Over 2,500 supporters of Israel shared tears of sorrow and joy as they gathered in Denver, Colorado, for Jewish National Fund-USA’s Global Conference for Israel. Following the October 7 terrorist attacks, planning for the November 30 – December 3 event pivoted, and the gathering’s tone took on a more somber yet determined feel.
Emotions ran high as supporters embraced the dozens of Israelis in attendance who experienced the horror and aftermath of the attacks. These same Israelis have been working around the clock with Jewish National Fund-USA to address the immediate needs of those affected while also planning for the region’s future.
Speaking to conference attendees from Jerusalem, the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, praised Jewish National Fund-USA for its response in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
“[We] come together at this Global Conference for Israel not just in support of the land and people of Israel, but also in support of [our] core values of humanity,” said Herzog. “From the first moments following the October 7 massacre, Jewish National Fund-USA has been there through its Israel Resilience Campaign. It continues to be there for Israel’s displaced border communities, providing temporary housing, food, and other basic needs. And Jewish National Fund-USA has also been leading the charge on another crucial battleground: supporting pro-Israel students and faculty [on college campuses] across the United States.”
During a plenary session, Jewish National Fund-USA President, Dr. Sol Lizerbram, acknowledged the gathering’s historic symbolism and called on supporters of Israel everywhere to unite behind the organization’s rebuilding efforts in Israel’s south, as he praised the hundreds of students taking part in the event’s High School and College Summits.
“Tonight, I share all of our history and our achievements not because we’re celebrating,” said Dr. Lizerbram. “Instead, I want to remind everyone that we have built up [Israel’s south] before, and we will do it again. Yes, there are obstacles, and there are security challenges that must be addressed. [However], this is our 1901 and 1948 moment,” referring to the organization’s establishment at the 5th Zionist Congress and the critical role it played when Israel declared independence, respectively.
Colorado’s Governor, Jared Polis, who is Jewish, praised the organization’s supporters in an emotionally charged address.
“There’s a lot of pain, and it’s made worse by the fact that we’re seeing the rise of antisemitism and hate in America and across the world. The antisemitic demons of old that we hoped had been vanquished [are] now fueled by social media and dangerous rhetoric. My great-grandparents came to this country in the early 20th century to escape the persecution in Eastern Europe for who they were and what they believed…If anyone asks why the world needs a Jewish State of Israel, the evidence is now more self-evident than ever before.”
While a sense of solidarity and somberness defined the lead-up to the event, Jewish National Fund-USA CEO, Russell F. Robinson, urged conference-goers to stand tall and called on everyone to never stop telling Israel and the Jewish People’s story. “It’s so difficult during these times to dream and hope and have a vision about what tomorrow can bring,” said Robinson. “The pain is so great. Thousands of funerals, millions of tears. Pain and loss that will never be repaired. Yet, we will never allow our light to go out!”
The conference also featured a delegation of leaders from the Israel-based Keren Kayemeth LeYisrael-JNF (a separate organization from Jewish National Fund-USA), Vered and Doron Libstein – the wife and brother of the late Sha’ar HaNegev Mayor, Ofir Libstein, who was murdered during the October 7 terrorist attacks; William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and entertainment provided by acclaimed Broadway star and comedian, Alex Edelman, who performed his hit show, “Just for us.”
Harnessing the momentum generated by the conference’s record attendance, Jewish National Fund-USA announced plans to rebuild Israel’s battered south through a cross-communal strategy called “Build Together.” An initial $50 million fund is planned, with equal contributions from Jewish National Fund-USA and KKL-JNF in Israel, with both organizations calling on Jewish organizations and their supporters everywhere to join together and contribute to the historic revitalization effort.
Next year’s Global Conference for Israel will occur between November 14-17, 2024, in Dallas, Texas. Registration is open at jnf.org/globaldallas.