Friday, May 27, 2016

The Heroes to Heroes JNF journey: Planting a tree in Israel helps traumatized U.S. veteran heal

In honor of Memorial Day, we share a post from our friends at Heroes to Heroes, an amazing organization that provides spiritual healing, suicide prevention, and peer support for veterans who suffer from moral injury and PTSD. Recently, a group of these veterans traveled to Israel with Jewish National Fund.

By Judy Schaffer, founder and president, Heroes to Heroes

Twenty-two American veterans take their own lives in the United States each day, statistics show. We lose more soldiers at home than we do on the battlefield. Veterans' medical care has challenges, and our veterans are feeling more isolated than ever. Israel too is more isolated by the day. Its people feel that isolation on a daily basis. Making connections between Israel and "everyday people" around the world is crucial to Israel’s survival. Making connections between our veterans and others who care is crucial to our veterans' survival. Heroes to Heroes exists to make that healing connection. Our partnership with JNF helps fulfill our mission.

In the JNF Kitchen: Melon and honey vodka cocktail

This fun #RecipeOfTheWeek is great way for ushering in a summer weekend. It comes to us from the Arava desert, a region characterized by sharp climate changes, extreme topographical conditions, scarce water, and dramatic natural beauty. The Arava is a key focus of JNF's Blueprint Negev initiative.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Power of Women: IDF soldier finds her path guiding those with special needs

We continue our month-long series on the women of JNF with a firsthand account from a young Israeli woman who decided to give back as part of her service with the Israel Defense Forces. 

By Miriam Slamowitz

Senior year in Israel looks the same in every high school. Everybody is searching for the appropriate post-graduation program, and I was not unique. I looked for a place where I could most contribute, one that would be the best fit for me, and most importantly, where my work would be meaningful.

I heard about JNF partner LOTEM through a friend who was doing her IDF service there. The combination immediately interested me -- nature and hikes for people with special needs. It sounded interesting and unusual, but what really captured me was the light in her eyes when she told me what she was doing. That was it. I decided that was my path.

Friday, May 20, 2016

In the JNF Kitchen: Red snapper sashimi with tabouleh

Paul Nirens
This red snapper sashimi with tabouleh is the perfect dish to eat al fresco for a late-spring dinner. This #RecipeOfTheWeek comes from Aluma, a Galilean Bistro owned by Alaa Sweetat in Maalot-Tarshicha, a joint Jewish-Arab municipality in the Galilee. It's brought to us via GallilEat owner Paul Nirens, who organizes culinary experiences and cooking workshops in the Galilee region. 

Paul, a former chef who trained at one of Israel's leading culinary schools, has lived in the rural Galilee region for almost 30 years. He is a member of JNF partner organization Western Galilee Now, a consortium of small businesses in the region. The Galilee is a key focus of JNF's Go North development initiative.

Through GalilEat, Paul shares his passion for Galilean village culture and traditional food preparation with Israeli tourists and visitors from overseas. A GalilEat adventure allows an authentic, in-depth view of the real Israel. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Power of Women spotlight on Nina Paul: 'Together we can create miracles'

Throughout May, we're celebrating the women who make Jewish National Fund what it is. Today in our Power of Women series, we talk with Nina Paul, JNF Women for Israel president and an entrepreneur from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Nina Paul
Why did you first get connected to JNF? 

I first got involved in with JNF 30 years ago when I moved from Los Angeles to Cincinnati (for my future husband). I needed to find friends who shared a common passion -- Israel. I have been actively involved ever since. 

Did you grow up with involvement in Jewish life/organizations? 

I grew up in a very Conservative Jewish home. I was active in my Hebrew school and Sunday school. While in high school, I was fortunate enough to attend Camp Ramah in Ojai, California, for two months after ninth grade. Following that experience, I enrolled in the Los Angeles Hebrew High School, an after-school program, raised the most money for a Walk for Israel on Independence Day, and went to Israel the following summer with the Los Angeles Hebrew High School for an intense 10-week program of study, work and touring.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Power of Women youth wisdom: 'You have something incredible to bring to the table'

Throughout May, we're celebrating the women who make Jewish National Fund what it is. Next up in our Power of Women series is Carly Sobol, one of our rock-star Campus Fellows. The JNF Campus Fellowship program is an amazing opportunity for students to be a voice for Israel at their college. Applications for the next school year are being accepted now. 

Why did you first get connected to JNF? 

I first visited Israel with NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) on a summer semester abroad in high school and fell in love with the land and its rich history. My first experience with JNF was participating on an Alternative Spring Break trip during my freshman year of college. JNF's mission immediately resonated with me as I had previously struggled with my love for Israel and my desire to stay out of the political world involving the country. JNF's ability to support Israel through environmental and community-based service provided me with opportunities I was comfortable supporting. 

Did you grow up with involvement in Jewish life/organizations? 

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, in a very small Jewish community. I think because of this I strived to connect with other Jewish people and make Judaism a large part of my identity through attending Goldman Union Camp Institute for 12 summers.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Power of Women: Young robotics champs help Yerucham's star shine

Hadas and Adelle, students and robotics enthusiasts at Amit Kamah. 

We continue our series on the women of JNF with the story of some amazing girls from the town of Yerucham who might just be tomorrow's robotics stars. Because the #PowerofWomen starts with the #PowerofGirls. 

By Geri Shatz, chair of JNF's Yerucham Task Force 

We are standing in a bare-bones studio in a shabby industrial park on the eastern side of Yerucham, a remote city in Israel's Negev desert. 

We keep our expectations low. We have each experienced the startled reaction of an Israeli immigration officer when we respond "Yerucham" to the question: Where will you be staying for the week? 

This is Yerucham Science Center, home of Yerucham's robotics program. The municipality has developed a program that begins with all children in the kindergartens playing with and then learning from Legos and extends through high school. Ido Frommer, director of the center, introduces us to Hadas and Adelle, two 14-year old students at the Amit Kamah school

The girls are a little shy. Then they launch into their demonstration and all traces of shyness vanish.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Power of Women spotlight on Gina Raphael: After five years, a full-on 'JNFaholic'

Throughout May, we're celebrating the women who make Jewish National Fund what it is. Next up in our Power of Women series is JNF supporter Gina Raphael, a businesswoman who co-owns Mickey Fine Pharmacy & Grill in Beverly Hills with her husband Jeffrey Gross. 

Why did you first get connected to JNF? 

I got connected with JNF about five years ago in response to our annual breakfast in Los Angeles. (JNF CEO) Russell's passion for making a difference in Israel and being part of the process inspired me. My first trip back to Israel in 18 years and meeting people like Talia Tzour, Yedidya Harush, Seth Davis, and Yoel Zilberman has gifted me with a second family -- a JNF family from Israel. 

Did you grow up with involvement in Jewish life/organizations? 

I studied art history in college. I had asked my parents to spend a semester abroad looking at art and they made it clear I needed to visit Israel first. I think they regretted that move. I fell in love with Israel, spending two summers at Hebrew University and a semester at Tel Aviv University along with several trips while I was working. I almost made aliyah but the lack of an equivalent job opportunity in Israel put my aliyah plans on hold.

Friday, May 6, 2016

In the JNF Kitchen: Yerucham challah once made for President Ezer Weizman

JNF challah recipe

Mas'uda Swissa
This recipe of the week is a traditional challah, brought to us by Mas'uda Swissa, who was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and immigrated to Israel in 1963. Mas'uda now lives in Yerucham, a town in the Negev desert that's rich in culinary traditions brought by Jews from North Africa and the Middle East.  

She once made this exact challah for Ezer Weizman, the former president of Israel, who was visiting Yerucham. It came out perfect, but she was too shy to present it herself, so someone else gave it to him.

In 1963, after Morocco put a seven-year halt on Jewish immigration, the king granted the Jews one week to leave the country. Mas'uda at the time was married with a 2-year-old daughter and seven months pregnant, but on Tisha B'av she and her family took a bag of clothes and left everything behind.

The families that immigrated together formed strong ties during the weeks-long journey -- men organized a minyan (prayer group) and the women prepared food and took care of the children together. They naturally decided to all stay together once they arrived in Israel no matter which town they were sent to. And that town was Yerucham, a focus of JNF's Blueprint Negev.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Itzik Becher worked with Peter, Paul and Mary. Now he works for JNF

From left: JNF CEO Russell Robinson, author Seth Siegel, JNF Desert States Executive Director Deb Rochford,
and Itzik Becher. 

Our JNF staff members are a varied and colorful bunch from all around the globe and all walks of life. Here, Major Gifts Director for Desert States Itzik Becher describes the meandering path that led to his current position, one he is palpably passionate about. 

By Itzik Becher

Most of my life I spent in the arts -- managing, producing, and representing the best artists from all over the world (Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band; Peter, Paul and Mary; Haris Alexiou; Dulce Pontes), and the most significant artists from Israel (Chava Alberstein, David Broza, Mayumana). Music was my life. In raising funds for every single production, I found great pleasure in being able to convince people to share their hard-labored wealth with what was important. Changing the world one by one, song by song, project by project. 

Power of Women spotlight on Louise Dabrow: 'We are unbeatable when we unite'

Making the world a better place is a concept in Louise Dabrow's DNA. 

Throughout May, we'll be celebrating the women who make JNF what it is. From donors to partners in Israel, IDF soldiers to scientists, these women are nothing short of outstanding and inspiring. There is strength in numbers, and that is why the #PowerofWomen shines through in JNF's Women for Israel group, which is traveling together to Israel later this year on the Queen of Sheba mission. We start our series with Louise Dabrow, past president of Women for Israel.

My mother was deeply involved in raising money for almost any Jewish charity you can name: Jewish National Fund, Hadassah, Israel Bonds, and Mizrachi, to name a few. I grew up with fundraising as part of our nightly dinner conversations, so it is in my DNA to be a fundraiser for Jewish causes.

When I remarried, my husband Alan and I decided it was very important as a couple to give back to others, and we have lived our lives guided by the concept of tikkum olam, or making the world a better place. 

We joined Jewish National Fund in 1990, and in 1992 we went to Israel for a five-day mission led by the wonderful Zvi Kahanov. He showed us all the amazing work being done by JNF and reconfirmed our decision to be involved with this organization after seeing the impact its projects were making in the everyday lives of Israelis. I knew our voices would be heard once we became active.