Russell Robinson: JNF-USA visionary impacting Israel, US Jewry

No. 40 on The Jerusalem Post's Top 50 Most Influential Jews of 2022: Russell Robinson, CEO of JNF-USA.

 Russell Robinson, CEO of JNF-USA. (photo credit: JNF-USA)
Russell Robinson, CEO of JNF-USA.
(photo credit: JNF-USA)

Russell Robinson, the visionary chief executive officer of Jewish National Fund-USA, is a charismatic American Jewish figure whose innovative leadership has a huge impact on US Jewry and the State of Israel. He has succeeded in making Jewish National Fund-USA one of the top-rated charities in the US, and the leading organization for the land and people of Israel.

In 2023, Robinson revealed, he plans to host “the largest pro-Israel conference in the world” in Denver, Colorado. “We expect over 1,000 college and high school students to attend, in addition to another 1,000 JNFuture partners (donors) and countless others to come together as part of our new One Million Voices for Israel initiative,” he said.

A sixth-generation American Jew, Robinson grew up in El Paso, Texas. His family first laid down its American roots in Petersburg, Virginia, after emigrating from Alsace-Lorraine in the late 1700s. In 1998, Robinson became the youngest CEO in Jewish National Fund-USA’s history. He works tirelessly, traveling around the US and Israel to meet with Jewish National Fund-USA’s partners and affiliates as he highlights the organization’s vision and philanthropic investments. He understands that every dollar is relevant, particularly among its growing 22- to 40-year-old JNFuture leadership division.

Today, over 121 years after it was founded, Jewish National Fund-USA is unparalleled in the Jewish philanthropic world, and its strategic vision has been, and always will be, to ensure a strong, secure and prosperous future for the land and people of Israel. 

Russell Robinson, CEO of Jewish National Fund-USA (credit: JNF-USA)Russell Robinson, CEO of Jewish National Fund-USA (credit: JNF-USA)

Everything Jewish National Fund-USA does – every project, initiative and campaign – is part of the organization’s vision of building and connecting to the land and people of Israel. It achieves this through planting trees, creating housing development sites, sourcing water solutions, supporting firefighters, working with people with disabilities, and much more. 

The organization also works to boost tourism, promote aliyah, provide Zionist education and engagement, build medical centers and trauma centers, fund agricultural and culinary research, and operate a renowned high school semester abroad experience in Israel at the Alexander Muss High School in Hod Hasharon.

Eight years ago, Jewish National Fund-USA launched its “One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade” to support growth in the Negev and Galilee, which Robinson oversees. The organization is now poised to achieve its $1b fundraising goal almost two years ahead of schedule.

Building the one of the world's largest philanthropic capital projects: World Zionist Village

Robinson has unveiled plans to build one of the largest philanthropic capital projects in the world – Jewish National Fund-USA’s 20-acre World Zionist Village. “It’s time to spark a new conversation about the future of Zionism,” Robinson said. “Left and Right, religious and secular, and everyone in between should be a part of this conversation to write the next chapter in our people’s destiny. The village will include a second campus for our Alexander Muss High School in Israel, adult education facilities, high-quality accommodation, a world-class conference center, and many other amenities.”

“It’s time to spark a new conversation about the future of Zionism. Left and Right, religious and secular, and everyone in between should be a part of this conversation to write the next chapter in our people’s destiny.”

Russell Robinson

In the past year, Robinson launched Dream Israel, an unprecedented $25 million program to reenergize long-term teen travel to Israel, which has declined by almost 80% over the past two decades. High school students can receive up to $7,500 in funding toward an approved long-term program in Israel while also learning about the concept of tzedakah. 

“This initiative supports our entire Jewish community, and students can participate in programs with Jewish National Fund-USA or with other organizations, like the Reform and Conservative movements,” he said.