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JNF-USA Annual Breakfast Draws Israel Supporters

Close to 600 community members turned out for the Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) annual gathering at the Beverly Wilshire. 
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December 8, 2022
From left: David Suissa, Ron Werner and Alon Ben-Gurion speak on a panel during the Jewish National Fund-USA’s Breakfast for Israel. Courtesy of JNF-USA

Close to 600 community members turned out for the Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) annual gathering at the Beverly Wilshire. 

JNF-USA’s “Breaking for Israel,” held Nov. 19, was the first Breakfast for Israel JNF-USA has held in three years because of the pandemic, and JNF-USA leadership was thrilled to welcome people back together to celebrate all JNF-USA does for the land and people of Israel. 

Throughout the event, JNF-USA representatives encouraged those seated in the hotel ballroom — noshing on pita and hummus, fruit, croissants, coffee and orange juice — to pledge their support for the pro-Israel organization. 

At the program’s start, JNF-USA Los Angeles Executive Director Lou Rosenberg said the organization was on its way to fulfilling its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade campaign, having raised nearly $980 million. 

The event was held on Giving Tuesday, an annual day of charitable giving falling on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It also marked the upcoming 75th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel with the theme “Israel at 75.”

“There is a growing acceptance of Israel in the Middle East, and Israel draws its strength from the support it receives from its friends.” – Hillel Newman

”Israel is strong. Israel is a global leader in many ways,” Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Hillel Newman said from a stage in the hotel ballroom. “There is a growing acceptance of Israel in the Middle East, and Israel draws its strength from the support it receives from its friends. You, all gathered here, are our friends and source of strength, confidence and optimism.” 

Additional speakers included JNFuture Los Angeles Board Member Alice Sherman; JNF-USA President Sol Lizerbram and his wife, Lauren; and JNF-USA Los Angeles Co-Presidents Susie and Fred Toczek. Community member Doug Williams chaired the breakfast, while young professional Sarah Victor served as the JNFuture Chair. JNFuture provides JNF-USA programming for young philanthropists, ages 22-40, with more than 20 chapters across the U.S. and Israel.  

JNF-USA showcased many of its successful programs during the morning-long event, including Alexander Muss High School in Israel. “Muss,” as it’s affectionately known, offers students from North America and elsewhere the opportunity to study abroad in Israel. Since merging with JNF-USA in 2013, Muss has accommodated thousands of Jewish students. Approximately 200 kids from Los Angeles are expected this year, including students enrolled at Milken Community School.  

The breakfast program’s centerpiece was a live panel discussion featuring Alon Ben-Gurion, grandson of Israel founder David Ben-Gurion, and Ron Werner, a board member of JNF-USA’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel program. 

Moderated by Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief and Publisher David Suissa, the 30-minute conversation examined Ben-Gurion’s unparalleled legacy.

“When I tell stories, I call him saba,” Alon Ben-Gurion said, using the Hebrew word for “grandfather.” He then shared how his late grandfather, who served as Israel’s first prime minister, had an intensive love and passion for the Jewish nation that continued throughout his life. 

Werner echoed Alon’s admiration. “Ben-Gurion is one of my heroes,” he said. 

They also discussed how JNF-USA’s work supporting Israel helps combat antisemitism and anti-Zionism. The organization’s work includes the development of the Negev and the country’s northern region; innovative water solutions; inclusion of special needs populations; and more. 

“They’re like the best weapon against antisemitism,” Suissa said.

Suissa spoke about the “Israel of JNF.” He asked the two panelists how they reconcile the Israel showcased by JNF-USA with the negative portrayal of Israel often featured in the media. The panelists spoke about countering negativity with the positivity reflected in JNF’s work.

Ben-Gurion said there are many ways Israel’s image can be improved. Among those is the country’s energy independence, bolstered by the recent discovery of natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea. This gives the Jewish state renewed importance, as a global energy crisis looms and Europe is increasingly desperate for new energy sources.

As for JNF-USA, Ben-Gurion added, “They are, in their way, fulfilling the dream of David Ben-Gurion.”

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