Major donors travel like VIPs

Pictured above: The Kanefsky family in front of the new American Embassy building in Jerusalem. From left, Lauren, Bari Steve, Larry (in front), Eva, Shari and Irwin Kanefsky.

If you are a major donor to The Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, you can benefit from the use of VIP Services when traveling to Israel and other Jewish communities worldwide. Major donors are families who contribute $10,000 or more to the federation each year.

The federation works in conjunction with the Jerusalem and New York offices of Jewish Federations of North America to offer complimentary comprehensive itinerary planning. This service ranges from specific site visits or programs up to the planning of an entire trip itinerary. The itinerary is designed specifically for the donor and often features unique visits, behind-the-scenes opportunities and interactive experiences. The itineraries also offer a chance to see first-hand the work of the federation’s overseas partners.

Shari and Irwin Kanefsky had used VIP Services in the past and decided to use it again this past June when they traveled with their two sons, their spouses and their 8-year-old granddaughter to Israel.

“Shari and I have been to Israel a number of times, so there were certain places we wanted to go. It was important to us to make sure all of our kids got to Israel and understood their heritage and the importance of their Jewish identity,” says Irwin. He says federation makes such trips easy providing access to guides, security and transportation.

Shari and Irwin worked with Robin Loeb, chief operating officer at the federation, to plan their itinerary. Robin suggested some activities that families with younger children had done since they were traveling with their granddaughter Eva.

“We tried to make it relevant for our 8-year-old, and we tried to make it relevant for us,” says Shari. She also wanted to take her children to a couple of sites to see the impact of their donations to federation. The Kanefsky’s children are also donors.

The first such site they visited was the Ethiopian National Project’s SPACE Scholastic Assistance Program at the AMIT Girls School in Ma’ale Adumim. This program ensures the successful integration of Ethiopian-Israelis by addressing the most pressing educational and social needs of children in grades seven to 12.

“The girls’ school was incredible,” says Shari. “When some of the girls got through with school, they came in and spent time with us, and we played games with them. The games created a dialogue, so we got to know them better, and we all had a really good time.”

The next day the family visited the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee-affiliated Beit Susan (Susan’s House) in Jerusalem. The program helps at-risk students age 15-18 by offering them the opportunity to participate in business-oriented enterprises, acquire professional skills in the workplace and reconnect with the community. The teens sell handmade goods including glass art and greeting cards at the gift shop. While there, Eva participated in a ceramic hamsa painting workshop.

Other places they visited with their guide included the Weizmann Institute of Science, Beit Guvrin, Armored Corps Memorial Museum, Masada, Yad Vashem and Caesarea.

Shari says the guide federation arranged was incredible. “He picked us up every morning and brought us back – he went above and beyond the call of duty for us at all times.”

“You expect to be treated as a VIP, and we were,” adds Irwin. “They do a great job, and its one of the perks we get for being a major donor.”

For more information or to discuss travel, major donors are invited to contact Robin Loeb at or 480-481-7004.


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