JNF-USA Holds Largest Ever Austin Event at Shalom Austin JCC
Breakfast for Israel Keynote Speaker with Event Chairs (L to R): Adrian Lufschanowski (Event Co-Chair), Noa Tishby (Keynote Speaker), JP Newman (Event Co-Chair). Credit Alex D Photography.
By Allison Teegardin
On Thursday, December 15, 2022, the new Epstein Family Community Hall / Gloria & Harvey Evans Performance Center at the Shalom Austin JCC opened its doors for its largest event to date, welcoming 430 guests for the JNF-USA Breakfast for Israel. The event was also a record-breaker for JNF-USA as the largest Breakfast for Israel ever attended in Austin.
As the guests arrived, they schmoozed and found their way to their tables. A spread of fresh bagels, schmear and lox accompanied by egg bites, fresh fruits and rugelach was available on each table for guests to enjoy before the program officially began.
JNF USA Breakfast for Israel set up in the Epstein Family Community Hall / Gloria & Harvey Evans Performance Center. Credit Allison Teegardin.
Starting the program were the event chairs Adrian Lufschanowski and JP Newman. The energetic duo welcomed the guests and thanked everyone who made the morning possible. Then, the sixth grade class from Austin Jewish Academy (AJA) took the stage to lead the crowd in the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. Next, the children welcomed to the stage, Livia Link-Raviv, consul general of Israel to the Southwest.
Link-Raviv expressed how heartwarming it was to see so many people there early in the morning to support the land and people of Israel. Noting that Hanukkah begins on Sunday, she took a moment to discuss miracles. While there have been many miracles, Link-Raviv cautioned that people cannot take them for granted and must continue the good work. “We all have a stake in the collective future of our birthright,” she said.
Brad Greenblum, chair of Austin Board of Directors continued with the theme of gratitude, recognizing Shalom Austin for the hard work in making sure the new, beautiful space which is part of the Generations Campaign was ready in time for the event. The Shalom Austin Generations Campaign is the first capital campaign since the Dell Jewish Community Campus opened in January 2000.
The new Epstein Family Community Hall / Gloria & Harvey Evans Performance Center was among one of the first projects of the campaign to be completed, along with the Rochelle and Stanley Ferdman Family Aquatic Center with the Lisa and Sandy Gottesman Pool and the Hurt Family Tennis Center, which opened this past summer. As construction progress nears completion, the newly refreshed GroupEx studio and state-of-the-art locker rooms complete with steam and sauna rooms at the JCC are open and the brand-new main building is set to open early 2023. Also, part of the Generations Campaign is the Krasoff Jewish Family Service Building which broke ground this summer.
Following Greenblum’s speech, Lufschanowski and Newman returned to the stage to share more about the history and impact of JNF. Founded in 1901, JNF became a reality at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. During a debate about the establishment of a national fund to purchase land in Ottoman Empire-controlled Palestine, Theodor Herzl stood before the delegates and delivered a passionate plea for the immediate establishment of the fund. In that moment, the dream of building the foundations of a Jewish state became a reality.
Continuing the discussion about Israel was event headliner, Hollywood actress, author and Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism & the De-legitimization of Israel, Noa Tishby. In a conversation moderated by Chayla Furlong, JNF-USA Director, Central Texas, Tishby infused humor with raw honesty about why it is difficult for so many people to talk about Israel.
In her book, “Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth,” Tishby discusses some of the hottest topics surrounding conversations about Israel. Expanding on her book’s theme at the JNF-USA Breakfast for Israel, Tishby said Israel is imperfect, like every other country. However, where the conversations differ is that, unlike any other country, there are many people who question Israel’s legitimacy and don’t believe it should exist. Offering guidance on how to navigate these difficult conversations, Tishby told the audience that in her experience, the best thing to do is shift away from a policy debate. “You may not agree with a country’s policy, but does it mean the country should cease to exist?” she asked. In closing, Tishby encouraged people that it is okay to not have all the answers and be comfortable saying, ‘I don’t know.’ What matters is that constructive conversations continue because “the existence of Israel is crucial” for many reasons.
As the event concluded, participants heard once again from Lufschanowski and Newman about why Israel and JNF is important to them. The event also sparked great interest for Austinites planning to visit Israel in November 2023.
This year Shalom Austin is excited to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary with a community Mission to Israel November 2023. Whether traveling to Israel for the first time or making a return visit, Shalom Austin is excited to show travelers remarkable new sights and perspectives. The trip will explore the Western Galilee to the Negev and showcase how people in Austin, Texas connect to those living, protecting, and innovating in the land of Israel. “It’s an amazing opportunity for people to witness first-hand how their donations to Shalom Austin’s Annual Campaign not only impact Austin but extend to Israel as well,” Andrea Nathan, corporate partnership & mission coordinator said.
In attendance at the JNF breakfast were Israel Missions co-chairs Kim and Matt Schocket and Val and Jeff Newberg. “I’ve always been inspired by the “can-do” attitude of the Israelis & their innovative spirit to solving problems. Every time I go to a JNF event, I’m presented with new and exciting things that Israel is accomplishing. So, I’m excited to go back to see what’s new since my last trip in 2018,” Matt said. “Seeing a room of more than 400 Austinites coming together to support our beloved country of Israel is incredibly inspiring to me. It represents so much hope, support, and excitement for the future of Israel,” Kim added.
Kim and Matt Schocket (left). Matt in Israel (right). Courtesy Kim and Matt Schocket.
Val and Jeff Newberg said that following the JNF event they were inspired to better educate themselves so that they can become better, more informed and more effective advocates for Israel after they return from the Shalom Austin missions trip to Israel. “We look forward to continuing to learn about Israel and to share that experience with others from our community,” the Newbergs said.
Val & Jeff Newberg at a recent event (left) and in Israel (right). Courtesy Val & Jeff Newberg.
To learn more about Shalom Austin’s Israel trip, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about JNF, visit jnf.org.
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