Russell F. Robinson: CEO, Jewish National Fund-USA

My NativeAdVert:

Russell F. Robinson became Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) Chief Executive Officer in September 1997.  Robinson has spent most of his professional life as a dedicated leader for the Jewish people. Under his leadership, JNF has been instrumental in developing successful programs for Israel’s water crisis, Zionist Advocacy and Education, community development, environmental work, and the sustainable development of the Negev and Galilee, all of which play a significant role in the quality of life for all Israelis. Under his direction, JNF launched its $1 Billion Roadmap campaign and has become one of the most recognized non-profits for its work, business management, financial integrity, and volunteer involvement.

He is featured in the best-selling management book, “The 24 Hour Turnaround, How Amazing Entrepreneurs Succeed in Tough Times,” and has appeared on TV, radio, and newspapers throughout the world representing Jewish National Fund. 

Goal of the day: My goal today and every day is to make this day better than the last and that includes dealing with family, employees, partners, and all of our donors and friends.  In my opinion, you cannot plan your day merely with the goal of accomplishing just one or two things. You have to think bigger—and think about how each day is going to make a difference in the months and years ahead.

My thought of the day: Humor and laughter are always on my mind.  Now this may seem unusual for a CEO, yet I believe that laughter and smiling is one of the greatest gifts one can have and give.  When a good comedian passes away I feel that the world has lost someone very special – because the ability to bring people laughter is a healing gift.  I start each day thinking how can we make someone laugh, how can we make someone smile?  It’s so important to not allow the issues of the day to weigh so heavily on you that you cannot have a little smile, a little laugh.  The opportunity to see other people enjoy a good laugh is a truly powerful motivator for getting through any day and any moment.

My action of the day: I always try to respond to people.  Each morning I review e-mails and messages and make sure to reply.  If the e-mails are coming from a professional staff member or a lay leader, or a partner whom we work with, then I know they are searching for an answer, and while I do not necessarily have all the answers, I respond and tell them I am looking for it, studying it, and acting on it.  The action of the day that I think is so important is to tell people that you have heard them and that you are thinking about their needs. That is vitally important.  If I go a couple of days and I have not responded to a letter or email, I am very quick to apologize because I figure if they asked, then they are also looking for someone to listen to them.  

My deed of the day: My deed of the day is trying to help a young person.  I have never turned down a meeting to mentor a young person, or when a young person wants to talk to me about what they are going to do after college, and in their job, I find the time to meet.  It is so important that we spend time and mentor young people.  If we have the opportunity, we owe it to the next generation to help mentor them, to help guide them, or to just listen to them.  Remember, someone helped us. Sometimes it is nothing more than just lending an ear. Perhaps it is opening a door, letting them share ideas. You will always learn from a younger mind.

My tip for the day: My tip for the day goes back to laughing and smiling.  I recommend you read or listen to a joke.  Never go a day, ever, without having a little laugh.  It is the greatest therapy and the greatest gift to yourself.

My Pic of the day:

I think that is a picture of my family, of mountains and vistas, because there is something out there that we have to keep going for, and to look at your children you have to believe in the future.  It is beautiful and wonderful, and we owe it to ourselves to take that walk, to take the next step, to move the world forward, to make the world a better place.  It’s why I believe we are on this earth and what we should be teaching our children; a way to act and be better.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about your city?

Well, my city depends on what city it is.  Is it the city I live in, New York, or the city I visit, in Israel: Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva or Akko.  I am going to respond with what I love most about my home city, New York. The power of the city energizes me, and there is something in NYC that is magical and makes you realize there are limitless possibilities if you want to make things happen. In Israel, my favorite city is Be’er Sheva.  There, I see a city that has grown in the middle of the desert, has the historical connection to the Jewish people and to all monotheistic religions for well over 3,000 years, from the time Abraham walked and settled in Be’er Sheva. The first real estate contract ever recorded took place there, mentioned in the Bible with the story of Abraham purchasing the well.  You meet the city’s residents.  They are a people driven to make great things happen.  It is a city that says we are not forgotten in the remote desert, but that we are a powerful capital of the Negev from which hi-tech corporations have sprung, and where Ethiopians, Morrocans, Bedouins, Romanians, and 82 different cultures call home.  Be’er Sheva today is a city of a diverse group of people with an amazing history and a promising future.

Favorite Breakfast meal and restaurant?

I am not the best at eating breakfast, yet if I had my pick, it would be pancakes. The problem is that if I eat more pancakes, I won’t fit into any of my suits.

My favorite restaurant is a restaurant in Israel called Yakuta.  It is in Be’er Sheva and is French- Moroccan. You walk in and the owner comes and greets you with a big hug and kiss, and then you sit and enjoy the most delicious culinary delights of Moroccan French cuisine. The food has a great mix of spices and sauces, and grilled lamb chops.  Everything is fresh and wonderful.  When you are finished with your meal, you begin to literally plan your return.  

What are you doing at 6 AM?

At 6:00 a.m. I am in my car on my way to work.  It takes an hour to commute from my home to the office.  I enjoy getting up early and driving at that time, not only because there is less traffic, it also allows me time to make calls to Israel. I am dictating some notes into my phone, and to a dictation machine in my office that allows transcription.  

At 10:00 a.m.  I am deep into meeting staff and making calls.  I like to take the morning to schedule as many staff meetings as I can.

12:00 p.m. Noon – lunch – my favorite lunch is Chinese takeout delivered to the office.  I bring the Chinese food into the executive board room, and usually sit around with others talking for the next 45 minutes to an hour.  It’s not so much about the food, but about the informal discussion.    

At 7:00 p.m., my mind turns to the drive home, and planning for the hour or two depending on the traffic. I begin packing up my desk.  I never leave anything on top of my desk or only in neatly stacked piles.  I do this because I just believe it is important to come into your office in the morning with a clean outlook on the day ahead and that begins with my desk.    

11 p.m.: I don’t sleep much so at 11:00 p.m. I am winding down and having tried not to work for a couple of hours, I’m thinking about the next day.  Sadly, I pull out my calendar to see exactly what is on my schedule the next day, which does not stress me out, but provides me the organizational thought process I need prior to sleep. If I’m traveling I use this time to pack.

What drink do you need to get through the day, and at the end of the day, and how many?

My favorite drink is a cup of coffee, and not just one; I am a coffee fanatic.  I love to have a few cups in the morning, and then a few cups in the afternoon.  On Friday nights, I enjoy a glass of red wine or two.  A good cabernet on Friday night is something I look forward to.  

What used app or favorite Instagram account?

My favorite app is Facebook as it allows me to see what is happening and it gives me an understanding of the things that people are posting and thinking.  It’s the same with Twitter…you have to know what people are thinking about. I also like to post and look for feedback. Facebook and Twitter actually offer a rapid view of the world.

What should everyone try at least once?

Fly fishing.  I think fly fishing out in the middle of a stream is just about the greatest way to let your mind go.  I think everyone should try talking to new people as well.  When I travel, I find it very interesting to strike up conversations with people I don’t know.  You often get the pulse of the world -- what people are thinking, what the world is thinking, beyond your own little bubble.

Where do you enjoy getting lost? 

Well, if you ask my wife I guess she would say I enjoy getting lost everywhere.  I like letting my mind wander, and to sit back and dream of things and dream of what could be, and where things could be going, and how to influence them.  I like to just get lost in a vision or thought and always dream of different areas where I can make a difference.