Views
2 months ago

JNF

NEXT GENERATION Looking

NEXT GENERATION Looking to the ‘Future’ With JNFuture, the organization’s youngest donors are giving back to Israel in their own unique ways Josh Goodkin (center) with a JNFuture delegation visiting Israel. By SARAH LEVI While Jewish National Fund has cemented itself as a mainstay in the lexicon of Diaspora Jewish philanthropy, its JNFuture division is taking the organization into the 21st century and beyond. Established in 2007, JNFuture engages and energizes young leaders who are committed to improving the quality of life of the people of Israel. Through local networking events and jam-packed trips to Israel, these earnest 22-to 40-year-olds demonstrate what it’s like to be a ‘passionate advocate’ for Israel when millennials are not usually considered agents of change. Motivated by its mission, JNFuture national chairwoman Stephanie Kelman views Jewish National Fund as a multifaceted and unique institution. “Jewish National Fund sees Israel in a different way,” she said. “They see not just the people, not just individual projects; they take into account every facet of life they can improve on. It’s the security, economy, livelihood, people with disabilities, etc.” Kelman started a JNFuture chapter in Phoenix, Arizona, five years ago as vice chair and today lives in Portland, Oregon, as the program’s national chairwoman. For her, JNF-USA is even more than a great institution – it’s a family affair. “I grew up in a Zionist home and Jewish National Fund was part of my everyday life. I started to slowly grow into my own role with JNF, following in the footsteps of my grandfather and father who have been active members for decades,” she said. Her father is Marc Kelman, a former vice president of campaign and national major gifts chairman, who serves on the national board of directors as JNF-USA’s National Water Task Force chairman. As an international movement growing exponentially since its founding over 10 years ago, JNFuture has chapters in over 20 cities across the United States and Israel. One of them is the North/Central New Jersey chapter headed by Josh Goodkin. For Goodkin, joining the ranks of JNFuture not only brought him closer to Israel but enabled him to gain a better sense of self. A self-proclaimed “Wandering Jew” before he became involved with Jewish National Fund, Goodkin, like many in 16

his age group, was caught up in work and his social life. “While I didn’t realize it at the time, I was unconsciously searching for a deeper meaning to my life. What I needed was something I and so many Jewish millennials push to the side. I needed a way to connect with my culture, my history, my people in a way that didn’t feel forced,” he said. “With JNFuture, Jewish philanthropy has a new name and voice. JNFuture is providing us millenials with a reason and purpose to give our time and money. It’s giving millennial Jews a chance to have a real impact on our Jewish homeland,” he added. Echoing this sentiment Stephanie Kelman touts JNFuture’s effectiveness at nation building. “Jewish National Fund is one of the most efficient nonprofit organizations out there. Contributions go right to the projects our donors want to support in Israel. We send JNFutures to Israel all year long, and hundreds more go on tours and missions run by Jewish National Fund every year. What is so attractive is we get to see exactly where our money is going and meet the people we are directly impacting,” she said. For those young people just starting out in their career, the annual donation demonstrates that these young professionals are more than willing to put their money where their mouth is. “One third of our members give $1,000 or more; that’s huge commitment from this age group,” she added. For Sam Goldberg, a member of the first national board of JNFuture, and the first JNFuture member to give $1 million and become a member of the elite JNF World Chairman’s Council, his involvement goes back over a decade when he participated in JNFuture’s first Alternative Spring Break in the winter of 2007. There, he and his group replanted trees in Jewish National Fund forests that had been destroyed after the Second Lebanon War. As a member of the millennial generation, Goldberg is determined to ignore the naysayers who accuse his generation of being apathetic. “Many people believe that my generation is disconnected or doesn’t care... I’m sure the same thing has been said of younger generations since the beginning of time. But of course, millennial Jews do care,” he said. For Goldberg, connecting to the younger generation is all in the messaging. “The previous pitches that worked for those during 1948, 1967, and 1973 don’t work today for us. Uplifting messages, like the work of Jewish National Fund, is far more engaging. That being said, if you are Jewish and know history, then an understanding of the survival necessity of Israel should be obvious. If you don’t believe this, then you are either naive, haven’t studied history, or are intellectually dishonest,” he said bluntly. “With JNFuture, Jewish philanthropy has a new name and voice. JNFuture is providing us millenials with a reason and purpose to give our time and money.” Josh Goodkin Disproving the claims of the “apathetic millennial,” Kelman also refuses to take the State of Israel for granted and looking ahead to the future is what motivates her to give her all to Israel. “I want to make sure it’s here and thriving for my children and grandchildren,” she said. Realizing that the future is now in his hands, Goodkin urges his peers to be active philanthropists, especially when it comes to Israel. Goodkin is also inspired to mobilize his peers to work together to strengthen Israel as a JNFuture leader. “Before I was introduced to Jewish National Fund, I used to have this mind-set that my parents and grandparents would carry the burden of caring for Israel,” he said. “I made up excuses: I thought I was too young. I thought I didn’t make enough money to give. I thought it wasn’t my problem. “Jewish National Fund and JNFuture educate millennial Jews across the country that while Israel has made tremendous strides since its founding in 1948, there is still a lot of work to be done,” Goodkin said. “From developing the Negev, advancing water technology, giving those with special needs the treatment and respect they deserve in Israeli society, the opportunities are limitless and are awaiting our involvement. With JNF, every millennial Jew can find a reason or purpose to have an impact on the Israel and the Jewish people as a whole.” This outlook allows Sam Goldberg to see himself as part of a link in an unbroken chain that not only spans 1,000 years in the past, but also looks forward well into the future. “Imagine your ancestors in the year 1000 in the middle of the Dark Ages.” he explained. “Imagine your ancestors in the 1500s after a string of countries expelled all their Jewish residents. Imagine being amongst our people in Europe in 1943 in the middle of World War II. Imagine if your ancestors were standing beside you today in Israel, what would they say to you? “Now imagine your descendants a thousand years from now. What would you want them to remember about you? What would you want them to remember about our time? “I believe we are in the early stages of the golden era of Jewish history. Hundreds of years from now, Yom Ha’atzmaut will be celebrated as a Jewish holiday of redemption... our people will cherish these times as Israel’s early years, and our period will be remembered as a time of renewed innovation, art and tikkun olam... These things will only come to fruition if we will let them be so.” Of course, no true Zionist would be complete without invoking Theodore Herzl. “Im tirtzu ein zo agada, ein zo agada,” Goldberg said of his dream for the next generation of Jewish philanthropy. “If you will it, it is not a dream.” ■ APRIL 2018 17