Jay Rubin Israel Experience Fund Helps Austin Community Send Kids on Trips

Jay Rubin Israel Experience Fund Helps Austin Community Send Kids on Trips

By Tonyia Cone

As the son of Israeli parents, Shalom Austin Chair Dan Kraus visited the country many times as a child. 

“I think going to Israel is just about the most impactful thing that happened to me in my Jewish journey,” he said.

Kraus grew up in the Northeastern United States, where many Jewish organizations make Israel scholarships available to those younger than 18 years old. It was glaringly obvious to him that the Austin community only offered small Israel scholarships through synagogues and the Jewish Federation of Greater Austin Annual Campaign. 

“It was not a really sustainable process because if we have a bad year, there are no funds available. So that didn’t seem like a very good long-term approach,” Kraus explained.

Rabbi Steven Folberg of Congregation Beth Israel approached Kraus, explaining that each year he has difficulty finding funding to help send kids on organized trips to Israel. He asked Kraus if he thought the Federation could help. 

So when Jay Rubin, former Shalom Austin CEO, retired this fall, Kraus, Folberg and Shalom Austin board member Keri Pearlson realized an Israel Experience Fund would be a nice long-term way to honor his service and his retirement would provide a great opportunity to get the fund off the ground.

“Jay was pretty central to us creating a foundation in Austin,” said Kraus. “He’s also a passionate advocate for Israel.” 

The quasi-endowed Jay Rubin Israel Experience Fund is intended to create a pool of money that will build over time and provide a future stream of income to sustain scholarships for young Austinites to go on organized trips to Israel. 

Pearlson, who is also Austin’s liaison with Partnership2Gether in the Western Galilee of Israel, explained that it is important for kids to go to Israel to truly understand their Jewish roots.  

“Israel is the home of so much of the history of our people. While it’s one thing to read about places where things happened, it’s quite another to actually visit them,” she said, adding that having a scholarship fund to help support trips to Israel will assist in this goal.  

Pearlson’s daughter, nieces and nephews have all gone on organized trips to Israel. 

“Their understanding of Israel as a people and a country, and the importance of the perpetuation of Israel is now a fundamental part of them. Scholarships for our Austin kids will enable more of them to attend trips to Israel. All kids should have this experience,” Pearlson explained.
Pearlson did not visit Israel as a child. Her first trip to the country was a few years ago, when she was in her 50s and went with the Ballet Austin trip to share the Light / The Holocaust and Humanity Project with Israelis at the Acco festival.  

“Seeing Israel in person gave me perspective that I didn’t have before. I understand the importance of Israel. I witnessed the community’s acceptance of our ballet’s efforts and the applause they had for the work our Austin community shared with them. I saw Christian and Jewish holy sites that I had only read about. And I learned about the critical and visionary work that Israel as a country is doing today in so many industries that has had and will continue to have a major impact,” Pearlson said. “I want that same awakening for our kids.”

So far, three donors have contributed to the fund: Marvin Brittman, Abby Rappaport and Dan and Rochelle Kraus.

“I received funds as a kid, so I think it’s a nice way to give back,” Kraus said, noting that he received grants from Hadassah and Combined Jewish Philanthropies.

Kraus explained that while it may take time to build the fund up, it is important for the Austin community to have the Jay Rubin Israel Experience Fund so people who are passionate about having a sustainable way to contribute to this cause have a local means of doing so.

Shalom Austin leadership hopes to have enough funds to make scholarships available in 2018. 

Kraus said, “Many communities have programs like this but we don't and it's about time we did. My hope is that it will grow substantially in years to come.”

For more information about the Jay Rubin Israel Experience Fund, contact Rabbi Daniel Septimus at daniel.septimus@shalomaustin.org or 512-735-8006.

To make a contribution, send a check made out to the Jay Rubin Israel Experience Fund to Shalom Austin, care of Jewish Foundation of Austin and Central Texas.

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