Israel has reached an important milestone in its development as a nation, says Jewish National Fund CEO Russell F. Robinson. “I think this is our moment of real Zionism.”
For Robinson, Israel showcases a triumph of the human spirit. Following the Holocaust, the nascent Jewish state was initially impoverished and represented “the gathering of the exiles,” but the new Israel “is a place where people can go by choice,” he reflects. The dynamic career, spiritual, and lifestyle opportunities that Israel now affords both visitors and prospective immigrants have prompted JNF to reconsider its mission.
“Zionism is maturing,” Robinson says, explaining that instead of organizing to ensure Israel’s survival, “now we get to be Israel’s greatest partner.”
As such, JNF has in recent years rolled out several programs geared towards creating awareness of Israeli culture and stimulating investment in Israeli public works projects. Each year, the Faculty Fellowship Summer Institute in Israel program, a partnership between JNF and Media Watch International, introduces two-dozen university faculty members of diverse and predominately non-Jewish backgrounds to Israel. The initiative is now in its ninth year.
“We have over 120 graduates of the 10-day program,” Robinson says, “and thanks to in-creased donor funding, we have been able to expand dramatically.”
The program facilitates an academic exchange. Participants are introduced to, or are paired with, Israeli counterparts in their field of study, thereby prompting collaboration, shared research, and an exchange of teaching concepts and values. Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, University of Haifa, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and several other Israeli institutions all have partnered with JNF on the summer institute program.