Israel. The group was in southern Israel on Jewish National Fund's Makor Mission, spending five-days exploring JNF sites and Israel's peripheral communities. As the desert breeze danced through the air, the group of lay leaders from across America learned about the community of Arad. Makor members generously donate to JNF and inspire their communities at events and conferences to open up their wallets, and more importantly their hearts, to help Jewish National Fund continue to develop Israel.