Zionism Claims a Victory

by Russell Robinson

I think Theodore Herzl would be proud.

Two weeks ago, Jewish National Fund, of which I am [Chief Executive Officer], declared its vision for a bold future when a new and expanded partnership was announced with the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI). AMHSI brings American teenagers for a semester or part of a semester, where they study their regular American school curricula together with an extensive Zionist history curriculum including site visits to the places where Jewish history occurred. We believe this will catapult Zionist education to the next level – something that is sorely needed – and here’s why.

Many people in the Jewish world today – even the most committed – are afraid of the “Z” word: Zionism. Not Jewish National Fund. It is part of our everyday vernacular – whether we speak to young or old, whether we are talking about our work in Israel or our Zionist educational activities here in the U.S., when we refer to our rich history and when we speak about our vital and promising future. We show its relevance in today’s world.

The story of Jewish National Fund is the story of Zionism and reaches back to 1901 when Theodore Herzl first established the fund. Now over a century later, JNF is the largest organization that provides the most Zionist impact to the greatest number of young people. Starting with children planting a tree on Tu b’Shevat, to learning about the historical sites in Israel, to young adults participating on Alternative Spring Break or Birthright, Jewish National Fund knows how to connect young American Jews to Israel – from kindergarten through college and beyond. Jewish National Fund knows Zionism.

For over 40 years, the Alexander Muss High School in Israel has led the field in providing transformative pluralistic Israel experiences for high school students. AMHSI has developed fully accredited academic programs for teens to strengthen their Jewish identity while developing deep-rooted connections to Jewish life, to the Jewish people, and to Israel. Today, the school has more than 20,000 alumni – many of whom are active leaders in their Jewish communities. Some HAVE BECOME celebrities.

As AMHSI is the leading high school program in Israel, and JNF has the necessary and highly-regarded oversight and operational infrastructure to broaden AMHSI’s reach, we believe this expanded partnership will help ensure future generations of students – and Jewish community leaders.

I’ve read the recent reports and studies on American Jews. Some of the numbers are frightening; others show promise. The best way to strengthen Jewish community is through Jewish education – and that is what this partnership is all about.

Now is the time to engage young people and get them excited about their heritage. Get them to love the land of Israel. Get them to feel their heritage – one that goes back thousands of years. Create a visceral experience for today’s youth and you will create a Jewish future.

I say Zionism just claimed a victory with this partnership. I think Theodore Herzl would say the same.

Print Friendly
Pin It
Send to Kindle


  1. says

    hi russell,

    AMSHI is a great program and glad to see that they are getting support from JNF.

    but i am pretty sure that herzl would not be proud of the JNF today. i have asked on several occasions over the past two years about the expenses of JNF. (you even promised me that we would sit down for coffee in jerusalem last year) but alas, the answers have all come up short or non-existent.

    i love the JNF. i love the projects that the JNF runs and implements. but i have a real problem in reading that herzl would be proud of the JNF. partnerships with AMHSI and anyone else only cause more concern about how the finances of the institution are handled.

    this isn’t the place for a full give and take, but i do object to you thinking that herzl – someone who witnessed shame and deceit in his lifetime, particularly as it played out at the dreyfus trial – would be proud. somehow, i think as an investigative journalist, herzl would come to a different conclusion.

  2. Sherri Morr says

    One of the things I think Russell and JNF have done so brilliantly is to create their partnership program of which Alexander Muss is one. How often do we in the Jewish communal world comment on organizational duplication and lack of fiduciary oversight? A lot. Through organizations like Muss, or, Aleh Negev, or the Arava Institute, or a host of others JNF has created a means for such organizations to run their programs, raise funds, cultivate donors, and much more without administrative expenses, and worries over who is sending out the thank you letters. Personally I think JNF does a great service by heralding this endeavor. It’s a true communal model of organizations working together, collaboration at its best, and a service to donors to not feel so pulled upon every time they answer their phones. Having been connected with JNF for over a dozen plus years I think people like Mr. Draiman( with all due respect) somehow always want to see the numbers. I am not sure its anyone’s business but that is not for me to say. However, it is for me to say that we should look at the positive of these partnerships, allowing more programs to be funded, more users for the services, and positive examples of Jews working in concert with each other. I do think Mr. Herzl would be proud, I think even our current leaders are proud. Thanks Russell.

  3. says

    sherri –

    let me be real specific, and if you still feel i should but out of checking out the numbers, let me know.

    yes, jnf does great work. wouldn’t argue that at all. but, did you know that for JNF USA, their 2010 financial report says that they took in (all round numbers here): $40,000,000 in donations; and gave out $15,000,000 in grants. where is the other $25,000,000? well, $12,000,000 went to salaries (including CEO who gets $410,000 a year, and at least 6 others earning more than $100,000 a year), and $10,000,000 to “other expenses”. in addition, they have $55,000,000 in net assets (net). very hard to justify giving them a shekel when only 38% of each dollar goes to grants.