During the month of May 2023 I attended JNF-USA “Women for Israel” fundraising luncheon, in Los Angeles, California. Event co-chairs Dr. Marcia Selz, Laura Stein and Susie Toczek set the theme “to engage, empower and share the magic of the USA Jewish National Fund.”
During the luncheon, led by and attended by mostly women, speeches made and videos shown reflected the work that JNF-US does. The women dedicated to the cause, all philanthropists and like-minded Zionists, shared their passion for the land and people of Israel.
According to Sharon Joy, director of the national campaign, the organization has an incredible task force that brings culture, music, arts and entertainment to the borders and peripheries of Israel.
Several years ago I attended a similar luncheon that triggered my story, “The Jewish National Fund still makes a difference in Israel.”
Background of Keren Kayemet Le’Israel (KKL)
Founded in 1901, during the 5he Zionist Congress, by Theodor Herzl the Father of Zionism. In its early years, this Zionist project sought to redeem the land of Israel and establish a state for the Jewish people. At its inception, Keren Kayemet Le’Israel (KKL), ie a fund that exists for Israel, was primarily a fundraising operation. His explicit mission was to buy land in the former Ottoman-controlled land of Israel.
The idea of such a fund had gained many supporters, 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 uncompromising Viennese-Jewish journalist, was unwavering. He was determined that before the Congress ended, a national fund would be established.
In his passionate plea for the immediate establishment of the fund, Herzl said: “After so many years of striving to establish the fund, we don’t want to disperse again without having done anything.” This resulted in the passage of a motion to establish a fund, called the Jewish National Fund-JNF/Keren Kayemet Le’Israel – KKL, and that “The fund will be owned by the Jewish people as a whole.”
JNF’s first commitment was to raise £200,000. One delegate pledged the first contribution of £10, in memory of Zvi Hermann Schapira, a mathematics professor who at the first Zionist Congress four years earlier had suggested setting up a national fund to buy land in Ottoman-controlled Palestine. Herzl made the second contribution and his assistant the third. And with this, the dream of a national fund, which would be used to build the foundation of a Jewish state, came true.
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 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 end 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 forever changed the fate of the inhabitants of Palestine. That year, the British Prime Minister, Lord Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), proposed the idea of a permanent settlement of Jews on the land of Palestine. This initial proposal for the Jews to settle in Palestine gradually took shape, while Lord Palmerston defended the idea of it under the pretext of “keep the Eastern Gate open to British troops and trade.”
Albert Montefiore Hyamson wrote the book, “British Projects for the Restoration of the Jews”.
The Jewish National Fund claims to be unique, strategic, visionary, and has been since 1901.
In 1961, KKL and the Israeli government signed an agreement whereby KKL became solely responsible for Israel’s land development and forestry.
Jewish National Fund-USA USA as a separate entity
Established in 1926, the Jewish National Fund-USA. USA (JNF-USA) is a separate organization that provides American Jews the opportunity to express their commitment to and support for the Jewish homeland, Israel.
JNF-USA is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization, a separate and independent US legal entity, governed solely by the JNF-USA Board of Directors. Donations made to JNF-USA are earmarked for specific JNF-USA projects and programs in Israel.
The vision of the Jewish National Fund-USA. USA for 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 and vibrant farms in the hot and sandy Negev of southern Israel; moving Israeli citizens from overcrowded cities to the Galilee in northern Israel, where new communities will offer jobs and education; creating reliable water sources throughout the country while Israel’s continued growth is paramount.
Everything JNF-USA does, every project, initiative and campaign is an integral part of its vision to build and connect with the land of Israel.
With the money they raise, they plant trees on vacant lots; build houses and parks, help create water sources, buy fire trucks and improve the lives of people with special needs.
JNF-USA helps boost tourism to Israel, support emigration: Aliyah (meaning ascent) to Israel, promote Zionist education: the Jewish people’s right to sovereignty in their ancient land, build medical and trauma centers, finance agricultural and culinary research, and Offering and running exchange programs for high school students.
JNF-USA’s many partnership projects, programs and activities are based solely on its strategic vision, to develop and populate northern and southern Israel and strengthen the connection of future Jewish generations to Israel. Infrastructure development, ecology, forestry, 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 and investing for the long term. From agricultural research farms in the Galilee to turnkey housing projects for young families in the Negev, his portfolio of work is divided into several key strategic areas that directly support and strengthen the future of the land and the people of Israel.
arts and entertainment: The arts and entertainment can serve as powerful tools, socially and economically. By bringing artistic and cultural events to countless communities, JNF-USA is strengthening the Negev and 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, south of Israel. 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 at this venue.
JNF-USA Community Building: Although Israelis tend to crowd into 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”.
R&D JNF-USA: Israel, as a leader in cutting-edge technology research and development, JNF-USA is a partner in placing Israel at the forefront of global challenges. By sponsoring innovative research initiatives, it enables Israel’s brightest scientists to work closely with local farmers, research institutions and universities to grow the agricultural economy.
JNF-USA Heritage Site Preservation: The land of Israel is ancient and its heritage sites are biblically related. Heritage sites are the strongest link to Israel’s past and the nation’s collective future. Through the continued development and preservation of heritage sites and historic monuments across the country, JNF-USA is committed to safeguarding Israel’s past, securing its present, and securing its future.
JNF-USA forestry and green innovations: JNF-USA’s support for planting trees, developing green spaces, being innovators in green development, and pioneering in afforestation and fire prevention has made Israel an environmental powerhouse and thus strengthened ties between the land and the people of Israel.
JNF-USA education and advocacy: From kindergarten to adulthood, 12- or 13-year-old b’nei mitzvahs, to college student project trips, JNF-USA encourages continued commitment and love for the land of Israel and its future.
JNF-USA water solutions: Investments in wastewater and runoff water treatment, recycling and collection, responsible aquifer drilling and river rehabilitation have produced impressive results, making Israel’s water safe.
JNF-USA disabilities and special needs inclusions: The daily life of the social fabric must be inclusive. By supporting the provision of state-of-the-art rehabilitation services, special education, and healthcare for people with special needs, JNF-USA ensures that Israel remains accessible to people of all abilities.
Support the Jewish National Fund-USA. USA is not just an act of charity; it is a way of ensuring that the homeland of the Jewish people, Israel, goes from strength to strength.
This is how you can learn more and this is how you can make a difference in the land and people of Israel, which in many ways impacts the world.