I have lived in many cities around the United States and the world, but my education in Jewish history and Zionism began in the 1960s at the Conservative Movement’s Camp Ramah. After graduating college, I toured Israel in the summer of 1975 with the Zamir Chorale. I stayed on for a year, studying at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, and also singing with the Tel Aviv Philharmonic choir. I fell in love with the country and its people during the course of that year. I often think that I should have stayed there, instead of returning to enroll in grad school at Berkeley.
My family was secular and non-religious. Yet they sent all of us to Hebrew School, we all had B’nei Mitzvah ceremonies, and lucky for me, I was somehow able to convince my mother to send me to Camp Ramah for four summers, from age 13-16. Both as a camper, and later as a counselor, Camp Ramah helped me to form my identity as a Jew, a Zionist, and a human being.
In 1975-76, I lived in Rehovot, spoke fluent Hebrew, and travelled all over the country. And yet, it wasn’t until a few years later, in Berkeley, that I found out that during the spring of 1976, in the West Bank, not far from Rehovot, there were a series of very serious land riots. Slowly, during my time in Berkeley, I learned that the Zionism that I had learned as a teenager at camp, and later in college and Israel, was only part of the story. New Jewish Agenda, and later J Street and New Israel Fund have helped me find my way.
I have decided to make NIF one of my estate beneficiaries because I have grown to trust and admire the organization over my many years of involvement. I am confident that NIF will use my legacy in the struggle to make Israel a better, freer country.
Out of the values that New Israel Fund stands for, I have a hard time choosing just one that resonates the most; they are all so important. Perhaps democracy is the most important, because as Israel’s current right-wing government edges further from democracy, my heart breaks more and more. But as a Conservative Jew, religious freedom in Israel is also crucial to me. NIF’s work on human rights, social and economic justice, and women’s and minority rights is of course invaluable.
The Israel that I lived in in the mid-1970s was a small country, economically humble, and strongly influenced by kibbutz socialism. It was also intolerant of many minorities—Mizrahim, Palestinians, LGBTQ people. Feminism was almost unheard of, and non-Orthodox Judaism was not respected. Much (but not all) of this intolerance has receded nowadays, but other problems have arisen. Socialism, the Labor Party, and the left in general have almost disappeared from the halls of power, Likud and the right have taken over, and capitalism reigns supreme as well. Israel’s progress since 1980 seems to me to be a classic case of “one step forward, two steps back.”
At the risk of sounding banal, my biggest dream for Israel is that, like the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, Palestinians and Israeli Jews can find a way to share their land and live in peace. The Irish took 450 years to work things out; I hope it doesn’t take Israel that long.
There are a number of excellent progressive groups working in Israel today–B’Tselem and the Society for the Preservation of Nature come to mind—but there are many others. However, in my mind, New Israel Fund stands out for the sheer breadth of activities that it supports throughout the country. It is a one-stop shop in many ways. If you give to NIF, you know that your donation will be used wisely.
Disclaimer: New Israel Fund is not engaged in legal or tax advisory services. Please consult with your professional advisor as to which giving vehicle is right for you, and when creating bequests, seek drafting and counsel from an attorney.