When Charles and Lynn Schusterman established their family foundation in 1987, they set off without a map to guide them. Instead, they were led by a fierce determination to contribute their time and resources to the two communities closest to their hearts k’lal Yisrael—Jewish peoplehood—and the people in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Together Charles and Lynn worked to fashion a philanthropic agenda dedicated to expanding, enriching and enhancing these communities. More than 20 years later, what started as a one-office foundation engaged almost exclusively in grantmaking is now a global network of programs, organizations and foundations that still hold true to the mission and values Charles and Lynn established with their initial investment.
Our story is the story of these values brought to life—a philanthropic vision in action. It is the story of the incredibly talented, committed individuals and organizations that inspire us every day and, with our support, transform lives, build communities and touch hearts. It is the story of an organization shaped by the vision of Day One and by the experiences of every day thereafter.
1987 Charles and Lynn Schusterman formally establish their family foundation.
1988 CLSFF makes its first grant to the scholarship program at the local Jewish day school, Heritage Academy of Tulsa, later renamed the Mizel Jewish Community Day School.
1989 The foundation makes its first significant grant allowing construction to commence on the Schusterman Campus of the Israel Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem.
1990 As Communism collapsed, anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union gained force. CLSFF begins to provide significant support to Operation Exodus, a program to resettle Jews from the Soviet Union to communities in Israel.
1991 Charles and Lynn begin to support the Israel Museum, the world’s foremost center for collections of Judaica and Jewish Ethnography, leading to the foundation’s increased focus on arts and culture in Israel.
1992 CLSFF makes its first grant to the Oklahoma School for Science and Mathematics (OSSM), establishing a relationship that leads to the construction of the Samson Science and Discovery Center at the statewide residential high school located in Oklahoma City.
1993 The foundation establishes the Schusterman-Josey Chair in Judaic History at the University of Oklahoma.
1994 Charles and Lynn hire Sanford R. (Sandy) Cardin to serve as the Executive Director of their foundation.
1995 The foundation provides its first sponsorship of Kids’ World, an international children’s festival hosted by the Tulsa Global Alliance. Kids’ World provides a hands-on learning environment for children to explore cultures from around the world.
1996 Charles and Lynn dedicate Succat Shalom: The Emergency Center in Jerusalem for At-Risk Children and Their Families, and commit to help build a similar facility for the Parent Child Center of Tulsa.
1997 Charles and Lynn agree to join PEJE (Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education), a Jewish funding collaborative comprised of donors seeking to create a vibrant, sustainable Jewish future by strengthening the Jewish day school movement.
1998 The cornerstone is laid in Jerusalem for Mercaz Shimshon (Samson Center), a new cultural facility and world headquarters for Reform and Progressive Judaism on the Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.
1999 CLSFF announces a major grant to the University of Oklahoma to help establish a new education and research campus in Tulsa, bringing all of the local OU programs to one location.
2000 Charles Schusterman dies on December 30 and Lynn becomes president of the foundation.
2001 CLSFF opens an office in Washington, D.C., and hires Lisa Eisen as its National Program Director. The foundation becomes a founding partner in the Taglit-Birthright Israel program.
2002 In partnership with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the foundation launches the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) to address the worrisome rise in anti-Israel activities on college campuses across North America.
2003 In an effort to replicate in Israel an interdisciplinary approach to the treatment of child abuse pioneered at the Child Abuse Network (CAN) in Tulsa, the Foundation establishes the Beit Lynn program in Jerusalem.
2004 CLSFF makes its first grant to Beit Morasha for a pluralistic training program that fosters respect and understanding of Jewish religious diversity.
2005 CLSFF launches the Youth in Philanthropy Program to educate Tulsa area teens about the complementary roles service and philanthropy play in a caring community.
2006 The Schusterman family establishes the Schusterman Foundation-Israel (SFI) and the Center for Leadership Initiatives, Inc. (CLI). ROI, a global network of young Jewish innovators, is created as a venture of CLI and in partnership with Taglit-Birthright Israel.
2007 Responding to the dearth of Israel Studies programs and scholars on U.S. campuses, the foundation establishes the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University.
2008 CLSFF is among a coalition of funders to support the launch of Birthright Israel NEXT as a way to engage returning Birthright participants and their peers, expand their connections to Israel and deepen their commitments to Jewish life.
2009 CLSFF joins with three foundations to form Repair the World, a nonprofit building the field of Jewish service learning. CLSFF steers the merger of BBYO and the PANIM Institute, bringing PANIM’s service learning to BBYO’s 30,000-strong teen network.
2010 CLSFF releases Searching for the Study of Israel showing a 70% increase in the number of courses devoted to Israel on U.S. campuses since 2006. The foundation initiates a public survey and inclusion campaign to make the Jewish community more welcoming to LGBT Jews.