A road map for supporting Israel and making a difference
Insights and tips from the national and international board chairman of Israel Bonds on philanthropy, preparing the next generation of Jewish organizational leaders and more.
As an American Jew observing the Israel-Hamas war from afar, it’s easy to feel a sense of powerlessness. But the truth is, you don’t need to be on the battlefield to make a difference.
There are so many ways to give to Israel, and there are myriad Jewish and pro-Israel organizations that you can support. How can you effectively sort through the various options and then take action?
The following is my personal road map for supporting Israel — for making a difference. At the heart of my journey is my decades-long involvement with the Development Corporation for Israel, known as Israel Bonds. It has been proven to me time and time again that Israel bonds are one of the most direct and impactful ways to support Israel.
Through the Israel Bonds organization, I’ve deepened my admiration and respect for the Jewish homeland and fortified my lifelong connection to Israel. I’ve kept myself committed to ensuring the prosperity and growth of Israel and the global Jewish community for generations to come.
I never imagined a moment when my leadership role at Israel Bonds and my broader road map for supporting Israel would be more important than they are today.
Give until it feels good
Some fundraisers will speak about the art of connecting your pocket with your heart. In actuality, the connection goes from your heart to your pocket.
When it comes to Israel bonds, a bond is not a financial instrument — it’s a state of mind. The same is true about Israel in a broader sense; it’s not just a state, but also a state of mind. At Israel Bonds, the involvement of our investors and leaders alike is rooted in their passion for the cause. Whether it’s their funds or their time, they love what they’re investing in. Through their lay leadership, they create long-lasting memories. That’s what keeps them going.
There’s an expression that you “give until it hurts.” Not so at Israel Bonds. Here, you give until it feels good.
Cultivate new leadership
Various Jewish organizations understand that their future vitality hinges on more effectively engaging young professionals, who can also be described as “new leaders.” If they don’t understand that, they’re in deep trouble (and that’s an understatement). If Jewish organizations don’t succeed at attracting new leaders, there will soon come a day when we won’t exist.
This isn’t about the “future.” The future is now.
Israel Bonds doesn’t deny the harsh reality that we face this existential threat. Our average bond purchaser is 64 years old. I’ll admit it, that makes me shudder; and yet, it doesn’t paralyze me. Instead, it makes cultivating new leadership arguably my top priority as national and international chairman of the board.
Crucially, my current level of connection to Israel and the Jewish community started with Israel Bonds New Leadership. I was provided a sense of empowerment and affirmation, which has the power to be the recipe for success in tackling the new leadership challenge head-on before it’s too late.
Recruiting and grooming our new leaders is not only essential; it’s a mandate for us all. If we don’t accomplish that goal, then one day in the not-too-distant future, we won’t exist. Our community’s future prosperity, and even its survival, hinges on recruiting new leaders to participate in the most direct and impactful way to support Israel.
It’s not about the money
Israel Bonds announced it had secured more than $1 billion in bond investments a month after the start of the war on Oct. 7, surpassing $2.7 billion in worldwide investments during 2023 — a record-breaking total in the organization’s 72-year history, more than doubling its average annual sales. Last year, Israel Bonds also reached the milestone of $50 billion in global investments since the organization’s founding in 1951.
That’s a lot of money. But it’s not about the money.
You don’t need to be wealthy to get involved with a Jewish organization, to become a board member or even to sit next to an Israeli prime minister on a dais at a public event. After all, I came from poverty. I also knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wanted to make things happen. If I can accomplish all of that, then anyone can do it. Again, it’s not about the money. It’s about being involved in something and standing for something. The path to leadership all flows from that desire, intent, commitment and passion.
Preaching to the choir isn’t enough
American Jews typically hear quite frequently from Jewish communal organizations, both locally and nationally. Today, we’re getting a lot of information about the war through the updates that such organizations are distributing via their email lists. These updates also alert us to new opportunities to donate to contribute toward filling Israel’s urgent needs at this time.
But if we’re only telling Israel’s story to each other, and only raising money from one another, we aren’t moving the needle. This is what’s commonly called an echo chamber. It’s preaching to the choir.
Many people are intrigued and even surprised when I share with them that at Israel Bonds, we go beyond preaching to the choir. This broader outreach is powerfully demonstrated by the fact that, since the start of the war, more than 15 U.S. state and municipal governments as well as institutions have invested in Israel through Israel bonds in the amount of hundreds of millions of dollars.
This isn’t your typical “Jewish fundraising” effort. It isn’t an echo chamber. In our quest to rally financial support for the building and development of every sector of Israel’s economy, we tap into every possible source and pursue every conceivable avenue.
On the surface, buying an Israel bond doesn’t constitute a philanthropic donation. It’s an investment. But at this time, when so many people want to give to Israel and give charitably, we also need to reach that audience. How do we do it?
It took some creative thinking, and it’s paying off more than ever today. In 2022, I helped Israel Bonds launch the Shalom Bond (also known as the Double Mitzvah program), which gives purchasers the ability to double their impact by donating the bond to their nonprofit cause of choice. This way, Israel gets the funds first, and the charity receives the principal and interest when the bond matures.
More than 500 nonprofit organizations are part of our Double Mitzvah program. Through an Israel bond purchase, you can support many of the vital organizations that are on the frontlines of addressing humanitarian needs in Israel following the brutal massacre of Oct. 7.
The key to our success is how we groom our successors
Investing in Israel bonds represents the most direct and impactful way to support Israel. These investments help ensure the prosperity of the Jewish state by providing vital funds to be used when and where they are needed the most. This investment, in whatever form it takes, represents an opportunity to shape the State of Israel’s next chapter. To strengthen your personal connection to Israel. To discover your unique identity as a leader in the Jewish community — and to inspire your peers to do the same.
As a supporter of Israel, who would pass up that opportunity? Who would delay? Who would hesitate? What would you tell your grandchildren as to what the reason is for you not participating and supporting Israel through Israel bonds, especially now during this war?
The road map is clearer than ever, and we won’t squander this moment.
Am Yisrael Chai!
Howard L. Goldstein is national and international board chairman of Development Corporation for Israel, known as Israel Bonds.