By Mara Fahl
Between “life, kids and COVID,” Dr. Logan Levkoff, an internationally recognized expert on sexuality and relationships, realized at the recent Jewish National Fund-USA conference in Boston that it had suddenly been seven years since she had visited Israel. As the granddaughter of one of the organization’s past presidents, Milton S. Shapiro, and as the chair of Caravan for Democracy, which sends student leaders beyond the Jewish faith to Israel each year, she decided it was time to “come home.”
Her family was surprised by the sudden announcement that she was going [back to Israel] with or without them, and work and school meant that they couldn’t join, so she called her sister, Cameron, the founder of culinary talent agency Group W Management, who said simply: “I’m in.”
With a type of strength and certainty that runs in the family, Logan and Cameron Levkoff embarked alone on a trip that would honor three generations of remarkable philanthropic investments and inspire the next generation’s involvement.
It wasn’t until they arrived in Israel that they realized how special this opportunity was: traveling together for the first time as adults without their parents or their children. This was a chance to see the Israel their grandparents talked about and instilled a deep love for in them on their own terms, and they seized it fully, with a particular emphasis on exploring their grandfather’s legacy.
“We’ve been to Israel many times, but aside from the Kotel (Western Wall), we did things on this trip that we had never done before. It was a remarkable reminder of how things have evolved over the decades, and how much work Jewish National Fund-USA has accomplished since our grandfather’s time,” said Logan. “It was the first time I’d been back since becoming a parent,” said Cameron thoughtfully, “and it really felt like the torch had been passed.”
Indeed, Cameron and Logan agreed that the biggest impact of the trip was on their perspective as parents raising proud Jewish children and in their work with Caravan for Democracy. Cameron, who is also involved in Caravan for Democracy, shared, “I’ve seen the things my grandparents have built over the years since I was a child, but being there with the Caravan students, hearing their questions, their insights, seeing them try to understand things that were confusing and amazing was such a validation that what we are doing is so important.”
Logan agreed. “We started the Milton and Beatrice Shapiro Scholarship Foundation to honor my grandfather’s passion for Israel, leadership, and finding your voice and using it to take a stand. Non-Jewish students should have the opportunity to fall in love with Israel the way Jewish students do, in all of its complexity.”
With more than 700 alumni and a rigorous selection process, Jewish National Fund-USA’s Caravan for Democracy is a fitting legacy for the past and a source of pride and joy for the next generation. “I always tell my Caravan students,” Logan emphasized, “that if we do this right, you’ll leave Israel with more questions than you arrived with. It will get you thinking, and you’ll apply those lessons to your life. Seeing that process unfold before my eyes was such a source of pride for me.”
Both sisters agreed that in a time of rising antisemitism, they worry that their children’s Judaism and Zionism may come under fire in the future. Reinvigorated by their trip and inspired by the generations that led to their own strong Zionist identities, the sisters feel ready to take on anything.
For Logan, in particular, after a career of talking about things that make some people uncomfortable, she is now recharged and raring to go. “I specialize in uncomfortable conversations! If proudly talking about Zionism is an uncomfortable conversation, I am more than willing and prepared to have it.” Cameron described herself as more of a behind-the-scenes type, but agreed wholeheartedly, saying “some people wonder, can one or two or 80 students at a time really make a change? I believe so strongly that the answer is yes. These are 80 students who are now empowered with a voice, with experience and with knowledge. We feel we must do something, and this is our way of carrying our Zionism forward just like our grandparents did.”