Illinois’ Leading Role in the Creation and Success of Israel Bonds

In response to the unprovoked and deadly attacks by Hamas-led terrorist groups on Israel last October, several U.S. state governments stepped up to lend a helping hand financially to the Israelis.

The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office pledged to buy an additional $10 million in Israel Bonds at the onset of the attacks. The Prairie State has been joined by at least 13 other state governments, four municipal governments, and one public pension fund in investing or committing to invest in Israeli bonds to the tune of $564 million. 

Peoria’s Sam Rothberg, the founder of the Israel Bonds program, facilitated the first sales of those bonds in 1951. This program helped raise billions for Israel’s development. Rothberg, a successful business executive, saw first-hand on a visit to Israel the victims of the Holocaust. From 1941-1945, the Nazi Germany regime murdered six million Jews across Europe. Many of these Jewish people were orphans, had no family, and were left stranded in camps. Rothberg’s emotions were stirred, and he vowed to help these Holocaust victims in any way he could. 

Rothberg visited Israel often but always came back home to Peoria. After he died at age 96 in 2007, the Jerusalem Post published an editorial calling Rothberg a “giant of a man” and added that “there is not an inch of Israel that has not been touched by Sam Rothberg…Israel has lost a founding father…an inimitable and indomitable leader. There was none like Sam.”

Governments and other investors of Israel Bonds are essentially loaning money to Israel for their government to use at its discretion. Bonds function like an ‘IOU,’ and borrowers are eventually paid back in full once the bond reaches maturity. 

Investing in Israel Bonds has proved profitable for U.S. governments, as Israel offers competitive interest rates and a strong record of reliable payments. Private credit agencies Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard and Poor’s have all issued consistently high credit ratings to Israel. 

The latest $10 million investment continues the longstanding relationship between Illinois and Israel that dates back to the Middle Eastern country’s creation in 1948. Illinois now has over $100 million in total Israel bond holdings.