PARENTS, WHATEVER you do, be sure you know where your children go on their high school trip.
Listen to the parable of Charlie Fishman, a nice Brooklyn boy who was all set to be a concert pianist. He was good to his parents, and when the family moved to Westchester County he joined the Young Judaea youth group at his temple.
He was 16, just graduated from high school. The Young Judaea was Zionist-oriented and offered a summer group tour of Israel. He went, on a partial scholarship.
He loved it. Worked on a kibbutz. Saw Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and everything. Played some jazz piano. Vowed he would come back someday.
And so he did. After NYU (management and political science) and graduate work at the University of Houston and Hebrew Union, he went back in 1970 and lived there for two years. By this time his jazz and his Hebrew were good enough for him to open his own cafe'-theater-gallery in Jerusalem. He called it Django, after the great guitarist.
Then he came back and ran Houston's Kaplan Theater and produced plays, operas and film festivals. He still wasn't a concert pianist.
Now, as it happens, 1978 was the 30th anniversary of Israel, "that 5,000-year-old 30-year-old," he calls it. And an idea came to Charles Fishman: Why not produce a two-hour TV special titled "The Stars Salute Israel at 30" and bring in Baryshnikov, Pat Boone, Carol Burnett, George Burns, Sammy Davis Jr., Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Gene Kelly, Billie Jean King, Gelsey Kirkland, Barry Manilow, Zubin Mehta, Golda Meir, Paul Newman, Valery Panov, Jean Stapleton, Barbra Streisand, Cicely Tyson, Ben Vereen, Flip Wilson, Natalie Wood, Joanne Woodward and the Los Angeles Philharmonic? And anybody else who comes to mind?
Fishman set up a committee and talked Vice President Mondale into heading it. The show aired on ABC that May, and when the dust had settled, what do you think? Fishman was now a concert pianist? No, he was now a full-time producer, doing business at the Kinneret Foundation.
"It's the Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee," he says, "and the root is the same as for 'violin' -- lovely musical connotations. I didn't want the usual 'Jewish Foundation for Cultural Etcetera.' "
Today, operating out of offices on Massachusetts Avenue with two assistants, the 39-year-old Fishman provides several kinds of cultural links between America and Israel. ("In America I'm a Jew; in Israel I'm an American.") He has set up musical scholarships for disadvantaged children -- Jewish, Arab, Moslem, everybody -- with contributed money. ("Very gifted, arrived six years ago from Russia, father incapacitated . . . Very gifted, father died in Six Day War . . . Highly gifted, composes, one year in Israel . . .")
"We don't generally give out scholarships per se but create programs. There's an elementary school music program, and another one we do with the city of Jerusalem, and another with the Israel Museum. We also fund services like the children's library at the museum and the Arab Youth Orchestra and the children's puppet theater."
The foundation's second area is in identifying real talent. Fishman likes to talk about Kinneret's support of Moshe Efrati's Kol Demama, a Tel Aviv dance troupe with both hearing and deaf dancers. "We think it may be Israel's finest dance group, and we're trying to help them organize an American tour. We're also planning a film on them narrated by Joanne Woodward. As a rule, we concentrate on one project rather than spread ourselves thin. It's not just giving out money but helping these groups develop and grow."
The third area is the stream of visiting artists they have brought to Israel: Roberta Flack, Paul Simon, Joan Baez, Chick Corea, Billy Joel, Lalo Schifrin and others.
"We don't use contributions for this. We find existing frameworks and plug into them. Like the U.S. Embassy. The artists donate their time, and everyone breaks even. We've sponsored some master classes, and we're working on an international Jewish theater festival and a filmmaking seminar and some other things. Our latest idea is to interest other countries in splitting the cost of a tour, say Greece, and maybe someday make the whole Mediterranean an exciting venue."
Recently, Kinneret sent a poor but talented young trombonist from Lod to Interlaken music camp. "We also bought him a better trombone," Fishman says. "He was overwhelmed."
There are satisfactions sweeter even than applause.