8 months ago


LEADERSHIP Branching Out

LEADERSHIP Branching Out Under Ronald S. Lauder and Russell F. Robinson, Jewish National Fund Chairman of the Board-Emeritus and CEO respectively, investing in Israel has gone far beyond planting trees By NOA AMOUYAL Ronald S. Lauder and Russell F. Robinson, Jewish National Fund’s Chairman of the Board-Emeritus and CEO respectively, like to dream big. “The future is always about promoting a grand vision and telling compelling stories,” Robinson told The Jerusalem Report. How else could one explain the genesis of the One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, which, among other goals, consists of projects like Go North and Blueprint Negev that aim to increase tourism and entice Israelis to reside in Israel’s North and South? These enormous and comprehensive projects dedicated to enhancing the infrastructure, culture, demographics and quality of life for cities and towns in the Negev and Galilee aren’t born from leaders who think small. Additionally, according to Jewish National Fund’s 2017 Year In Review, donors funded 700 housing lots in the North and South; provided medical treatment to 22,000 Israelis and educated 1,100 American highschool students at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel’s academic semester-abroad program. But these accomplishments are just the beginning for an organization going strong for 117 years and counting. Ronald S. Lauder A Shared History: Milestones for Israel & Jewish National Fund *Photos by Wikimedia Commons. 1901 Jewish National Fund created by Theodor Herzl 1909 JNF establishes Tel Aviv, first modern city in Israel * * 4

So how does the CEO see the future? “I think in the next 70 years plus, we must have a Diaspora/Israel relationship that is based on much more than ‘big brother/little brother,’ and we in the Diaspora have to get into that mind-set,” he said. “We are partners in building a nation for the Jewish people everywhere,” Robinson asserted. He dismissed the notion of a growing rift between the Diaspora and Israel, claiming much of that occurs on the elite leadership level. However, he stressed that both sides must mobilize a grassroots effort to reach out to one another. As an organization that establishes deep connections between donors in the Diaspora and Israelis on the ground, Jewish National Fund’s involvement is key in building bridges between the two groups. “We have to foster stronger relationships between the Diaspora and Israel more like one-on-one partnerships as we build together,” he said. Lauder agreed, saying, “Since its inception, Jewish National Fund has had tremendous success building bridges between Israel and the Diaspora communities, and we will only continue to build on our success. “I also know that Jewish National Fund is uniquely positioned to mend any ties that may be frayed. One of JNF’s key strengths has always been its ability to communicate with the Diaspora in the United States and explain the importance of the State of Israel. For as long as I have been involved, JNF has been instrumental in explaining and promoting Israel by working with the people of Israel, and I think all of our combined efforts will keep us together as a people,” Lauder said. One clear way to keep the Jewish people together is by focusing on Zionist education. In the short term, Jewish National Fund is working on this in earnest by putting in motion plans to expand the Alexander Muss High School in Israel – which it acquired in 2013 – so its enrollment can increase from 1,100 to 5,000 students per year in a comprehensive semester-abroad experience. In the long term? On Robinson’s wish-list is establishing a camp for Israeli and American children in Israel. “In the next 20 years, I believe Israel should have a five-star camp in Israel for Israelis and Diaspora Jews. To have our kids to go to a camp in Israel that is the finest in the world is one of our dreams, “ he said. “This will build our relationship with the people of Israel and the Diaspora for the next 100-plus years.” While looking to the future is essential for any thriving organization, Robinson is grateful for the organization’s past. Specifically, its legacy and how its history is intertwined with the creation of a Jewish State. “We repurchased the Land of Israel and worked all those years before the establishment of the state so Jews the world over had a place to call home. We didn’t use legal arguments or biblical arguments, we literally repurchased acre by acre, thus bringing the reality of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people everywhere,” Robinson marveled. “Over the past 70 years, we have had and still have the opportunity, responsibility and right to be a partner with this nation that is still under creation,” Robinson said. Russell F. Robinson * 1904 The Blue Box pushke is born 1908 JNF establishes first forest * 1926 JNF-USA incorporated in America 1948 Israel gains its independence APRIL 2018 5

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