The Jewish National Fund-USA’s biggest program of the year is coming up this month, and — like everything else in the COVID-19 era — it is going virtual.
The Breakfast for Israel event has been an annual staple since 2003. In a normal year, close to 1,000 JNF members and Israel supporters gather together in person in March to celebrate Israel and learn about JNF-USA.
“For some reason last year, out of nowhere, we just decided to move it to February,” before COVID closed down in-person programming, said Leila Mikal, senior campaign executive at JNF-USA’s Desert States. This year, the event will take place April 18 at 10:30 a.m. via Zoom. She isn’t sure how many people will attend, but she hopes to reach people virtually who couldn’t attend in person in earlier years.
“It’s a great way for people who maybe live in Tucson, or remote areas of Arizona, who aren’t necessarily driving to our breakfast every year because it’s very far. They finally get the opportunity to be there with the rest of the community that supports Israel,” she said.
Sixty-seven percent of Jews in Maricopa County are “somewhat emotionally attached to Israel,” according to Arizona State University’s 2019 Jewish Community Survey.
“We really have an opportunity to showcase what our organization does, and it’s free to attend,” Mikal said.
Stars of the Israeli Netflix hit series “Fauda” will be featured at the event, and Yoav Limor, host of a morning show on Israel’s Channel 2 Keshet, will moderate an interview and Q&A session with two of the show’s stars: Tsahi Halevi and Rona-Lee Shimon.
Nikki Bernstein, JNF-USA Breakfast for Israel co-chair and local real estate agent, said she and others are hoping the “Fauda” feature will be a crowd pleaser. “At a time like this, when people aren’t able to shmooze and connect and be face-to-face, one of the things that have linked us all together is binge watching,” Bernstein said.
And, "Fauda" is another way to connect with Israel. "Israel is not only a country or location, Israel is a feeling. And I think Israel, in part, is a piece of who we all are. And with that tie we all feel connected to one another," she said.
Bryan Kort, co-chair of the event and a local businessman, is optimistic about the virtual program, though he will miss the in-person setting. But the most important thing, he said, is getting to know Israel.
“I think people should attend to get a better understanding of Israel and how important JNF is to Israel,” he said.
JNF-USA’s strategic vision is to ensure a strong, secure and prosperous future for Israel. The organization advocates for population growth in the north and south, connecting the next generation to Israel, infrastructure development, ecology, heritage preservation and more.
As of Sept. 30, 2020, Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael), Inc. had financial reserves of more than $331.4 million without donor restrictions, or about four times its 2020 annual expenses, which totaled more than $80.9 million. Of the reserves, 63% has been designated by the board of directors for specific uses which include the Boruchin Center for Zionist Advocacy and Initiatives, according to its website.
Mikal said she hopes viewers walk away with a renewed passion for Israel, feeling connected to a place that feels far away.
“We’re really hoping people tune in. It’s going to be less than an hour, it’s going to be fast-paced and a lot of fun,” she said. JN