A visit from the JNF-USA Family in 2020

Sol Lizerbram, JNF-USA president, prefers that contributors to JNF-USA be called partners, rather than donors: “When you contribute to JNF-USA, you become a partner in building the Land of Israel.

JNF Gala Dinner (photo credit: JNF)
JNF Gala Dinner
(photo credit: JNF)
In October 2020, Russell Robinson, CEO of JNF-USA, will be bringing the JNF-USA family to Israel for its annual national conference and what promises to be a truly memorable experience.
Past JNF-USA conferences have been held in major US cities such as Washington, Phoenix, New York, and Miami. Next year, though, well over 1,000 people from the United States and Israel – more attendees than have attended previous gatherings in the US – are expected to attend the four-day extravaganza that will be based in Herzliya, and make its way through various iconic locations throughout the country, including Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill, Expo TLV, Timna Park, and Beesheba. Throughout the conference, attendees will visit the numerous JNF-USA philanthropic investments throughout Israel, from the Galilee Culinary Institute and Food Technology center that is under development in Kiryat Shmona to the future site of the JNF-USA Israel Education and Technology Center complex in Beersheba.
The conference’s early discounted registration fee of $575, available until December 31, 2019, is also drawing attention. The fee covers all ground costs excluding accommodations during the conference and is potentially one of the most competitive price points ever seen for a conference of this magnitude taking place in Israel.
Dr. Sol Lizerbram, JNF-USA president, dreamed up the idea of holding the conference in Israel. “We’ve never had a national conference in Israel,” he said, “and yet our mission is to improve the land and the people of Israel. Why not have it there?”
Lizerbram said that all indications are that attendance will be high. “We have so many projects, that we decided that it would be great for our partners to see them in a conference type of atmosphere. It grew from there.”
Lizerbram prefers that contributors to JNF-USA be called partners, rather than donors: “When you contribute to JNF-USA, you become a partner in building the Land of Israel.”
Robinson said that managing and transporting a conference of well over 1,000 participants to myriad locations is a daunting task but declares, “We will not have a conference go all the way to Israel to sit in a hotel room.”
JNF-USA, with its vast experience in planning Israel missions and trips, is well-equipped to operate this type of conference, he adds. The organization now bring almost 8,000 people to Israel each year through its various programs. “We know that travel to Israel is an important part of who we are at JNF-USA.”
Robinson notes that major JNF missions and leadership training programs, which are usually held during the month of October, will be combined into the conference.
He said that a sizable number of college and high school youth who will be studying in Israel will also attend the conference. “We are working with the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Tel Aviv University, Haifa University, and Ben-Gurion University. There will be thousands of American students who will be on semester abroad programs in Israel who will be there.” In addition, students from JNF’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel, will also attend the conference.
The JNF-USA 2020 Conference will begin on Sunday, October 25, at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds (Expo TLV), and the next day, buses will depart for various themed tracks to northern Israel, where attendees will visit JNF-USA projects in Kiryat Shmona and Ma’alot, tour young leadership programs throughout the Galilee, and meet Nefesh B’Nefesh immigrants living in Israel’s North.
Conference participants will visit historical sites supported by JNF-USA, from the Acre prison to the Heroes Museum in the North at Tel Hai, and that evening, the conference will reassemble in the coastal town of Atlit, south of Haifa, for a special dinner, celebrating aliyah from around the world. The following day, all attendees will fly from Tel Aviv to Ramon Airport, located in the Timna valley. From there, they will travel throughout the Negev Desert, visit new communities built by JNF-USA, tour agricultural projects in the Arava, view new housing sites and water projects, and end the day with a spectacular gala dinner under the stars at Timna National Park,near Eilat, before flying back to Tel Aviv.
On the third day, conference organizers are planning for participants to ride Jerusalem’s new high-speed train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making the trip in just under 30 minutes, and then march to Ammunition Hill, site of one of the fiercest battles of the Six Day War. Visitors will tour the Western Wall and other significant sites in Jerusalem, before returning to Herzliya that night. The next day, buses will take participants south once again, to visit communities in the Gaza Envelope, as well as projects in Beersheba and Yerucham. One of JNF’s most significant southern projects that conference participants will visit is the $300 million JNF-USA Israel Education and Technology Center complex in Beersheba (Be’er Sheva), which, when completed, will feature three main areas  – a southern campus for JNF’s Alexander Muss High School, the JNF Institute of Technology, where college graduates will intern with major companies near Beersheba, and an Israel Education Center, which will attract tourist groups from the United States and countries across the globe who will spend time at the center learning about the history of Israel and Zionism.
“We want our partners to see the progress we’ve made,” said Lizerbram, who adds that the total project, including the lake, the river walk, and the campus, is amazingly, three times the size of New York’s Central Park.
The conference will conclude with a gala evening in the outdoor JNF Amphitheater, the largest in Israel, which seats 13,000. In addition to the conference itself, JNF is offering pre-conference trips within Israel, as well as a trip to Morocco, where participants will visit sites of Jewish interest.
Lizerbram explains that there is a special sense of camaraderie between JNF-USA partners and their Israeli friends: “When JNF partners, their donors, and their Israeli friends get together, they don’t just shake hands. Everyone hugs. Every Israeli is considered family to JNF-USA partners.” Traveling between Herzliya, Timna, Beersheba, and Jerusalem is unusual for a group this size but, he said, “This is not your typical conference where you enter into a ballroom and sit and listen to speakers. This will truly be a conference on wheels.” Lizerbram adds that professionals will give lectures during the bus trips. “Buses are not downtime – they are part of the experience.”
Jeffrey Levine, JNF-USA, Chairperson of the Board, and 2020 National Conference Co-Chair, carried the metaphor a step further, saying that “the 2020 conference, which will be held in Israel, is an opportunity for our lay leaders, who might not otherwise be on a mission, to see all of the projects that we do in Israel that affect the lives of all Israelis – and kick the tires, so to speak – by virtue of the fact that we will be traveling throughout the entire country to see projects and institutions that we support, and meet our local partners who help us with our good work.”
Levine noted that young members of JNF-USA who are part of JNFuture (JNF-USA’s group for 22- 40-year-olds), which is the fastest growing demographic group of JNF-USA, will have a large contingent at the conference. “In creating JNFuture 15 years ago, we have developed a bevy of young people who are not only committed to Judaism but also to the land and people of Israel and its relationship with the United States. Having a large number of these wonderful new, leaders of JNFuture share the experience with those older members of JNF-USA who have had a lifetime of commitment to Israel will only reinforce their ongoing efforts.”
Returning to the theme of family, Robinson said that JNF-USA places its focus, first and foremost, on people. “We place our focus not on the hallways of the Knesset, but on the streets of Sderot and Be’er Sheva, and Kiryat Shmona and Yerucham. Our homes are their homes and their homes are our homes. JNF-USA partners invest lifetimes, energy, and emotion.”
JNF-USA is looking forward with great anticipation to next year’s conference in Israel. “Next Year in Jerusalem,” is the ancient prayer, but for the JNF-USA 2020 Conference, next year will also include Herzliya, Timna, Beersheba, Tel Aviv, and all points in between – wherever JNF-USA is working to ensure a strong, secure and prosperous future for the people of Israel.
To register, go to jnf.org/nc
This article was written in cooperation with Jewish National Fund-USA.