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Contact: Jodi Bodner
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JNF to Take 300 Participants on This Year's Alternative Spring Break
Schusterman Foundation to Sponsor the Program

October 16, 2007 -- New York, NY -- Looking to take a successful program to the next level, Jewish National Fund (JNF) has announced it will be taking 300 college students and young adults to Israel on its Alternative Spring Break (ASB) this coming March. This will be a 43% increase over last year’s participation.

Spread over three weeks to correspond to the different vacation schedules of the universities, 100 students will go each week; all will work in the Negev Desert and participate in physical and social services that will have the greatest impact on the community.

This will be the third year for ASB which has earned media attention -- it was showcased last year on MTV’s “The Amazing Break,” -- and accolades from its participants -- “ASB was one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable programs that I have participated in,” said Ben Schulman of New Jersey.

Now, it has earned the attention of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation (CLSFF), which has granted JNF $100,000 towards the trip.

Last winter, CLSFF took over 500 college students and young adults to northern Israel to help rehabilitate the region after the war with Hezbollah. Designed specifically as a response to the war, filling a very particular need at a very particular time, the program will not be replicated.

“However, as the result of the experience,” said Lisa Eisen, National Director of CLSFF, “the Foundation has looked more seriously at strategic funding of Jewish service opportunities for Jewish youth and young adults in Israel and elsewhere. JNF’s ASB works to instill an ethic and spirit of service into Jewish college students.”

JNF is one of six organizations receiving funds from CLSFF to expand their short-term Jewish service college programs. The other organizations are: AJWS, JDC, the Jewish Funds for Justice, Hillel, and Yeshiva University. Altogether, the Foundation is spending over $1.2 million on this effort.

“The Schusterman grant is an endorsement of the work JNF has been doing and our ability to continue to grow and improve this program,” said JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson. “As part of our Israel Advocacy and Education Department which works to energize, engage and educate this country’s youth -- from pre-K through college -- about Israel, ASB was created to imprint the participants with a lasting connection to the Jewish State. And our formula is working.”

Said Lauren Anderson, a past ASB participant from Rochester, NY: “As we cut brush in a JNF forest outside Jerusalem and face-painted at a children’s Purim carnival in S’derot, I learned more about the possibility and power of American Jews’ impact on Israel than I ever could have through countless seminars and tzedakah projects in the States. Sitting on the hospital bed of a three-year-old cancer patient and watching his face light up as I made him mini basketballs out of molding clay is an image of Israel that will stay with me far longer than any view of the Galilee or Massada.”

The need to connect to Israel is greater than ever. According to a recent report issued by the Jewish Agency, 60% of American Jews have never visited Israel, and the Diaspora faces great challenges in strengthening the connection and the commitment to the State of Israel, especially for the youth.

In addition to the hands-on experience ASB offers, participants are responsible for raising a minimum of $1,050 forging a connection of a different sort. Through an on-line registration process, www.jnf.org/springbreak, participants can raise funds by asking friends and relatives to donate. Monies raised will go towards JNF’s Blueprint Negev campaign supporting Israel’s newest generation of pioneers in developing, inhabiting and preserving the Negev Desert -- Israel’s last frontier.

“I have never known a world without Israel,” said Sam Goldberg of Columbus, OH, who participated in last year’s ASB. “During that time I have asked Israelis to do what I would not do myself. Over the course of a few days, with the help of JNF, I did what I could to put a brick in the wall. Piece by piece we will continue to build Israel.”

Captions: On last year's ASB, 210 participants from all over the country cleared forests (top) and painted bomb shelters (bottom) to help make the north home again after the war with Hezbollah.

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Jewish National Fund (JNF) began in 1901 collecting coins in blue boxes to purchase land and return the Jewish people to their homeland. In over 106 years, JNF has evolved into a global environmental leader and become the central address for the land and people of Israel. JNF has planted 240 million trees. Built over 1,000 parks and recreational areas. Constructed security roads. Educated students around the world about Israel. Created new communities so that Jews from around the world would have a place to call home. Discovered drip irrigation and new means of growing plants under arid conditions, bringing green to the desert. Built over 190 reservoirs and water recycling centers, increasing Israel’s water supply by 10%.

As a United Nations NGO, JNF sponsors international conferences on desertification, shares afforestation techniques and funds research on arid land management. Is restoring northern Israel, making it home again to its residents. Is supporting Israel’s newest generation of pioneers by developing the Negev Desert, Israel’s last frontier. For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit http://www.jnf.org/. JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization.

 

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