Jewish National Fund, famous for planting trees in Israel, aptly hosted their inaugural Tu B’Shavat festival, Shuk Shack, on Wednesday, January 31st, to celebrate the holiday of the trees. The event, which was attended by over 800 people of all ages, including a former Miss Israel and Consul General of Israel, Dani Dayan, was held at the IAC Headquarters in New York City.
Guests were transported to a shuk in the streets of Israel as they walked around the space, which was transformed into an authentic marketplace experience featuring wine tastings, street food such as shawarma and cous cous, dancing, henna tattoos and much more, all while learning about the important work done by JNF all year long.
As attendees picked their own spices such as cumin and thyme, they also saw firsthand the pulse of Jewish National Fund which strives to ensure the existence of a thriving and prosperous Israel. The organization is responsible for planting millions of trees and developing new communities; in fact, guests were able to buy trees to be planted in Israel in commemoration of the Tu B’Shvat holiday. In addition to bolstering Israel’s water supply and developing innovative agricultural techniques, JNF builds thousands of parks and ensures that they are designed for those with disabilities and special needs.
Booths set up at the event gave guests the chance to learn about JNF’s work with water conservation, fire and rescue services, education and organizations they work with to make Israel and its people a strong, safe and secure nation.
During the VIP cocktail hour, attended by major donors who were able to preview the space, CEO of JNF, Russell Robinson, told the crowd, “you will see how your investment has made a difference for the land and people. It is our land for Jewish people everywhere.”
President Elect Bruce Gould, who has served in many roles in JNF, including as Orlando Regional, and also sponsored the Gould Legacy Society to help perpetuate planned giving, said “we’re gonna continue to grow our campaign; the more money we raise, the more we can do in Israel to really make a lasting change and a better place to live for all Israelis. We are an apolitical organization and we do things to better the land and the people. We were just transforming into a modern organization when I came in and now we have a great board and we’re raising close to a hundred million dollars a year.”
Guests were able to write postcards to soldiers with disabilities and learn more about organizations such as Aleh Negev, which cares for people with complex disabilities. Avnet Kleiner, the Director of Marketing and Development for Aleh Negev, said “we have a state of the art village for severely specialized needs people of all ages. We have an amazing facility with swimming pools and horseback riding and we have partnered with JNF to raise $25 million.”
JNF also helps out the police and fire departments to combat natural disasters and other catastrophes. They continue to donate fire trucks, equipment and funds that are matched by the Israeli government.
“I’ve had the privilege of being associated with JNF almost my entire life and I’ve always been very impressed with what the organization has done for Israel and the Jewish people, said National Board President, Jeffrey Levine. Being on the board and serving as National President has been a very fulfilling experience. To be involved today on Tu B’shavat, on a day that commemorates trees, is significant and special as Israel has more trees today than a hundred years ago. We have planted over 250 million trees. Trees are a source of food and shelter but more importantly, trees are the roots, and at JNF, we are planting the roots of the Jewish people in Israel.
JNF is continuing their mission of making Israel a safer and more inclusive land for everyone. Their vision includes bringing 500,000 people to the Negev and 300,000 more people to the Galilee, all made possible by contributions to the organization.
Consul General Dani Dayan attended the event which he said made him “feel like I’m back in Israel, a land where we belong to you and you belong to us. There is no organization like JNF, it is the standard bearer of Zionism in New York and the United States and never hesitates to help.”
Since its founding in 2007, JNFuture has grown exponentially from one city to more than 20 across the U.S. and Israel. All members have access to a vast network of like-minded peers, a variety of events, exclusive speaker series, VIP receptions with senior Israeli officials, and specialized trips to Israel. This young leadership committee hosted an after party will music, dessert and dancing – a magical evening in the streets of Israel – well, at least it felt like it!
By Julie Sagoskin