Birthright Israel Foundation’s donors all have their own special and unique reasons for supporting the program.…
When Arlene Kaufman and Sandy Baklor married over two decades ago, they both not only shared an undeniable love for each other but an undeniable love for Israel and Jewish people. Anyone who has had the pleasure to meet Arlene and Sandy knows firsthand their focus is on securing the Jewish future – whether through Birthright Israel Foundation, Masa Israel Journey, The Jewish Agency for Israel, or local Federations.
The couple’s passion for their philanthropic projects can be seen in their warm smiles and bright eyes and is contagious. Hearing them speak about the next generation of Jewish leaders is motivational and makes anyone in the room want to get involved. Arlene and Sandy truly believe in the phrase, l’dor v’dor. They live and breathe it in everything they do.
Their generosity has changed the lives of thousands over the last two decades and has also changed thousands of Birthright Israel participants’ lives. The couple has been part of the Birthright Israel family since the beginning in 2000, and we couldn’t be happier.
Arlene and Sandy started their journey with Birthright Israel when they were seeking opportunities to get the next generation involved. They had a desire to ensure the groundwork they are laying for the Jewish people now, will continue for generations. It was this very goal that led them to learn more about Birthright Israel in a lunch with co-founder, Charles Bronfman in 2000.
“This is the first sensible thing that we have seen that fulfills something we are very much concerned about, and that was to find our replacements. We aren’t going to be around forever, although we don’t like to admit that. But the point is, the program gives young adults a chance to be part of the Jewish future. We never saw any other program for young people work until we saw Birthright Israel. Arlene and I looked at each other after our lunch with Charles that day and said this was unbelievable. From then on, we’ve committed to Birthright Israel Foundation every year,” said Sandy.
Outside of the lunches and ongoing support, Arlene and Sandy remain a crucial thread in the fabric of what makes Birthright Israel so successful today. They are one of the main reasons Israelis participate in each trip. Arlene and Sandy had a gut feeling after speaking with family in Israel that Israeli young adults could benefit just as much as Diaspora participants. So, they met with the lay leadership of Birthright Israel and insisted on a dimension that allowed Israelis also to claim their birthright. Today, over 100,000 Israelis have participated in Birthright Israel as the ‘Mifgash.’
After the initial integration of Israeli participants, they were invited back to Israel with Birthright Israel to see their hard work up close. The couple can recall almost word for word what one of the first Israeli participants said as their group stood around Theodor Herzl’s tomb.
“Until today, when I had been to the Kotel and walked through the cemetery, I realized something that I live here, so as long as I live here, you can live as Jews anywhere else in the world. I am protecting you and protecting Jews all over the world.”
As Sandy and Arlene repeated these words, even twenty years later, their eyes glisten as they fill with tears and are overcome with pride. Their efforts and generosity have made moments like this at Har Herzl possible for over 750,000 young Jewish adults worldwide. They have enabled Diaspora participants to form unbreakable bonds with Israelis ever since, which has led to business relationships between participants, marriages, and friendships.
It is hard to put into words and describe the outpouring of support Arlene and Sandy have shown Birthright Israel Foundation over the years. Throughout it all, they feel secure in their investment and that when it comes time to pass the torch to the next generation, the torch will remain lit thanks to this life-changing gift.
Finally, when asked about their dreams for the future of Birthright Israel, the couple hopes young Jewish adults will take advantage of the trip to build their personal and business networks and continue learning about Israel’s innovative contributions to the world.