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The Milton and Beatrice Shapiro JNF‑USA Scholarship Fund

In 2007, the family of Beatrice and Milton S. Shapiro, Past-President of Jewish National Fund‑USA, established a scholarship fund to honor the memory of a couple deeply dedicated to the survival of the Jewish people and the continued well-being of the State of Israel.

The Milton and Beatrice Shapiro JNF‑USA Scholarship Fund supports programs that help to educate, inform, and create spaces for thoughtful and productive discussion about Israel based on personal lived experience, rather than social media talking points. Caravan for Democracy, an extraordinary leadership mission to Israel for non-Jewish student leaders, is one of the programs that the Shapiro family has been proud to help create and support.

"In the pantheon of outstanding Zionist leaders, Milton Shapiro, a blessed memory, was a model, mentor, and mensch all Zionists should emulate," said Mel Salberg, former president of the American Zionist Movement. "Milton could never say no to a call for support of the Jewish people or the Jewish State.” His family’s work in developing Caravan for Democracy is a means of continuing that legacy.

One of the Shapiros’ granddaughters and Chair of the Caravan for Democracy Committee, Dr. Logan Levkoff-Cortes, says: “With the rise of antisemitism, masked as “anti-zionism,” on college campuses, it is critically important for us to create a community of allies. Love and support for Israel should not be (and is not) limited to the Jewish community. What we love about Caravan for Democracy is our ability to cultivate the next generation of friends and supporters of Israel: campus allies who are willing to combat misinformation, stand up against BDS, and generate discourse that is productive and informed.”

The Scholarship Fund

Since its inception, The Milton and Beatrice Shapiro Scholarship Fund has awarded over $250,000 in scholarship funds.

The Scholarship fund has supported high school, college, and faculty trips in the past, but currently focuses on bringing campus student leaders of all faiths to Israel on the Caravan for Democracy Leadership Mission. CFD is a transformative 10-day all-expenses paid student educational program specifically created for non-Jewish students who have never been to Israel before, giving them an opportunity that many of their Jewish peers have. This unique educational program is an exclusive opportunity to explore Israel’s distinctive democracy and involves meeting with political, cultural and community leaders from all backgrounds and faiths. Upon return to campus, these student leaders are better equipped to be Israel advocates in their respective communities.

The following are comments from past scholarship winners upon their return to the United States:

  • “While leaders and governments make tough decisions, it is the people who are impacted and face the consequences. I learned to look at both sides critically, and learned I have much more to learn about conflict in the Middle East. None of the Americans who feel so strongly about Israel or Palestine truly know the situation, as I was surprised by many facts, such as West Bank being governed by PA and Gaza by Hamas. I learned a lot about the tough lives and resilience of the Jewish people.”
  • “I could go on and on about this. But overall, I learned that the conflicts in Israel are so much more complex than they seem on the surface. Despite the conflict within and at the border though, Israel is so progressive in so many ways, and I am committed to learning more about this dichotomy.”
  • “I really appreciated the apolitical nature of this trip. I feel like I have a more holistic view of the country and surrounding Arab countries. Also, I feel like the students and staff made me dive into difficult questions and have meaningful discussions. I was inspired by many people on the trip as well and hope to take back qualities like courage, insight and purpose back to campus.”
  • “I learned more about how to view and learn about issues occurring in other countries and being aware how they will differ from similar issues in my home country.”
  • “This mission was incredible. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunities to embark on a journey that pushed the boundaries of what I thought I knew and introduce new perspectives that I don’t traditionally see in western media. It was a privilege to visit so many important historical sights and interact with local Israelis, to see the world from their eyes. I won’t soon forget the incredible connections I made with other student leaders on this trip, and how even they challenged me to see the world differently.”
  • “I learned how to listen to both sides of an issue and recognize the validity of conflicting arguments. I gained insight on how to work with diverse groups of people and use individual differences to strengthen the group. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to travel to Israel where I learned that before we are anything, we are human first.”

Milton Shapiro's Biography

Milton Shapiro served as president of Jewish National Fund‑USA from 1993 to 1997, during which time he spearheaded Operation Promised Land, JNF‑USA’s initiative to help resettle over one million Russian and Ethiopian immigrants in Israel. Before he became President of JNF‑USA, he was a member of the JNF‑USA Administrative Committee and the Board of Directors as well as the National Treasurer.

Engaging our young Jewish community to connect to Israel was not a hobby of Milton’s, but a passion,” said Russell F. Robinson, Chief Executive Officer of JNF‑USA. “Milton understood that the soil of the land of Israel was truly the soul of the Jewish people. I cannot think of a greater tribute than to have a scholarship fund that will touch the next generation and continue the strong link built by Milton Shapiro. His family’s vision of also including teachers as part of this program shows their close understanding and appreciation for Milton as a mentor and as a leader, because what better way to engage the masses than by bringing those who teach to Israel? We are proud to be partners with the Shapiro family in this great endeavor.”

Milton Shapiro was a devoted philanthropist and a volunteer leader of many Zionist organizations. He was Chairman of the American Zionist Fund from 1982 to 1985, National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) from 1986 to 1989, and Chairman of the Administrative Board of the ZOA from 1989 to 1992. He was actively involved in ZOA’s projects in Israel, including the Kfar Silver School, a 500-acre campus near Ashkelon that provides education and vocational training to new Jewish immigrants, and the ZOA Cultural House in Tel Aviv.

He was Chairman of the Board of Ma’aleh Adumim Foundation, Vice President of B’nai Zion, Treasurer of the American Friends of Likud, a member of the cabinet of the American Zionist Movement, and a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency.

“Milton was caring, kind, compassionate and a true philanthropist in every sense of the word," said Ivan Novick, former president of the ZOA. "He understood the issues facing the Jewish community and his beloved Israel and had the ability to interpret and convey these concerns to his constituents. Milton is missed not only by his family, but by all those who had the privilege to know him.”

The late Jacques Torczyner, who also served as president of the ZOA, called Shapiro "an extraordinary man who could quietly help individuals in need. He was a proud American, a devoted Jew, a convinced Zionist and an untiring supporter of the State of Israel.”

Shapiro was born on May 9, 1922 in Manhattan to Philip and Lena Shapiro. He was one of five children. He attended Abraham Lincoln High School and Brooklyn College, and spent three years in the military after college. He graduated cum laude from New York University School of Law and was a senior partner at Graubard Miller in Manhattan.

Shapiro was married to the former Beatrice Leibowitz, whose father, Morris Leibowitz, was extremely committed to the Zionist movement and was an active member of the ZOA Brooklyn Region. Shapiro’s relationship with his father-in-law during his early years significantly impacted his own dedication to Israel.

Milton Shapiro passed away in November of 2003 and his wife, Beatrice passed away in July 2009. They are survived by their children, Susan and Steven Levkoff and Philip and Janet Shapiro, four grandchildren, Logan Levkoff-Cortes, Cameron Levkoff, Brooke Shapiro, and Josh Shapiro, and three great grandchildren.