This week I chatted with Rami Hazan, Jewish National Fund’s new emissary to New England. I asked him what brought him to the organization and what sorts of things folks in their 20s and 30s can do to get involved.
Welcome to New England! How did an Israeli businessman end up representing a big Jewish non-profit here?
After almost 30 years of working in the Israeli corporate world, I felt it was time to give back to the city I was raised in, Akko, and to my country, for my wonderful upbringing and life. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to use my ability to connect with people, as well as use my marketing knowledge to do some social service. After researching different organizations, I heard about a position at Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose work, as an Israeli, I always appreciated. I was introduced to its CEO, Russell Robinson. I immediately fell in love with him, the organization and the work they’re doing today. What especially drew me in was the ability to touch the lives of all Israelis.
Before I started my position, I was fortunate to participate in a JNF mission with wonderful lay leaders. We traveled the country to see and experience the amazing projects we’re involved in and witness firsthand the impact they have on Israelis. I’m thankful for the opportunity to experience the remarkable feeling of seeing JNF’s work and to be a bridge between American Jews and Israelis united for one common goal.
When I think about Jewish National Fund, I automatically think of planting trees in Israel, but I understand that it’s much more than that these days.
We are historically thought of as providing trees and Blue Boxes, and have planted more than 240 million trees in our over 100-year history. However, it is the work we are doing today, in so many other areas, that makes us an integral part of Israel. Through our donors’ generosity and leadership, we are continuing that legacy.
We are building new communities and supporting existing ones, especially focusing on the Negev Desert and the north of the country. We have led water management and conservation in Israel for over two decades, helping it become a world leader in water recycling. We sponsor research initiatives that have turned Israel into a frontrunner in technological and environmental innovation. JNF provides cutting-edge rehabilitative services, special education and medical care for people with special needs, and it is the largest provider of Zionist programs in America, connecting the next generation to Israel. This is all very exciting for me.
Most of our readers are in their 20s and 30s. What’s a good way for them to get involved?
JNFuture is the perfect vehicle to engage this age group! JNFuture is the gateway for the next generation of young leaders to connect to JNF and Israel. It engages and energizes young leaders who are committed to our vision of environmentalism and community development. They hold networking nights, happy hours and trips to Israel. In fact, we are hosting a special singles mission for 30- to 45-year-olds this summer. What better place to fall in love than in Israel?
The next generation has taken our century-old vision of caring for the land and people of Israel to the next level. Today, there is a chapter in Boston and many others all over the States. Last year, JNFuture hosted “The Summit with JNF” in Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon, gathering over 300 young leaders who engaged in dialogue about the sustainability of water, food and energy. The conference highlighted Israeli innovations in sustainability.
As a newcomer, what are you most looking forward to enjoying in New England?
Not the weather! The weather in Israel wins any day! Actually, my real answer is that I’m looking forward to being involved in this vibrant community. The people here are very smart and educated about the causes and projects to which they donate their hard-earned dollars. I’m excited to be part of that decision-making process and to help to educate these wonderful new friends.
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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