Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Shabbat on the Strip: Doing Vegas with dozens of young JNF leaders


Lisa Shakun, second from left, with other participants of JLIS 2019.

By Lisa Shakun 

Why would young professionals from all over the country come to Las Vegas and spend their time and hard-earned money sitting in a hotel board room instead of hanging out by the pool or partying in casinos? 

That question takes me back to the beginning of my Jewish National Fund journey. It started two years ago when I googled "young professional trip Israel." I had recently returned from Israel after traveling there on a women's trip through my synagogue, where I easily brought down the average age by 30 years. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I was connected to Israel, and I wanted to go back, but this time with my peers. One of the of the first Google results that appeared was for the JNF Young Professionals Tour, and without hesitation I signed up for the trip, booked a flight, and three months later I was on my way to Israel.

What I learned about life pruning pomegranate trees in Israel's desert


By Arielle Levy

I had the time of my life working on a farm in southern Israel along the border of Egypt pruning pomegranate trees. I contacted HaShomer HaChadash looking to volunteer on a farm so I could have a "pioneer" experience. I can't even express how much my week of manual labor far exceeded my expectations in the best possible way.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Back in Israel with JNF four years later, and awed by the progress



By Lauren Mescon

The words of my dear friend Vivian Grossman, "I always yearn to be back in Israel," could not be more true for me.

As I begin to put words on paper, thoughts fight for clarity amid the jumble of emotions that come with living as part of the diaspora but knowing the warmth and joy of being "home" in Israel, as I was during the JNF Mega Mission in February.


The author holds a newly inscribed Torah on its way
to a new home at Kibbutz Shalom.

My connection to the state began when my grandmother collected blue boxes in Savannah, Georgia. It must have seeped into my subconscious because when I was asked to be on the local JNF board in Atlanta in 2007, I said yes. 

And when I attended the Queen of Sheba Mission in 2008, going to Israel for only the second time, my life truly changed forever. I will never be at a Friday night Shabbat anywhere in the world without recalling the feeling I had being with Talia Tzour's family, blessed for Shabbat by her grandmother. I will never forget the feelings of love and camaraderie among the women and the people we met.

The more involved I become, the deeper my feelings and commitment grow.  From falling in love with the Be'er Sheva River Project, and permanently placing my beloved parents' names on a plaque there, to my current "affair" with the Arava, and my growing attraction to the Gaza Envelope, it just gets better and better.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

JDAIM: Meet two immigrants to Israel devoting themselves to those with special needs

During February, Jewish Disabilty Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and all year round, Jewish National Fund proudly supports efforts to make sure people with special needs and disabilities are fully included in Israeli society.


Beth Steinberg 


Photo: Jared Bernstein 
Beth Steinberg is one of the co-founders and directors of Shutaf Inclusion Programs in Jerusalem. Shutaf, which was founded with another olah from the US, Miriam Avraham, offers innovative and inclusive informal-education programs for children, teens, and young people, with and without disabilities. 

More than 300 participants of all abilities enjoy year-round activities including Camp Shutaf Passover and Camp Shutaf Summer day camps; Young Leadership Program for Teens and Young Adults; 21+ activities for older participants, ages 21-30; Inclusion Education; Parent and family gatherings. Shutaf is a place of complete acceptance and inclusion for all participants of all abilities, and from all cultural backgrounds. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

JDAIM Dvar Torah: Ancient examples of including those with disabilities



During February, Jewish Disabilty Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and all year round, Jewish National Fund proudly supports efforts to make sure people with special needs and disabilities are fully included in Israeli society.

By Yossi Kahana

Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month is a unified effort among Jewish organizations worldwide to raise awareness and foster inclusion of people with disabilities and those who love them. 

JDAIM is observed each February. But the truth is, while it brings the issues of disability inclusion to the forefront, inclusion is something we must focus on all year long. In our quest to include every member of our community, we would do well to pay attention to the following ancient examples of accommodation.

The Torah begins by telling us we are all created in God's image. If everyone is created in the image of God, we have the responsibility to make sure that every single person -- even those who differently abled -- has equal opportunity to participate and feel accepted.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

JDAIM: Israeli man with Asperger's proudly takes on IDF, 'real world'



During February, Jewish Disability Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and all year round, Jewish National Fund proudly supports efforts to make sure people with special needs and disabilities are fully included in Israeli society.

Hey, everyone. My name is Cori Ashkenazy, and I'm here to tell you my story. It's a unique story, one that I look forward to sharing.

It's the story of my life on the spectrum, my personal journey as a high-functioning individual with Asperger's, and how I was able to deal with my challenges and integrate successfully into the workforce, army, and society, or as they like to say, the "real world."

My journey was fraught with challenges, difficulties and many an obstacle. Yet it was -- and still is -- a journey I believe has the power to inspire others and serve as a model for anyone, from any sector or society, in Israel and around the world.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Meet three inspiring young women Zionists working to protect Israel



In honor of Tu BiShvat, which is January 21, we're profiling three amazing women who proudly serve the land and people of Israel through Hashomer Hachadash, which assists farmers and ranchers faced with challenges in protecting and securing their land. 
Esther and husband, Raz

My name is Esther, and I am 24 years old, married to Raz and living in a community in the northern region of Israel. I grew up most of my life in Manchester, England, in a Zionist home and as an active member of the Bnei Akiva youth movement. 

I always had a deep connection to Israel, and felt as if it was a home away from home. After high school, I decided to take a gap year in a seminary based on a kibbutz in the north. I took part in a program to get the real "Israel experience." 

I thoroughly enjoyed my gap year and bonded with many Israeli girls on the program, which opened my eyes to what I was looking for in terms of my future. I suddenly found it difficult to accept that I was supposed to go back to England and start university, while the Israeli girls on my program were about to get drafted and give two years of their lives defending our country. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Building Israel and battling terrorism, one tree at a time


Rosaline and Alan Barron, both doctors from Newton, Mass., encourage planting trees
in Israel for Tu BiShvat. 
Alan and Rosaline Barron are kicking off their new JNF-sponsored mission right before the Jewish festival of Tu BiShvat, the "New Year for Trees." It's a time of renewal, and a celebration of nature and the environment. They are encouraging others to do the same. This article originally appeared here

By Marina Brodetsky

For years, Dr. Rosaline Barron woke up every day and asked herself the same question: “What have I done for Israel today?”

Now the recently retired gastroenterologist of Newton, Mass., has an answer -- and it's the same one every day. She's committed to planting a tree in Israel every day for the rest of her life through Jewish National Fund, continuing to help build the land of Israel.

"I can’t yet be there to live and work, but I can commit to Israel with the gift to JNF of planting one tree every day. It’s really a gift to myself,” she said. “By doing this small thing, my husband and I have participated in the ongoing journey to take care of building the land of Israel."

A child of Holocaust survivors, Barron remembers always having a Jewish National Fund Blue Box, or pushke, in the home that served as an inseparable link between Diaspora Jewry and the people of Israel. She and her husband, Alan, a retired internist, honeymooned in Israel and have returned many times, visiting the well-known sites, spending time with family, and yes, planting trees.