Israel at War: Words from our Israel team

Another grim day as more horrific details emerge of the savage Hamas incursion into Israel. I assume you are all following the news, so suffice it to say that the magnitude of the catastrophe is worse than anybody could have imagined or predicted. But equally unprecedented has to be our resolve and fortitude in these trying times. Israelis of all stripes are answering the call, be it the actual call to arms, or the call to help, donate, volunteer, and assist in a myriad of ways, big and small.

JFN continues to assist funders and donors in how to best help Israel and its people. The outpouring of philanthropic support makes me, once again, proud of our community, but it also requires coordination and guidance. We are in permanent contact with government, business, and public bodies, and mounting a coordinated philanthropic response.

Today, JFN offered a webinar to discuss some general principles of disaster relief and offer specific guidance on funding opportunities. The recording of that webinar can be found here.

  • The emergency response system is under serious strain but has not collapsed. There are mechanisms in place to ensure that help gets to the places where it is needed, and though many gaps remain, we can have trust that the major bodies coordinating the relief work are operating properly and effectively.
  • The shortage of emergency personnel and first responders is being felt. Many of the victims were first responders, including police personnel, firefighters, and paramedics. Local organizations in border area have been severely damaged and depleted of key human resources. Organizations that train and deploy first responders, like MDA, NATAL, Israel Trauma Coalition, United Hatzalah, IsraAID, and others are working overtime to do so, while also providing ongoing support.
  • It’s very important that funders pace themselves. We understand the desire to help right now, but this is going to be a long and protracted war, and the rebuilding process will be even longer. There will be huge needs in the months to come, and while responding to the emergency, funders need to be mindful of the long term. Suffice it to say that many communities in the south were literally decimated and will need to be physically and psychologically rebuilt. As an example, Kibutz Be’eri, with 107 killed, lost almost 10% of their inhabitants. This is proportional to New York City losing 800,000 people. That will take long time and a lot of help to heal. We are advising funders to give to organizations that can, and will, do both the short term and the long term work. Organizations listed here meet that criteria. Federations appeals are a good way to give, as they work with established partners on the ground.  
  • Funders with relationships with grantees in Israel are encouraged to check with them, assess their needs, and in general provide moral and material support.
  • We are aware of reports that IDF soldiers don’t have proper equipment, food, etc. Our partners in the IDF Human Resource Directorate tell us that this is not the case. The problem, where it exists, is mostly logistic; meaning that matériel exists, but it’s always hard to distribute it in a timely manner to the front. There are online campaigns to provide soldiers with helmets, flack jackets, or even GPS devices. Nobody can guarantee that they’re vetted or that the army will find that equipment useful. The IDF requests that all donations be channeled through accredited organizations like the FIDF or Aguda Lema’an Hachayal. This may change, but as of today, it’s important to bear that in mind.
  • Germaine to that, it’s important to realize that there’s a difference between Israeli citizens volunteering, using their own cars to bring soldiers or food to the front, etc., and folks in the Diaspora trying to be strategic with their philanthropy. This side of the pond we need to rely on well-established organizations that have a presence on the ground and experience in dealing with crises in the past. As in every crisis, there are many organizations that spring up, and others that simply want to use the opportunity to raise funds even if they aren’t directly linked to the relief effort. Having good intentions doesn’t always mean capacity to deliver.
  • It’s important to look at vulnerable populations, the elderly, new immigrants, people with disability, etc. JFN is happy to share information upon request of organizations attending to the needs of specific populations.
  • In parallel to the actual battle, there’s a battle being waged on social media where antisemites and antizionists are doing their worst. Funders who fund in that space are encouraged to check with their grantees about their plans. Obviously, non-Jewish, non-partisan voices are the most effective (think of the amazing video by U2 and Bono). In the social media space, a great example of that (among several) is the world of the National Black Empowerment Council, a longtime ally of the Jewish Community. Needless to say, those that use the crisis mostly to attack their domestic political opponents are to be looked at with extreme distrust. If they can’t talk about the crisis without attacking the other party, you know where their priorities lay. There are rallies being held all over the country in support of Israel. If you are in New York City, please join the rally being held tomorrow, October 10 at 5pm.
  • Further, many are asking about resources for young people in college or high school to advocate for Israel. Jewish Education Project and Hillel, among other organizations, can offer help. Boundless Israel has made available this primer for responding to misinformation about Israel.
  • As I said yesterday, sadly there’s a precedent of “solidarity” attacks against Jewish Communities around the world. American Jewish institutions are particularly vulnerable, and we encourage you to check the needs of security organizations in your community and beyond.
  • JFN is advising funders, members, and non-members alike. Besides the list we published in our website, we have an internal document that we use to advise funders and connect them to one another. We encourage you to tell us what you’re doing by filling out this form. The information can be anonymous. Members can also send needs or information about grants they’re making to our dedicated address: [email protected]

I will never tire to thank our Israeli team, led by Sigal Yaniv Feller, who today gave her briefing to members from the funeral of her nephew, who died in the fighting and whose son is fighting with Israeli special forces as we speak. The team is putting personal feelings aside and working with the same professionalism as always – if not more.  

Finally, this is a fluid situation, so we’ll keep sending you updates and alerting you of new needs and developments.

This is among Israel’s darkest hours, but I’m sure it will be its finest.

Stay safe and strong,