The Birthright Israel Foundation will honor Doug Ross at its annual Atlanta event Monday night, Nov. 6, at the St. Regis Hotel.
The foundation raises money in the United States to support Birthright Israel, which provides a free 10-day trip to Israel to more than 48,000 young Jewish adults annually. The goal is to ensure that the gift of Birthright Israel strengthens Jewish continuity and provides even more Jews with a direct connection to Israel for years to come.
Ross is considered the No. 1 booster for Birthright in Atlanta. He has chaired the Birthright Israel Atlanta Leadership Council the past five years and served on the Birthright Israel Foundation’s national board for three years.
Ross is also the Atlanta chair of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and serves on AIPAC’s national council.
Professionally, he is a financial adviser for a team at Morgan Stanley called Vantage Wealth Management. Though not a native of Atlanta, the University of North Carolina graduate moved to the city about 25 years ago and considers Atlanta to be his adopted hometown.
According to his Birthright colleagues, he is deserving of the foundation’s honor.
Georgia Aquarium Chairman and CEO Mike Leven, a co-chair of the Nov. 6 event and fellow member of the Birthright Israel Foundation national board, said about Ross: “He’s been very special to Birthright in Atlanta. He’s been the single biggest supporter of Birthright, not only from a financial standpoint, but from a work standpoint. He’s put together the teams. He did a great job a couple of years ago and raised a ton of money and honored some people. It was about time that he got rewarded for his work by being honored. Doug’s been around Atlanta for a long time. He’s a big Israel supporter.”
Carole-Ann Levine is the vice president of Southeastern Region of the Birthright Israel Foundation. She and Ross become involved with the foundation around the same time. She shared her memory of why Ross wanted to chair the Atlanta Leadership Council.
“He was delighted to take on the role because he was the chair for AIPAC at the same time. He has a tremendous love for Israel. He was very excited to take on this role head-on — to take on the chairmanship,” Levine said.
“Doug exemplifies leadership in every way. We spent the first summer learning together exactly what his role would be. He said to me, ‘This is something I believe so strongly in. Don’t worry, I’m there for you. I’m there to build the Birthright Israel community in Atlanta. I’ll give all of my time to it,’ which he did. And we began by building a council and developing a group of leaders. He opened my eyes to what a leader can accomplish.”
Helping define a leader, Levine said, are “the three W’s”: work, wealth and wisdom. To be a great leader, she said, you must have two of the three.
“Doug Ross fulfills all three,” Levine said. “He’s a go-getter. He knows how to raise money, and he knows how to tell a story about the importance of the program that will get to your heart and your soul. He’s a very wise man. You put that all together, and you have a fantastic leader. When you find someone that has all three, you grab them, because that’s unusual.”
Jessica Katz Yonatan is the associate regional director in Atlanta for the Birthright Israel Foundation. She has been in her position since mid-2016 and has worked directly with Ross.
She explained why Ross was chosen as the honoree for the Atlanta event.
“There’s no one more deserving of this honor. He deserves to be recognized from the community for his work,” she said. “There aren’t many leaders like Doug that focus so much time and energy on the organization and are volunteering to lead. He’s an incredible guy.”
Ross said he has devoted time and energy to the Birthright Israel Foundation because of how the Birthright Israel experience affects young members of the Jewish community.
“Birthright Israel is not just another Jewish or pro-Israel organization. The numbers and the impact of the experience for now 600,000 young Jews from 66 countries over the past 18 years are measurable and profound,” Ross said.
“We want to do everything in our power to bring this experience to as many young Jews as possible from around the world. The impact of this experience has been so profound on so many people, year after year. Everybody that’s engaged with the organization, locally, nationally and in Israel, is committed to making sure that everybody between the ages of 18 to 26 who is Jewish has this very often life-changing experience.”
Ross said it is important to support the Birthright Israel Foundation because the young people going on the Israel trips make up the Jewish future. Birthright Israel spends $3,000 for each person who takes the trip.
“Supporting Birthright Israel Foundation and its mission is not just giving money to an organization. It is an investment in our collective Jewish future,” he said. “It’s an investment that has the greatest return over many years that has been measured by many criteria. Many of the future leaders and benefactors of the Jewish community and around the world are going to come from the ranks of Birthright Israel alumni. We’re giving tens and tens of thousands of young people the opportunity to grow as individuals, to grow as Jews and to grow as leaders.”
Ross said he is deeply honored and humbled to be the honoree for this event.
“The fact is that this is a labor of love for me, as it is for everybody who is part of this remarkable enterprise,” he said. “For me to be able to play a small role in doing what’s personally meaningful to me but also connecting with young people and their families here in Atlanta and bringing this experience into their lives is one the greatest honors of my life.”
Between 500 and 600 people are expected to attend the event at 6 p.m. Nov. 6, which is a big fundraising event for the foundation in Atlanta.
Ross will speak, and the keynote speaker will Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Rachel Gerrol, a Birthright alumna and foundation board member, will share the story of her Birthright experience and her involvement with the organization.
Leven will hold a conversation with Danon during the program. He said Danon, an outspoken and experienced Israeli politician, should be entertaining.
“It’s going to be a memorable night, and we hope that we spread what Birthright Israel Foundation does throughout the community here in Atlanta,” Katz Yonatan said. “We want to make sure that more people know about the foundation.”
What: Birthright Israel Foundation annual Atlanta event
Who: Honoree Doug Ross and keynote speaker Danny Danon
Where: St. Regis Hotel, 88 W. Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead
When: 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6
Tickets: $118; contact Jessica Katz Yonatan at email@example.com or 770-378-9540.