A roadmap mission to see first-hand JNF's projects in Israel


Myron D. Stayman, vice president, Israel Relations, and Bruce Gould, assistant vice president of Campaign and Major Gifts chairman.

This past March, a group of 100 Jewish National Fund (JNF) donors, including Central Floridians Bruce Gould and Jim and Jill Riola, experienced something unique as they all traveled to Israel with JNF's $1 Billion Dollar Roadmap Mission for one unbelievable week to engage in the many projects JNF has developed to grow the country's northern and southern regions. What made this trip even more special was that each participant is a member of one of JNF's specialized task forces and committees.

"Our donors have taken a leap of leadership to actualize the vision," said JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson, the driving force behind the visionary $1 Billion Roadmap. "They believe in what JNF is doing. They want to see Israel grow and succeed, and come here often to see how their investment is doing. These are some of the most dedicated individuals in philanthropy today."

Gould, an attorney and member of the Israel Relations Committee, shared his thoughts of the trip: "I got involved in Jewish National Fund in 1996 in a future leadership mission. It was my first time to Israel. I fell in love with the country, I had an awesome time. I never realized my purpose in life beforehand and that the love of my religion really centered on Israel. I found that JNF is really the only organization that is 100 percent Israel, you can see what we do and you can touch what we do. You can see the results."

JNF's $1 Billion Roadmap is an unprecedented campaign focused on investing in the future of Israel. The campaign has set ambitious goals for each of JNF's seven program areas: Community Building, Zionist Education & Advocacy, Disabilities & Special Needs, Forestry & Green Innovations, Water Solutions, Heritage Sites, and Research & Development. To ensure that these goals come to fruition, JNF launched task forces and committees to give donors a meaningful and hands-on way to help the land and people of Israel

Co-chair of the Ofakim Task Force Jim Riola, who is an attorney and World Chairman's Council member, first came to Israel during the Gaza War, just as the ceasefire ended in 2009.

"I thought people were crazy to come to Israel at a time when rockets were still falling. But I came, and from then on I've been hooked." Jim, who has served as president of the Orlando JNF board, sits on the National Campaign Strategy Committee, continued, "My connection with the city of Ofakim is because that's where the facility of Aleh Negev is located."

Jill Riola, also an attorney, is a member of the Task Force on Disabilities. She and her husband Jim have been involved with JNF since 2008 when they hosted a luncheon for Gen. Doron Almog, founder and chairman of Aleh Negev. The luncheon was held last year at Jill's law office under the auspices of Lawyers for Israel, of which Jill now serves at the national co-chairman. 

"I had never heard of Aleh Negev," she said. "Jim and I have no children, no disabilities in our family, but we were just so moved by what Doron has accomplished. After the luncheon Doron asked me to be on the Task Force on Disabilities and, if you've ever met him, you know there's no way you can say no to him. So, I joined a few months ago and this is my first mission."

Each committee and task force had its own specialized itinerary for the $1 Billion Roadmap Mission focusing on specific areas and JNF partners throughout Israel. Participants, representing 10 of approximately 20 dedicated task forces and committees, saw for themselves the work they help fund, and consulted with key organizational leaders on the ground to discuss future opportunities and existing challenges. These groups, comprised of people from across the U.S., are helping to realize JNF's vision on how best to enhance and grow the Negev and Galilee, where JNF plans to see the population expand by 500,000 and 300,000, respectively, by 2023.

Ronan Plot, the Knesset's director-general, receiving an award from Special in Uniform from Jim and Jill Riola for his dedication to encourage organizations and government agencies to hire people with disabilities.


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