JCFR President Richard Samet and I returned from Israel five weeks ago, where we witnessed the conflict with Hamas first-hand and the humanitarian crisis throughout the Jewish homeland.
Since the beginning of this recent conflict, more over 3,400 rockets have been launched at Israel – most aimed at civilians. Sixty-seven Israelis have died – 64 soldiers and three civilians.
Thank goodness for the Iron Dome that has stopped most of the rockets and saved so many lives. We saw the work of our beneficiary agencies in Israel, running on overdrive during the war.
We visited one of our youth villages and saw them take care of the children, who have greater needs than normal during this war. They were taking in more children from the south of Israel in order to give them respite from the war.
We witnessed new olim, in a Jewish Agency For Israel absorption center, who were integrating into Israeli society. Only now they had to learn one more thing – how to get to the bomb shelter during a red alert – and do it within 30 seconds to a minute.
We met with families in Hadera/Eiron for home hospitality. They were thanking us for being in Israel during this crisis. We thanked our hosts for protecting the State of Israel by being in the reserves and for their children who serve in the IDF.
An emergency Board meeting of the JCFR took place on July 23. The board authorized an Israel Emergency Campaign to be run in conjunction with the 2015 campaign. Funding from the IEC will provide: respite programming for children in southern Israel; emergency activity packages for children in bomb shelters; respite activities for populations with special needs, the elderly and children; and trauma support for first responders.
The Jewish Federations of North America has already allocated $12.4 million just to assist Israelis in the firsts month of the conflict. These funds have gone to our partners – JDC, JAFI, World Ort, Ethiopian National Project, Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism, Israeli Trauma Coalition and Masorti Movement.
JFNA dollars allocated in this emergency campaign have already helped 80,000 children. But the needs persist and are growing every day. For the price of dinner for two – $53 – we can provide a critical day of relief for children living closest to the line of fire.
A day away from the front lines – in summer camps, youth villages and enrichment classes – is more than a day in the country. It is a respite from the confines of the indoor playgrounds that, for more than 13 years, have become their “normal” play spaces.
For seniors, JFNA is extending an extra helping hand to 20,000 of Israel’s most vulnerable citizens. In normal times, Federation-supported senior centers provide thousands of seniors living in poverty – many of them Holocaust survivors – with food and comfort. Today, it’s too dangerous for them to travel, and many are living within the walls of their apartment bunkers.
Our partners are deploying more caseworkers to bring food, medicine and comfort to the elderly– and other vulnerable groups like the disabled – in their homes. Crews are also installing equipment, like air conditioners, to make them more comfortable, and Internet connections to give them access to the outside world.
Providing expanded trauma support for 15,000 Israelis was a necessity. When sirens blare, tens of thousands of Israelis take cover. But when the all clear sounds, many continue to suffer from trauma that may not be as visible as a physical injury, but is just as real.
Partner programs are providing psychological assistance to help 15,000 civilians and first responders weather the current storm. Program costs range from $1,200 to $3,600 per patient. But that just covers immediate support – counseling right now. Needs are likely to grow.
In addition, demands on help hotlines are up dramatically. These funds also enable a significant expansion of those services.
Strengthening assistance to 22 communities hit hardest by the conflict is a priority too. Communities are at the forefront of managing local services and responses to attacks. Federation support for NGOs working in these locales enhances the resilience of individual communities.
After the Israel Solidarity Rally on July 28, the 2015 Annual Campaign and Israel Emergency Campaign moved into high gear. There are now 212 donors to the IEC (as of Aug. 15), with $165,000 pledged and the 2015 Annual Campaign has recorded nearly $600,000 in pledges.
I want to thank Ellen Renee Adams, 2015 General Campaign Chair for getting her campaign team organized so quickly. I also want to thank Nathan and Nannette Shor for chairing the Israel Emergency Campaign. They too have moved swiftly and effectively.
In recent days, the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel has held (as the Reflector was going to press) . We hope the cease-fire will continue and pray for a meaningful and lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors.
Let us hope for peace in 5775. L’Shana Tova.
As always call me at (804) 545-8622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.