When Benjamin Jablonski moved to New York in late 2006, he wanted to get involved in Jewish life. So he called up the Jewish National Fund with the intention of helping collect those signature blue pushkes for their next campaign. Apparently, in Ben’s hometown of Australia, that’s how things are still done.
Jablonski then began exploring young Jewish leadership groups. “I was shocked by how many there are in New York,” he says. He envisions that 50 percent of these groups “are destined for the graveyard.” That’s because “they lack clear focus and a strategic plan,” says Jablonski, who works in finance.
The problem, as Gabrielle Carlin puts it, is that many of these young leadership groups “are a social vehicle and not focused on leadership development.”
Still, as the average age of donors to mainstream Jewish organizations continues to rise, the JNF and other Jewish organizations need to cultivate young leaders. So in 2007, Jablonski teamed up with Carlin, a campaign executive with the JNF, to form a lay-leader/professional team with the goal of creating a young leadership platform unlike any other.
The result? JNFuture, the gateway for the next generation of JNF supporters who are passionate about the environment and interested in community development in Israel. JNFuture has since grown from a team of eight people to eight chapters across the United States and four international chapters, engaging more than 2,000 young professional donors. It also boasts more than 200 committed lay leaders who help plan events like the popular Shabbat in the Park and the annual Garden of Eden fundraiser. By the end of 2010, JNFuture will have raised close to $400,000 from young Jews in their 20s.
“We’re presenting [JNFuture] as a philanthropy, not as a meat market,” Jablonski says.
Claims to fame: Ben is a member of the Trapeze School New York. He’s also climbed Mount Everest. Gabrielle has been playing acoustic electric guitar since age 13. She’s also the chair of ViZion, a community of professionals working in Israel-related organizations.
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