By Bill Fox
When my father came running into the house on November 29, 1947, his booming auctioneer’s voice thundering yet emotional, I knew something significant had happened. The U.N. Partition Plan had just been adopted, and the long-held dream of a sovereign Israel was becoming a reality at last. At only five years old, I remember confusion, but also excitement. But little did I know that the course of my life would be forever changed. As I look back at the decades of setbacks and successes that followed — both personally for me, and for the Jewish state — I view this time as the defining moment for the global Jewish Diaspora in the wake of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust. It is also what set me on a lifelong journey that would eventually lead me to the Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds.
From my earliest days, support for Israel was all around me. In fact, it predated me: My father was a professional auctioneer who sold all kinds of things to the highest bidder, but he also used the gift of his voice to spread the word about the pre-state Zionist dream of a Jewish homeland. He instilled in me this very same passion, and through a successful career in business, I always felt called to follow in his footsteps. Support for Jewish communal nonprofits was always in my portfolio, but it wasn’t until Israel Bonds that I realized just giving isn’t enough; you also have to invest.
When Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s vision for a way the global Jewish community could invest in Israel became a reality with the founding of Israel Bonds in 1951, it was a game-changer. It was in the wake of Israel’s devastating War of Independence, and the idea was simple: friends of the Jewish state could buy a bond and be paid back later with interest. In the short run, this meant Israel could rebuild during her infancy; in the long run, it meant the creation of a worldwide family of investors unlike any other, all contributing to the economic development of the country by investing in her bonds. It took off like a rocket, and today the worldwide organization has generated more than $47 billion in investments.
During my long career in business, in 2006, I committed to devoting more time to supporting this cause. For me, there were 10 perfectly good reasons: the uncertain future I’m leaving to each of my 10 grandchildren. As an American, I’m concerned about what lies ahead for them. As a Jew, I firmly believe that a strong Israel is necessary for the survival of the Jewish people. My purpose was clear, but finding the best way to achieve it was sometimes not so apparent. That was until I walked into the home of my rabbi and friend, Mitchell Wohlberg, one evening. The rabbi was hosting a parlor meeting where a presentation was made about Israel Bonds. To me, it sounded like a no-brainer for anybody with Israel in their kishkes to support Israel by investing in her. I was sold; here, I thought, is a way to carry on my father’s legacy with distinction.
Not long after, I became an active lay leader in my native Baltimore, focusing on the importance of Israel Bonds to members of my Beth Tfiloh community, along with family and friends. I soon found myself a member of Bonds’ national board of directors, where I have served for the past 12 years. In this relatively short time, I’ve watched the Bonds organization reach unprecedented heights, despite momentous challenges. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — which devastated Bonds’ longstanding business model of growth through in-person events and engagements — the organization proactively pivoted to virtual events and continues to grow as more and more supporters choose to invest in Israel’s future.
I can’t help but smile thinking of the feeling my late father would have if he only knew that the organization he supported from its inception more than 70 years ago has achieved such success. He would marvel at what has become not only Israel Bonds, but of the entire state of Israel. From Zionist dream to reality, he would say, supported all along the way by those who, like himself, took it upon themselves to pitch in, make a difference and invest.
But one should not be fooled; Israel’s strength today is no guarantee of a safe tomorrow. On the battlefield, Israelis still must continue to defend themselves. And our way of helping defend Israel and building peace through strength is simple: through investment. Israel Bonds’ trajectory is more promising than ever, but the threats Israel faces today are real, dire and rapidly evolving. Supporters of Israel cannot afford to wait until a perilous moment to lend a helping hand. My father instilled in me these important words: Every Jew has an obligation to contribute to keeping Israel safe, strong and secure. Israel Bonds is the way to do it.
I have the privilege of teaching a small group of students in Baltimore, who gather on Monday nights to study and learn through a Jewish youth group. When I deliver a lecture about the importance of Israel, my message is simple: “You’re here, you’re Jewish and Israel exists.” I tell them this, on its own, given the long sweep of our people’s history, is nothing short of miraculous. When I think of those students and my own grandchildren, I can only hope to create for them as strong a foundation as my parents created for me. L’dor v’dor, from generation to generation.
Bill Fox is a member of the national board of directors of Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds.