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Israel unites us and inspires us to make an impact

I can remember celebrating Israel’s Independence Day at my JCC in El Paso, Texas 35 years ago. We would have an expo with singers, folk dancing, rides, and even stalls selling jars of glistening sand from the Holy Land. It didn’t matter whether you were religious, secular, or somewhere in between – everyone would come together to celebrate the one thing that united us – Israel, the land and its people.

During my childhood in El Paso, my parents were under no illusion that I would become a rabbi. I would have rather taken multiple algebra exams (which I did poorly in) than attend religious services. And that isn’t a knock on rabbis; it is just a reality for many young people, even today. However, when it came to Israel, I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to learn about the early days of our pioneers, the stories of Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion, and the many larger-than-life icons that enabled our people to realize a 2,000-year-old dream of coming home to Israel.

Israel to me was about Jews winning.

Although we were a small town and even smaller Jewish community, celebrating Israel’s Independence and associating ourselves with this modern-day miracle made us big. For centuries, our people were persecuted, exiled, humiliated, and worse. Yet suddenly, we had Israel. A nation that, against all odds, defeated those who sought to extinguish her very existence.

We were strong. We were mighty. We were Zionists.

Many of my peers I grew up with have become Jewish community leaders, rabbis, and professionals, and some even made aliyah (immigrated to Israel). We followed different paths, yet Israel was our inspiration.

As chief executive officer of Jewish National Fund-USA, the premier philanthropic movement for the land and people of Israel, I have kept the spark alive that was ignited in me growing up in our beautiful community.

It doesn’t matter how geographically far away you are, no one has to sit on the sidelines when it comes to Israel. Through the power of philanthropy, Jewish National Fund-USA ensures Israel will continue to inspire our children and children’s children to feel proud as Zionists as they connect with their community and feel a part of something bigger. And in this new virtual world, we are bringing thousands of people together to discuss the beauty of Zionism and what it means to them through our Conversations on Zionism series.

In leading Jewish National Fund-USA, it’s important to me that everyone has an opportunity to build Israel’s future. Every day, we support Israelis living in frontier communities in the Negev and Galilee. We built, and continue to build medical centers, fortified schools, resilience facilities, parks, playgrounds, and so much more. Our philanthropic investments also help tens of thousands of people with disabilities feel included and supported through initiatives such as animal therapy and a program that integrate them into the Israel Defense Forces.

Thanks to our generous partners (donors), we are ensuring that Israelis living outside the country’s central cities can experience a high quality of life. If you have ever wanted to maximize your impact in Israel, the time is now as Israel celebrates 74 years of independence.

In a world full of conflict, fractures, and division, will you help me make Israel’s light shine brighter than ever before? This Yom Ha’atzmaut, let’s come together and celebrate how blessed we are to have an independent Jewish homeland once more to call our own. And through Jewish National Fund-USA, every one of us can be authors of the most extraordinary story ever written – the story of the land and people of Israel, the story I first learned of growing up in El Paso, Texas.

About the Author
Russell F. Robinson is JNF’s chief executive officer. Under his leadership, JNF has developed successful far-reaching programs that play a significant role in the quality of life for all Israelis, such as community development, environmental work, sustainable development of the Negev, and solutions for Israel’s water crisis.
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