Israel at War: Rebuilding Southern Israel and Confronting Antisemitism

As Israel continues to fight one of the most consequential battles in its history, we were rejoiced to learn that today one of the hostages has been freed unharmed. We pray and hope that more will be released soon – and we redouble our commitment to do all we can to bring all of them home.

Today, I wanted to share another update on how needs on the ground are evolving and what funders can do.

  • Hostages: I spoke about this need last week, and we had an online briefing with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum that you can watch here (during the crisis, our members only videos will be available for the entire community). Every day that passes, the Forum gets more organized and its operation more streamlined. They have now divided the operation into several “war rooms” that deal with different aspects of the crisis – from PR to support for the families. It’s key to keep the plight of the hostages present in the world’s public opinion. Part of the work in that regard is top-down, meaning that the Forum organizes some campaigns and diplomatic pressure centrally, but much of it is from the bottom up, meaning that different groups around the world mount their own campaigns (like the empty strollers in front of the Eiffel Tower last week). Communities are encouraged to do that, but keep the Forum appraised and strategically aligned. Donations of both money and ads on social and in traditional media are needed. Finally, as you can imagine, the Forum members experience great levels of stress and overwork, so be mindful of that when placing demands on their time (in other words, if you reach out to them, make it count!).
  • Jews from around the world are starting to volunteer in Israel. This was discouraged as a burden on local overstretched resources at the beginning of the crisis. But now, as the mobilization of reserves drags on and economic pain starts to be felt, volunteers can play an important role. Birthright Israel has opened a volunteering program and so are other organizations. When supporting these efforts, please make sure that the following criteria are met. Birthright’s program checks all of these boxes:
    • The volunteers are fulfilling real needs on the ground
    • Their housing and lodging doesn’t come at the expense of housing that is needed for the evacuees from the North and South
    • That they are part of an organized effort that liaises with the right authorities
  • As we feared and predicted, the situation in the Diaspora is getting worse and antisemitism is growing geometrically. This weekend, we saw death threats and lockdowns on several campuses, and many more go unreported to the general public. While some university administrators are trying to “do the right thing,” many are equivocating. JFN is holding a special briefing Thursday at noon on the specific challenges we’re facing in campus. Registration is open, click here to RSVP.
  • In that sense, one specific need that has emerged is security for Hillels around the country. As a Hillel director told me this week, “For the first time, we had to bolt our doors and employ guards.” Funders are encouraged to contribute to the security of Jewish institutions, either through community-wide efforts or through specific efforts, like those related to campus institutions.
  • While public opinion writ large is important, funders should also look at initiatives that are specifically aimed at policy makers, legislators, and government officials. Their support is going to be critical, from funding, to diplomatic cover, to making sure that Israel is not forced into a ceasefire that leaves the Hamas murder machine intact. Organizations like AJC and AIPAC – as well as some JCRC’s across the country, generally do that work, and more is needed. Please be sure to check whether that work is 501c3 or c4 for your own compliance purposes.
  • As the Israeli economy tanks, several organizations are stepping up their support of small businesses through loans and other mechanisms, namely, OGEN, the Koret Foundation, the Shashua Family Foundation, and Social Finance Israel.
  • As we mentioned last week, the Israeli Govt has created a special authority called “tkuma” (renaissance) to provide funding for the reconstruction of the communities of Southern Israel that were attacked by Hamas. Tkuma is tasked with presenting a five-year strategy to the cabinet, and it’s liaising with JFN and other philanthropic bodies to coordinate efforts. In the meantime, some funds are starting to be released to address immediate needs. That doesn’t mean that philanthropic funds aren’t needed, but that they’ll go much further with the government involved. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to us.
  • Self-evacuees are still underserved. As of yet, the government hasn’t provided any organized support, or recognized them as displaced. Some organizations and nonprofits are assisting them with urgent needs. Our Israel staff can provide specific guidance for those wanting to help.
  • There are several efforts underway to map the long term needs in trauma and mental health. Thursday at 9:45 AM Israel time, for those in Israel or Europe, there will be a briefing in Hebrew and a discussion of the different initiatives. A similar discussion in English will take place soon.
  • The centralized platform for needs (called Israel Rises), that JFN and partners in the public and private sector created in Israel, is already up and running in Hebrew and English. For a couple of days, the platform is running in beta format to allow us to fix bugs and test its functioning. Next week, we’ll conduct a briefing (time TBD) to explain how to use the site.
  • Finally, Qudra, the Arab Israeli Funders Network, a close partner of JFN, has created its own mapping of need in the Arab sector. There is need especially in the Bedouin communities of the south, which were ravaged by the Hamas attack.   

We remind you that JFN Members can take advantage of the JFN Concierge Service to find support and advice customized to their specific needs. Members looking to respond to the crisis can utilize the Concierge Service to be connected with other members working toward the same goal, to find resources provided by our partners in the secular philanthropic space, and much more. Contact [email protected].

Please continue to share your responses to the crisis and resources you find valuable by filling out this form, and by writing to [email protected]. Visit our list of vetted agencies and nonprofits, which is updated daily. Though this page is robust, it does not tell the whole story. Please reach out to us with any questions.

Stay safe and strong, don’t give antisemites the satisfaction of seeing us cower in fear, and never doubt that together will overcome everything.