Innovators Step Up To The Plate in Wake of Israel Fire


Much ink has been spilled about the younger generation of Jews, a generation (older people tend to gripe) that is marked by entitlement.

This moniker has oft been applied to members of the ROI Community, an international group of 550 young Jewish leaders whom philanthropist Lynn Schusterman has treated to an all-expenses paid trip to Israel, including lodging at a nice hotel, sumptuous food and lavish entertainment (in recent years, participants were asked to pay a nominal fee of a few hundred dollars).

Over the past three years, The Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation has doled out more than $500,000 in alumni grants, viewing this as an investment in ROI Community members working on projects (like, which the Jewish Week wrote about last week) that foster innovation within the Jewish community.

Now, in the wake of the worst wildfire in Israel’s history, Schusterman is for the first time asking ROIers to give back.

In an e-mail yesterday, ROI’s director, Justin Korda, invited members of the ROI community to donate to the Carmel Fire Relief Fund, created by Yonatan Ben-Dor, a member of the ROI 2008 gathering who founded IsraelGives (, a Web platform that matches international and Israeli donors and volunteers with 28,000 Israeli not-for-profit organizations.

While the fire was still raging, the Carmel Fire Relief Fund helped provide eye drops to firefighters, distribute food baskets and house people who were evacuated.

Now, funds are being earmarked to assist in the rebuilding of the Yemin Orde orphanage in the Carmel, which housed 500 children. “ROI is a community of young Jewish engagers who believe they have power to make a difference,” says Ben-Dor. “They should be given the opportunity to step up to the plate.”

Through Dec. 16, Schusterman will provide a dollar-for-dollar match for contributions by ROI members and their friends, up to $500 per person. Schusterman will also donate an additional $200 in honor of each Israeli member of the ROI community who volunteers as part of the relief efforts.

“We’ve never solicited members of the ROI community for fundraising purposes,” Korda told The Jewish Week. “But a disaster on this level in Israel has also never really happened. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.”

When “entitled” young Jews are asked to give back, will they?

In the 24 hours since the fundraiser was announced, more than 60 members of the ROI community had donated a collective $2,137 (which Schusterman’s matching grant then doubled to $4,274). The average donation was $25.

“ROI may be many things, but it’s not typical donors,” says Korda. “We’re trying to have a collective effort by encouraging donations of any size, whether it’s $18 or $25. When you add them all up, they can make a difference.”

While Korda says he “has a lot of faith” in the community, he doesn’t anticipate more ROI fundraising campaigns in the near future. “It’s a one-time thing,” he says.

Friends of ROI can donate to the Carmel Fire Relief Effort by visiting this link: