During the month of May 2023 I attended JNF-USA “Women for Israel” fundraising luncheon, in Los Angeles, California. The event’s Co-Chairs, Dr. Marcia Selz, Laura Stein and Susie Toczek, set its theme “to engage, empower and share the magic of Jewish National Fund USA.”
During the luncheon, spearheaded and attended mostly by women, the speeches that were delivered and videos that were screened reflected the work that JNF-US does. The women dedicated to the cause, all like-minded philanthropists and Zionists, shared their passion for the land and the people of Israel.
According to Sharon Joy, the National Campaign Director, the organization has an incredible task force which brings culture, music, arts and entertainment to Israel’s frontiers and peripheries.
Several years ago I attended a similar luncheon which triggered my story, “Jewish National Fund Still Makes The Difference in Israel.”
Keren Kayemet Le’Israel (KKL) Background
Founded in 1901, during the 5th Zionist Congress, by Theodor Herzl the Father of Zionism. In its early years this Zionist project aimed to redeem the land of Israel and establish a state for the Jewish people. At its inception Keren Kayemet Le’Israel (KKL), meaning a fund that exists for Israel, was primarily a fundraising operation. Its explicit mission was to purchase land in the Ottoman Empire-controlled ancient land of Israel.
The idea of such a fund had won a large following, yet, three Congresses had passed without any practical decision being taken. The dream of a Jewish state seemed to remain only a dream. But Theodor Herzl, the adamant Jewish-Viennese journalist, was unwavering. He was determined that before the Congress came to an end, a national fund would be established.
In his passionate plea for the immediate establishment of the fund Herzl said: “After striving for so many years to set up the fund, we do not want to disperse again without having done anything.” This resulted in a motion passed that a fund, called Jewish National Fund-JNF/Keren Kayemet Le’Israel – KKL, should be established, and that “the fund shall be the property of the Jewish people as a whole.”
JNF’s first undertaking was to collect £200,000. One delegate pledged the first £10 contribution, in memory of Zvi Hermann Schapira, a mathematics professor who at the first Zionist Congress, four years earlier, suggested establishing a national fund to purchase land in Ottoman Empire-controlled Palestine. Herzl made the second contribution and his aide, the third one. And with this, the dream of a national fund – to be used to build the foundations of a Jewish state – became a reality.
During the Islamic Golden Age and during the Ottoman period the area was called Palestine. In 1516, the Ottoman Turks invaded and occupied Palestine, an occupation that lasted for 402 years (1516-1918), except for the 9 years between 1831 and 1840, when the Egyptian Governor Muhammad Ali sent his troops to capture Palestine under the command of his son Ibrahim Pasha. The Ottoman occupation of Palestine ended with the ending of World War I, after the Ottoman Empire along with the other “Central Powers” lost the war to “the Allies.”
Undoubtedly, 1840 was the date that changed the fate of the inhabitants of Palestine forever. That year, the British Prime Minister, Lord Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), proposed the idea of a permanent settlement of Jews in the land of Palestine. This initial proposal for Jews settling in Palestine gradually came into being, while Lord Palmerston defended his idea under the pretext of “keeping the Eastern Gate open to British trade and troops.”
Albert Montefiore Hyamson penned the book, “British Projects for the Restoration of the Jews.”
The Jewish National Fund claims to be unique, strategic, visionary, and has been that way since 1901.
In 1961, KKL and the government of Israeli entered a covenant, whereby KKL became exclusively responsible for Israel’s land development and afforestation.
Jewish National Fund-USA as a Separate Entity
Established in 1926, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) is a separate organization that affords American Jews the opportunity to express their commitment and support for the Jewish homeland, Israel.
JNF-USA is a not for profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, a separate and independent U.S. legal entity, governed solely by JNF-USA’s Board of Directors. Donations made to JNF-USA are designated toward specific JNF-USA projects and programs in Israel.
The Jewish National Fund-USA vision for the years to come includes, always helping to ensure a strong, secure, and prosperous future for the land and people of Israel; supporting and establishing lush, vibrant farms in the torrid, sandy Negev, Israel’s south; bring Israeli citizens out of the overcrowded cities to the Galilee, northern Israel, where new communities will offer employment and education; create reliable water sources across the country, while Israel’s continued growth is paramount.
Everything JNF-USA does, every project, initiative, and campaign is integral to its vision of building and connecting to the land of Israel.
With the money they raise they plant trees on barren land; build houses and parks, help create source water solutions, buy fire trucks, and improve the lives of people with special needs.
JNF-USA helps boost tourism to Israel, support emigration – Aliyah (meaning ascend) to Israel, promote Zionist education – the right of the Jewish people to sovereignty in their ancient land, build medical and trauma centers, fund agricultural and culinary research, and offer and run high school exchange student programs.
JNF-USA’s many projects, programs and partnership activities are based solely on its strategic vision, to develop and populate the north and south of Israel and strengthen the connection of the future Jewish generations to Israel. Infrastructure development, ecology, forestation, heritage preservation, and more are all for the land and people of Israel and the Jewish nation as a whole.
JNF-USA is, literally and metaphorically, planting seeds & investing for the long term. From agricultural research farms in the Galilee to shovel-ready housing projects for young families in the Negev, its work portfolio falls into several key strategic areas that directly support and strengthen the future of the land and the people of Israel.
Arts & entertainment: Arts and entertainment can serve as powerful tools, socially and economically. By bringing art and cultural events to countless communities, JNF-USA is strengthening the Negev and the Galilee.
JNF-USA built the “Danielle A. and Irving J. Grossman JNF Amphitheatre” in the heart of the city of Be’er Sheva River Park, Israel south. It is the largest amphitheater in Israel, with 12,000 seats. Tens of thousands of people from all over Israel enjoy concerts, theater, an annual opera production and more in this venue.
JNF-USA community building: Though Israelis tend to crowd central Israel, JNF-USA creates the opportunity to build and populate communities, and regional development and economic growth through its program, “Go North and Blueprint South Negev strategies.”
JNF-USA R&D: Israel, as a leader in research & development cutting-edge technology, JNF-USA is a partner in placing Israel at the forefront of exceeding global challenges. By sponsoring ground-breaking research initiatives, it enables Israel’s brightest scientists to work closely with local farmers, research institutions, and universities to increase the agricultural economy.
JNF-USA heritage sites preservation: The land of Israel is ancient and its heritage sites are Biblically related. Heritage sites are the strongest linkage to Israel’s past and the nation’s collective future. Through the continued development and preservation of heritage sites and historical landmarks, across the land, JNF-USA is committed to safeguarding Israel’s past, ensuring its present, and securing its future.
JNF-USA forestry & green innovations: JNF-USA support for planting trees, developing green spaces, being innovators in ecological development and pioneers in afforestation and fire prevention has made Israel an environmental powerhouse and thus has been strengthening the ties between the land and the people of Israel.
JNF-USA education & advocacy: From kindergarten-to-adulthood, 12-13-year-old-b’nei mitzvah-to trips for college students’ projects, JNF-USA fosters ongoing commitment and love for the land of Israel and its future.
JNF-USA water solutions: investments in treatment, recycling, and collection of both waste and runoff water, responsible aquifer drilling, and river rehabilitation has produced impressive results, making Israel water-secure.
JNF-USA disabilities & special needs inclusions: Everyday social fabric life should be inclusive. Supporting the provision of cutting-edge rehabilitative services, special education and medical care for people with special needs, JNF-USA ensures that Israel remains accessible to people of all abilities.
Supporting Jewish National Fund-USA is not just a charitable act; it is a way to ensure that the homeland of the Jewish people, Israel, goes from strength-to-strength.