By Zev Shulkin
Physicians and front-line health care workers know firsthand the profound disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on all aspects of life. Simultaneously, we have also borne witness to the innovations that have helped keep our practices, our families and our society together. For the pro-Israel community, this has been an especially challenging time. The virus has robbed us of members of our mishpacha (family), battered the U.S. and Israeli economies and stymied international travel. Missions to Israel are paused, and in-person gatherings to support Israel in the Diaspora have come to a halt.
During the day, physicians have had to adapt to challenges in the operating room, in our clinics and in our hospitals. Concurrently, through my involvement in the pro-Israel movement, I have seen the pro-Israel community adapt to a changing environment. Like the medical profession, this community is pioneering new methods as it continues to show its support for the Jewish state.
I grew up in a pro-Israel, strongly Zionist household in Dallas. I vividly recall my father, Dr. Allan Shulkin, folding down the Israel Bonds tab card during the High Holidays. Some time ago I came across records of my grandparents’ investments dating back to Israel’s formative years. For my family and my wife’s family, this support — this love — Is second-nature and unconditional.
As a medical school student, I continued the family tradition by making my first Israel bond purchase. Soon after, I was recruited to be a part of the Israel Bonds New Leadership Division, which strives to get young people involved in the organization’s activities on behalf of Israel.
During these early years, mentorship was key. Dallas has a thriving Jewish and pro-Israel community, and I was privileged to be mentored by my father, Kenny Goldberg, Karen Garfield, Charles Pulman and Larry Olschwanger. The current leadership has helped craft new leaders. At the national level, Dr. Andrew Hutter, a longtime Bonds leader and a well-known face in the pro-Israel community (and esteemed orthopedic surgeon), took me under his wing, and showed me what it took to do the legwork of building community and establishing deep and lasting ties. Together, we worked to forge a base of support, getting more and more young people engaged through events, programming, outreach and networking opportunities.
My involvement with Israel Bonds has enabled me to travel to Shabbat dinners in New York City, to attend major events in Miami, and to interact with other Bonds leaders at weekend leadership retreats in Arizona and Austin. It is through my extended Israel Bonds family that I was blessed to meet my wife Talya.
We have continued to support Bonds as we adapted to the COVID-19 world. Homebound and constrained by the “new normal,” we restructured our work with Israel Bonds to suit the pandemic age. Events and programming were shifted to Zoom, where we could still convene and spread the word. This change in format helped broaden our net and enabled us to reach more supporters than ever before.
Bonds events have featured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Michael Solomonov, Bari Weiss and Amar’e Stoudemire, to name a few. Our outreach focuses on channeling the enthusiasm we see on Zoom events and other virtual gatherings into direct action, whether it be financial investment, organizing or some combination of both. In all cases, the objective of the pro-Israel community—in Dallas and beyond—is on ensuring that the groundswell of support that we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 period is translated into productive, real-world impact.
The communal response that we’ve seen to COVID-19 must serve as a model and a rallying cry to continue engaging communities in support of the Jewish state. Doing so means connecting with new investors, offering opportunities to network and organize, and growing Bonds’ base of support locally and nationwide.
Fulfilling this goal not only will help Israel weather today’s uncertain economic climate, it will also honor a long and rich tradition of the Diaspora uniting in support of its Jewish homeland. In generations past, our parents and grandparents invested in and supported Israel when it was in dire straits, facing wars, international crises and threats to its existence. It is just as critical today that we show the same level of support as past generations, and essential that we continue their legacy.
Zev Shulkin is a volunteer member of Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds’ National New Leadership Campaign Council. He lives in Dallas and is the Dallas Israel Bonds chair.