Thursday, December 27, 2018

JNF receives Charity Navigator's Highest Rating for 7th Consecutive Year

In a country with 1.5 million American charities, Charity Navigator, America’s leading independent charity evaluator, this month bestowed its seventh consecutive 4-star rating on Jewish National Fund (JNF-USA) for the organization’s strong financial health and a perfect score of 100.00 for commitment to accountability and transparency, placing it in the top 5% in the country.

A Chanukah message of miracles

These remarks were originally delivered  by Steven London, President of the Jewish National Fund in Boston, at the Jewish National Fund Breakfast in Boston on December 3rd. 

At the beginning of this program, we all stood and sang two national anthems, the Star Spangled Banner and Hatikvah.  Hatikvah is a song of hope -- the Jewish people’s 2,000 year old hope to return to the land of Israel.  

Last night, we started our Chanukah celebration. Chanukah is about a miracle.  When the Maccabees reclaimed  our Temple in Jerusalem. And the oil we found for our Menorah  burned for eight days, not just one.  Eight crazy days, as Adam Sandler sings in his Chanukah song.  

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Joining the JNF family feeling engaged, affirmed and optimistic

By Doran Arik Miller 

In relative terms, I’m a Jewish National Fund baby. In the span of just a few months, I made my first charitable contribution to JNF, joined my local JNFuture board, and attended my first JNF National Conference. I jumped into the proverbial JNF deep end without really knowing what I was getting myself into -- I just knew I was supporting Israel, and that was enough to convince me to dip a toe in. 

Now, here I am, sitting on the other side of JNF National Conference 2018, and I feel engaged, affirmed, optimistic, motivated, moved, and so much more. But let me back up.

I grew up proudly Jewish and strongly affiliated with Israel. My mom was born there, and my maternal grandmother was too. My maternal grandfather fled Germany as a young child with his parents in the early 1930s to then-Palestine. My family members were the early Zionist pioneers, settling the land and fighting in the wars that made it a state. It is literally true that without Israel, I would not be here. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

In the JNF Kitchen: Roast turkey, Mousa style

This special Thanksgiving-themed recipe of the week comes to us from La Boite, a biscuits and spices shop in New York City owned by Israeli chef and spice blender Lior Lev Sercarz

Lior and La Boite have gained international fame for mixing spices in a unique way and selling some of the world's rarest blends. Lior opened his culinary superstore after traveling and studying around the globe. His latest venture, along with Jewish National Fund-USA, is Beit Asher, a Food Innovation and Technology Center and the JNF-USA Institute of Culinary Arts in Israel's Upper Eastern Galilee. 

This initiative, which is also in partnership with, ii2020, an Israeli NGO, aims to focus on bringing food technology and innovation, business accelerators and incubators, and a world-class Institute of Culinary Arts to the Upper Eastern Galilee. With this rollout, Jewish National Fund is playing a direct role in changing the narrative and landscape for the region by creating employment, bringing new residents, and changing the look, feel, and spirit of the area.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Meeting real-life heroes on the Queen of Sheba mission to Israel

Myra (left) and JNF First Lady Lauren Lizerbram on the mission.
By Myra Chack Fleischer

It was a beautiful sunny morning in Jerusalem as 36 participants of the Queen of Sheba Mission of the Women for Israel Campaign departed our hotel on Veterans Day headed for the 9/11 Memorial. It's the only memorial for the worst terrorist attack on US soil outside of the United States. We knew it would be an emotional morning, but we were not prepared for how much so.

When we arrived, another group was there. It was Heroes to Heroes, an organization that provides healing and support for American veterans who have PTSD or are on a path to self-destruction due to their service in countries such as Iraq and/or Afghanistan. With funding help from Jewish National Fund, the Heroes to Heroes program embraces them, brings them to Israel and helps them on a road to healing the moral injury suffered.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

In the JNF Kitchen: Stern Winery’s white fish ceviche with fruit

This recipe originally appeared in the summer 2016 issue of our Byachad Magazine. You can read the full issue here.

In 2004, Johnny Stern, a Brazilian born immigrant who moved to Israel with his family at the age of 17, made the bold decision to open his own winery, Stern Winery. He realized his true calling lay with the vines of his winery, located in Kibbutz Tuval, a picturesque community in the hills of the Western Galilee. Before realizing this dream, however, he lived a dual life for nearly six years: as a sales manager for a company manufacturing industrial adhesives, machinery oil, and metal treatments, and as an artisanal wine producer in Israel’s budding boutique wine industry.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Medical pair spends vacation sharing expertise in Israel's desert

 (L-R) Central Arava Resource Development Associate Samatha Levy,
 nurse Annette Vaccaro, Dr. Dana Sless, and JNF Central Arava liaison Noa Zer,
 following a lecture on early childhood development.

While many would choose to use their vacation time to go to Europe or lounge on a beach, one medical duo decided to head to Israel's desert and give back.

Dr. Dana Sless, who specializes in pediatric and adolescent health care in Atlantic City, NJ, and nurse Annette Vaccaro, based in Troy, NY, went deep in the heart of the sandy Central Arava, a region that sits between the Dead Sea and Eilat along the Jordanian border and is home to some 8,700 people. They spent a week giving lectures and seminars at Jewish National Fund's Danielle A. and Irving J. Grossman Arava Medical Center.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Fashionistas for Israel: Hip T-shirts, Golda Meir jean jackets help JNF

By Sara Armet (JNFuture NYC)

It's T-shirt time! The highly anticipated JNF National Conference is right around the corner, October 26-29, in Phoenix, and we are so excited to be back with our second annual "Johnny + Sara: Fashionistas for Israel" campaign.

This fall, Jonathan Solomon (JNFuture Tampa) and I relaunched our fundraising initiative with brand new offerings and fresh "products with a purpose." Through the sale of our original T-shirt and limited-edition designs, JNFuture is shaping the landscape of of Israel. One hundred percent of our profits go to JNF. Our call to action: the recent Emergency Town Hall Series for the Gaza Border Crisis.

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.