Guest Column by Beth Gluck
During these Days of Awe we look back on all that we have achieved the past year. It is when we plan and pray for all we hope to achieve in the year to come. And it is when we consider the serious challenges ahead for the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
For millennia, the sound of the shofar has heralded the Jewish new year. Today is no different. Today it beckons us to be a part of the success of Israel, of the Jewish people. Today it says, “Get involved; make a difference.”
And today it urges us to do more, because more is required of us.
Thanks to your support, the dream that began over 115 years ago, when Theodor Herzl fashioned the first blue box out of his hat, so eager was he to start fundraising for a Jewish homeland, has become reality. His immortal words “If you will it, it is no dream” have been our guiding light since the very first penny put in that pushke, the very first tree planted, the very first community built, the very first reservoir dug — the list goes on.
Back then, when Herzl made that statement, there was no place to call home. Israel, together with Jewish National Fund, leads the world in so many things — from turning barren land from brown to green to bringing water to the parched earth — all great advancements that we share across the globe.
But what we are proudest of, what has kept the Jewish people together for millennia and what we see today, is the unbreakable bond we each have for the other. It is that brotherly love, that partnership, that is the very DNA of the Jewish people, and it has enabled and emboldened us to not only announce an unprecedented “One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade,” but to be knee-deep in it ahead of schedule, having raised $410 million to date.
The work we have accomplished together is making a tangible difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Israel, and these differences will affect them for generations to come. Israel needs us, and at JNF, we couldn’t do it without you.
We’ve recognized great potential in northern Israel and launched the Go North initiative to attract and retain 300,000 new residents in the Galilee, whose western portion is the sister city of Sandy Springs.
This past spring we opened the Western Galilee Tourist Information Center in the coastal city of Akko. Tourism is a growing employment opportunity and an economic engine in a region that has experienced acute social and economic challenges for many years.
JNF also developed a special program at the Erez College Natural Gas Vocational Training Center in Shlomi for practical engineers to work in Israel’s growing natural gas industry. The economic potential for Israel in harvesting natural gas is limitless but requires the manpower JNF is helping to train.
We’ve also sponsored the JNF-Nefesh B’Nefesh Business Networking Forum to bring together people in the region to identify, create and fulfill job opportunities for the small and medium businesses that contribute so much to Israel’s economy.
The JNF Housing Development Fund provides new housing opportunities with improved access to good schools, steady jobs and safe communities.
We have more than 1 million donors across the country. They know Israel does not just belong to the 7 million Jews who live there. It is a nation of 14.5 million Jews. It is our past. It is our future. It is our homeland.
Jewish National Fund has been there from the beginning, fulfilling a promise that goes back 5,000 years. It is a big promise, of course, but we are doing it. These are big dreams, absolutely, but we are fulfilling them. We are looking for big results, sure, but we are achieving them. And there is so much more to do.
As we enter 5777, let’s continue to build a more secure, more prosperous future for the land of Israel and the Jewish people. For all of us.
On behalf of the entire JNF family, we wish you a happy, healthy, sweet and peaceful new year.
Beth Gluck is the Southeast Region executive director of JNF.