From the Desk of Mark Wilf and Eric D. Fingerhut
We are reminded in the Book of Psalms that the “guardian of Israel” never “slumbers nor sleeps.” I know you agree that we in the Federation system can do no less at this critical time.
Last Thursday, we wrote to you about how the resources that Federations provide year in and year out to the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Joint Distribution Committee, World ORT, the Israel Trauma Coalition, and other vital NGOs enabled those organizations to swing into action immediately upon the outbreak of the rocket attacks on Israel that led to Operation Guardians of the Walls. We also shared that JFNA’s Israel & Overseas Committee had met in extraordinary session to assess any additional needs. They decided to take three important, immediate steps: to answer a call for $1.3M in supplemental funds to replenish the Victims of Terror Fund that is administered by the Jewish Agency, to provide resources to Ethiopian olim who had just arrived in the country, and to provide trauma relief and psychological support for Israelis as well as thousands of young adults from North America in Israel on MASA programs who found themselves unexpectedly under fire.
We are proud to report that, in just three business days, our Federation system met and exceeded the $1.3M goal by raising $1.6M with dozens of Federations participating. Our partners have already started deploying these new funds. We will continue to monitor the needs and will not hesitate to organize further fundraising as conditions warrant.
We are also pleased to inform you that a special Solidarity Mission to Israel will depart from North America on Monday evening, returning to North America by Shabbat. We received special approval from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs because of the extreme importance of having the leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America on the ground for briefings, consultations, and visits to the most impacted areas and families. Mark Wilf will lead the delegation; Eric Fingerhut is currently in Israel representing us at critical meetings and events and will join us there. Due to remaining Covid restrictions, the mission is strictly limited in size. We are planning two leadership missions in early July and will schedule additional missions in the near future, as are many individual communities.
The last twelve days have brought enormous stress to many in Israel. For just a small taste of these issues, please watch the webinar broadcast yesterday live from Tel Aviv organized by the Jewish Agency in partnership with our JFNA team in Israel. These few moving vignettes represent the broad resilience and optimism of the Israeli people, but the issues they are facing foreshadow the difficult and important work ahead.
This crisis has also highlighted a rising communal challenge both in Israel and in North America. In Israel, the civil unrest and violence between Israeli Arabs and Jews has thrown into sharp relief the important work of building a shared society in which Israel’s Arab citizens participate in the growth and success of the Jewish State. The work of shared society in Israel has long been a priority of the Federation system. We will convene leading experts and practitioners to determine how we can be the most constructive partners in this effort in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
Here at home we have seen an unprecedented rise in antisemitism and anti-Israel activity, sometimes accompanied by physical violence. Again, the work of the Federation system is critical. We know more must be done now, not later. JFNA’s LiveSecure initiative, chaired by Julie Platt, is working in partnership with all 146 Federations and the Secure Community Network to complete and enhance a comprehensive security umbrella in every community linked together by best-in-class communications and training. You can learn more about LiveSecure here.
Finally, we will increase and expand our efforts to help Federations fight antisemitism and delegitimization of Israel in every sector. Our entire Public Affairs team, and especially the Israel Action Network, is working comprehensively to assist Federations in supporting our youth, engaging with other ethnic and religious communities, combatting anti-Israel legislation and political platforms, responding to lies and misinformation, and much more. We will be in touch with you soon to discuss new initiatives in these areas as well.
Indeed, this is not the time to “slumber or sleep”, but rather the time to rally to the great causes of the Jewish people in our generation. We do so with full knowledge of how fortunate we are to lead a community whose central organizations have been built and nurtured to be ready for this moment, and whose leaders – all of you – are always ready to step up and do your part. Thank you for all you have done and will do in the coming days.
Chair, Board of Trustees
President & CEO