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JNF

TASK FORCES Doing the

TASK FORCES Doing the ‘Hard Stuff’ From North to South and everywhere in between, JNF’s major donors are not just writing a check – they are transforming the lives of Israelis By NOA AMOUYAL When driving through the hilly roads of the Galilee, each twist and turn uncovers a hidden gem – a vineyard here, a dairy there, a boutique bed and breakfast nestled among the mountain peaks – which makes it easy to surrender oneself to everything the region has to offer. This is exactly what happened to Kenneth J. Krupsky, Jewish National Fund’s Western and Eastern Galilee Task Force Co-Chairman and Vice President, Galil-Go North. In his view, Jewish National Fund’s dedication to reinforcing and rebuilding the North from the ground up epitomizes the organization’s approach to any initiative it takes on. The Western and Eastern Galilee Task Force is just one of 18 JNF groups working to change Israel from the bottom up with the major goal of population growth. Lay leaders from across the United States invest not only their money, but their time and expertise to areas that each have a unique way of changing Israel for the better. “It really is a winning formula,” Jewish National Fund CEO Russell F. Robinson remarked. “They invest their money and know-how and we put them to work as a partner with the people of the area.” For Krupsky, task forces are integral to what makes JNF so successful and unique. “This story describes the mission of JNF,” said the Maryland-based retired lawyer, referring to its Go North program, which is transforming the North by boosting the economy to retain the population, increase opportunities, and attract new people and businesses to the area. “Our principal objective is to bring 300,000 new people to the region so we work with those living in the North to raise the Galilee to become an equivalent partner with the center of Israel, and we look at everything in a holistic manner – employment, education, housing, social change, you name it.” “In only a few years, Go North has established itself with a proven record and as a partner and catalyst for Galilean businesses, philanthropists, NGOs, social entrepreneurs and youth leaders,” Krupsky added. Krupsky is fascinated by how well JNF works with locals. “This is what I found most rewarding: the opportunity to make philanthropic social investments, side by side with local Israelis. “We get to know the Israeli people, businesses, NGOs, youth and municipal leaders– Jews and non-Jews, across the country,” he said. Geri Shatz, Jewish National Fund’s Yerucham Task Force chairwoman, agreed and is inspired by the zeal that residents have demonstrated in an effort to overhaul their town. “It’s a community I feel particularly good working with because they are 12

doing at least half of the work,” she said. “I’m excited about this place. It has such potential.” Shatz added that much of the credit goes to its young and energetic Mayor Michael Biton. She cites the fact that JNF is funding a major national park set to run through the city and that its Housing Development Fund, through which lots of new homes are already planned, is evidence of the town’s positive change. Being a part of a task force is much more than writing a check – it’s a serious commitment where one can truly establish a connection to the people of Israel and see the fruits of one’s labor. Penny Rosen and her husband, Stephen, who serve on the Fire and Rescue Task Force, have developed a deep bond with Israel and its people through their work with Jewish National Fund. The couple dedicated a new fire station in Mitzpe Ramon. She emphasized that she “feels with every fiber of my being that America is the home of my heart and Israel is the home of my soul. I’m only complete if both countries are doing well.” This fire station, Yerucham River Park and other completed projects around the country implemented by task forces are examples of the lay leaders’ major contributions to the land and people of Israel. Had it not been for their foresight and dedication, most of these projects would not have broken ground. This is especially true when it comes to housing and infrastructure. Jeff Schwartz, head of the Housing Development Fund Task Force, believes JNF is Israel’s only major player making strides to populate these underdeveloped areas. “The Israeli government is not interested at this point in expanding areas where there isn’t a lot of population. “JNF has the opportunity and the resources to take on these areas the government won’t subsidize,” he explained. “We were in Nahal Oz [a kibbutz on the Gaza border] before the government was. They don’t need our support as much now, but there are other communities in the middle of nowhere [that] if we didn’t support them, they wouldn’t exist, and they’re growing... We carry the ball and do the hard stuff.” For Jewish National Fund stakeholders, philanthropy is not a one-way street. For many, there is no greater satisfaction than seeing one’s return on investment. Beckie Fischer, who heads JNF’s Arava Task Force, experienced this firsthand with the opening of the Danielle A. and Irving J. Grossman Medical Center, located in the Central Arava, south of the Dead Sea basin. “I was summoned to New York City by [JNF CEO] Russell [Robinson]. He described a 40-year-old clinic in the Central Arava, which was not adequate. He asked if I’d put together a task force to address issues residents face living in the Central Arava,” she recalled. Within a year, she assembled a 35-person group of doctors, lawyers, educators and psychologists to revamp the clinic from the ground up. The Arava was in dire need of a stateof-the-art facility to meet basic medical needs, and provide services such as prenatal care and emergency treatment. “The first time I walked through the medical center, that Jewish National Fund made possible, it was extremely emotional. The [previous] clinic that I saw was dilapidated,” she explained. “It was very impactful to walk through this brand new center, which would now enable young people to move back – the goal of Blueprint Negev. [Grown-up] children [from the area] wanted to come back. They wanted the Arava lifestyle – real tranquility.” When stakeholders give, that philanthropy usually comes from somewhere personal, and for the Rosens joining the Fire and Rescue Task Force carries deep emotional significance. Since the Ma’alot Massacre in 1974, when 31 Israelis were killed, it has been a dream for the Rosens to do something for the northern Israeli town. The dream will finally come true this Passover, when Jewish National Fund will hold a corner-stone laying ceremony for a new firehouse, which is being funded by the couple – their second. The station will be dedicated in loving memory of their son Adam, who died at 32. “Jewish National Fund makes your dreams happen,” Rosen said. It is fitting, then, that as the Jewish People celebrates 70 years of self-determination, this dream and others continue to be realized across the Jewish homeland. ■ List of JNF Task Forces Arad Task Force Arava & Eilot Task Force Arts and Entertainment Task Force Baseball & Softball Task Force Be’er Sheva Task Force Fire and Rescue Task Force Green Innovations Task Force Housing Development Fund Task Force Israel Independence Experience Task Force JNF Taskforce on Disabilities Kiryat Shmona & Upper Eastern Gailiee Task Force MAKOM Task Force Mitzpe Ramon Task Force National Water Task Force Project Wadi Attir Task Force The Gaza Envelope Task Force Western & Eastern Galilee Task Force Yerucham Task Force APRIL 2018 13

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