With twinkling lights illuminating the Jewish National Fund logo on stage and men and women dressed to the nines in attendance, former JNF president Jeffrey E. Levine passed the baton to Dr. Sol Lizerbram, who will step into the role.
Levine spoke favorably about the exhilarating four-year roller-coaster ride that was his JNF presidency and the substantive work done during his tenure, while wishing the best to his successor.
“Under the leadership of our new president Dr. Sol Lizerbram, and his wife Lauren, we will go from strength to strength,” Levine, who will remain as chairman of the board, said. “Together with Ronald S. Lauder, we accept all challenges.”
The real estate executive credited his successful presidency to having a long-term vision coupled with an acute knack for business.
“Jewish National Fund is an organization of social and philanthropic entrepreneurs utilizing cutting-edge best practices to operate like a 21st century business,” he said.
Levine cited a 24% increase in JNF’s Blueprint Negev campaign, which set an ambitious 10-year goal of raising $1 billion toward facilitating the migration of 500,000 new residents to the Negev. “This year our campaign closed at over $461 million toward our campaign of $1 billion. With the strength of our campaign, commitment of our board, we paved a road for our future unlike any other organization,” he said.
“We have built over 250 reservoirs, a tree has become 260 million trees, thousands of parks, seven new communities in the Negev this past decade, 15% added to Israel’s water resources, 700,000 housing sites to date and an American high school in Israel, the Alexander Muss High School,” he said, citing the most prominent examples of JNF achievements.
But Levine cautioned against resting on laurels. “We need to deliver bold and transformative solutions to secure a prosperous future for the land and the people of Israel,” he said, citing reaching out to the younger generation of Jews as something JNF must continue to do in earnest.
Lizerbram, who received warm congratulatory remarks by California Governor Jerry Brown and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom via satellite, understands the responsibility that comes with leading one of the largest organizations in the Jewish world.
“I’m proud to stand here today. Our organization has so much to offer, so much to build and innovate, I say yes to the future generations,” Lizerbram said. “I”m proud to be your president. We will take risks. The same risks we took when we took on the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. We did what JNF always does. We made it happen. And look at the success now.”
With a touch of irony, Lizerbram noted that while it is the famous Blue Box that made JNF synonymous with Zionism, the future of the organization hinges on thinking beyond it.
“We think out of the Blue Box,” he said.