Long before I understood the significance of the Jewish state and its unique place in history, I knew about the need to support it. Growing up as a third-generation member of Congregation Shearith Israel, I remember hearing stories from Holocaust survivors, watching local leaders speak movingly of their connection to Israel, and participating in campaigns held by Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds.
During this time, I had the opportunity to hear famed optometrist and businessman Stanley Pearle speak at our congregation in Dallas. To this day, I remember his remarks, discussing his many meetings and conversations with the likes of David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, relating the small but important part Pearle was able to play in building the Jewish state in its earliest days. I knew then and there that I, too, wanted to have a similar role in ensuring Israel’s continued success, and I started looking for ways to get involved.
It didn’t take long. When I was just getting my start as a young professional, I came across an Israel Bonds representative at an event in Omaha, Nebraska, where we exchanged contact information and promised to keep in touch. After returning home to Dallas, I wondered when or even if we might see each other again, but it wasn’t long before I received a call: The Israel Bonds representative was in town, and looking to reconnect. We got together, and very quickly I was sold, joining Israel Bonds as a member of its burgeoning New Leadership Division, which strives to get young people involved in supporting the Jewish state.
Here in Dallas, there was a lot of work to do. New Leadership was just getting started, and very few young people had heard of us; most had little or no investments of their own, much less investments in the Jewish state. So we got to work organizing, holding events and talking to students, recent graduates and early-career professionals about the importance of investing in Israel. Israel bonds are not charity, they are a means of supporting the Jewish state that pay you back — with interest. We quickly found support growing with more than $10 million in Israel bond investments from across the Dallas area.
At one event — among the largest in Israel Bonds history — we brought together more than 1,500 individuals to hear former President George W. Bush speak about his support for the Jewish state, and share fond memories he made over the years with Israeli leaders. At others, we helped grow the next generation of Israel Bonds frontrunners through boot camps to hone their skills in networking, and getting the word out about this critical work.
Over time, I gradually took on more responsibility — first as chairman of the Israel Bonds National Campaign Advisory Council, and then as a member of the national board of directors, the position I currently hold. However, I have always taken care to keep in touch with those doing the indispensable work on the ground, where it all began for me. To this day, I still work closely with Dallas New Leadership to ensure that a new generation is joining the cause of partnering with Israel through investment in Israel bonds.
And yet, despite Israel’s immense progress, I still occasionally hear people ask: Why? Why make it your mission to invest in the Jewish state, with so many other worthy causes around? For me, this is personal. I participated in a delegation to Israel during the Gulf War, when we were handed gas masks and emergency syringes upon arrival, and told to be ready for the worst. Those memories endure to this day. And so the answer to this question is simple: I’ve seen firsthand the threats Israel faces, and without showing our support — and putting a dollar figure to it — we risk abandoning the Jewish state when it may need us most. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take, and that’s why I’ve made it my life’s work to invest in Israel.
From my current role as a national board member, this work can feel like it’s taken on a 30,000-foot view, but I’ll never forget the impact it has for those whom it touches. Thinking back to my time as a kid at Congregation Shearith Israel, I still remember the pride I heard in the voices of those who spoke about their support for Israel through Israel Bonds, and the importance they placed on preparing the next generation to carry that legacy forward. Today, I share this conviction completely, and remain dedicated to doing my part to ensure tomorrow’s Israel Bonds investors and supporters have every opportunity that I did to make a difference.
Ken Goldberg is a national board member for Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds and former chairman of the National Campaign Advisory Council.