Investing in our youth
During their 21 years of marriage, Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine have navigated the ups and downs of life using the “bedrock Jewish values” instilled by their parents. These principles have steered them in the right direction, helping them to raise two teenage daughters and guiding Jonathan as a managing director at Bain Capital and managing partner of its Sankaty Advisors unit. Today, these values are also the driving force behind their generous support of CJP.
Partners in pursuing tikkun olam
“Our parents helped us understand that tikkun olam— repairing the world—is part of what it means to be Jewish. CJP has been a central organization in our pursuit of tikkun olam,” says Jeannie.
For decades, the Lavines have provided consistent support to CJP, but in recent years, they’ve felt compelled to increase their investment in Israel, and in the Jewish future. Jonathan says that his experience on a CJP mission to Israel in 2012 opened his eyes “to the diverse fabric of CJP’s work, and how we can pursue our desire for social change and express our Jewish identity.”
Inspired by Israel
Much of their annual gift remains unrestricted, allowing CJP the flexibility to address urgent needs and to pursue strategic community priorities. At the same time, the Lavines wanted to ensure CJP’s ability to create and launch new programs designed to intensify Jewish young adults’ connection with Israel. In order to do so, they increased their gift to support Onward Israel Boston and Alternative Spring Break, two programs that provide internship and service learning opportunities for local college students who want to make a difference in Israel while gaining valuable leadership experience in the private and non-profit sectors.
“I always describe service learning as a double mitzvah,” says Jonathan. “It creates a life-changing experience for the volunteers, while they in turn are improving the lives of others.” The fact that the programs create strong, personal connections between Greater Boston’s Jewish community and Israel is especially meaningful to the Lavines.
“Israel is our homeland and the historic land of our forefathers, but it is also very much a reflection of the Jewish present,” says Jonathan. “We hope that these programs become permanent fixtures in the lives of Boston youth, and build their love and support for the State of Israel.”
Investing in youth
The Lavines’ visionary leadership and generous funding allowed CJP to launch Onward Israel Boston last year. This year, they also supported a significant expansion of the program, helping 70 students from Boston — the largest delegation sent by a single community nationwide—to spend this summer learning, working and living in Israel. Students shared their excitement nearly as soon as their plane touched down, tweeting and blogging about their life-changing experiences, with many already planning for a return visit.
The Lavines are also supporting the Alternative Spring Break program, a week-long service learning project based in Boston’s sister city of Haifa. This year, students volunteered for projects that included working with troubled adolescents at the Yemin Orde Youth Village and restoring a heritage site outside of Jerusalem. Participants returned infused with a love of Israel and with new insights on leadership and activism.
Jeannie says that projects like Alternative Spring Break can lift communities and create systemic change. “We believe that the best way to perpetuate tikkun olam is by instilling values of volunteerism, community and investing one’s good fortune in youth.”
Both the Lavines feel that their Jewish heritage is a gift that they are obligated to pass on—an aspiration that they accomplish in part by partnering with CJP. Together, their giving will help build strong Jewish identities for generations to come, both in Israel and here in Boston.