Israel at War: Addressing Trauma

As we’ve been doing since the beginning of this terrible time, I wanted to share with you an update of needs on the ground.

Not to burden this communication with things we’ve been sharing in previous updates, please refer to them here.

Here’s a round up of things that have changed or evolved, and new needs that have emerged or become further clarified:

  • As we’ve been saying, when in doubt about where and how to help, communal, broad base campaigns like those of your local federation (or JFNA) remain your first port of call.
  • We keep observing that trauma is a big and growing problem. This issue is compounded by the fact that trauma counseling is a very specific field within psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and social work. Not every therapist is qualified to do trauma work. In the first days of the crisis, many organizations and individual practitioners tried to provide trauma support for victims and evacuees without having the right skills. That’s why it is important to support organizations that have extensive trauma expertise, like NATAL and ERAN, as they provide “crash courses” to practitioners.
  • After the initial shock and grief, the families of the kidnapped have organized themselves and are launching campaigns both domestically and internationally. They have massive expenses and also an urgent need to coordinate with other communal bodies. To those interested in supporting this effort, please contact our staff.
  • Earlier this week, we mentioned the growing need of orphans, widows, widowers, and broken families. As we said, the IDF has a system in place to take care of families of military casualties, but no such comprehensive effort exists in the civilian sector. And now, a few groups are taking the initiative. We are listing them on our dedicated webpage.
  • The needs around internal displaced people continue, especially those that self-evacuated. Many have simply run out of money to pay for hotel rooms. The government today has finally started to look at the needs of those people, but the heavy lift is still done by the nonprofit sector.
  • Many of the kibbutzim, as we said, have started their rebuilding campaigns. Those are worthy and necessary efforts, but many don’t have the right legal structure to receive funds. The United Kibbutz Movement (TAKAM) is now centralizing contributions for those that don’t have a 501c3 equivalence.
  • Several JFN members are matching contributions to specific efforts/organization. The Saban Family Foundation is matching contributions to FIDF, Rashi is matching donations to specific educational institutions in the south of the country, Bloomberg Philanthropies is matching donations to Magen David Adom, among others. Be aware that many corporations are also matching donations by their employees. If you’re thinking of donating to those causes, it makes sense to leverage the matches.
  • The false accusations that the IDF had bombed a hospital in Gaza are the best examples of why we need to up our game in terms of messaging and preventing disinformation. In this particular case, the IDF reacted fairly quickly and set the record straight. But it may not always be the case. We may expect other outrageous and false claims of Israeli “atrocities,” and nonprofits dealing with that need to be properly equipped and funded.
  • We’ve repeatedly encouraged you to donate to this crisis “above and beyond,” and not defund your regular grantees. This has become even more relevant today. As you may know, for most nonprofits in Israel, the government is the biggest source of funding. Today authorities communicated to nonprofits that their budget allocations may be at risk, given the emergency and the need to re-prioritize. While this is not yet a done deal, it highlights the need to keep funding your grantees.
  • JFN has been very active in the secular philanthropic and nonprofit space, where the reaction to the crisis has been checkered and, frankly, sometimes outright hostile. Most of you also fund non-Jewish causes and organizations. It’s important to work with those grantees to give them information and an accurate view of the conflict. Project SHEMA has great resources in that regard.
  • In the best display that we are not like our enemies, some of you have asked how one can help innocent Palestinian civilians also affected by the crisis. Of course, the only thing that can effectively end Palestinian suffering is a complete and immediate surrender of Hamas and the return of the hostages. It’s important that we say with utmost clarity that every Palestinian victim is, in fact, a victim of Hamas, which started this war and can end it. That said, those wanting to help, need to be aware that it’s extremely hard to work in Gaza without Hamas taking “a cut” of what one sends. On Monday, for example, it was reported that Hamas appropriated a significant amount of UNRWA resources. Several international NGOs have a troubling history of animosity towards Jews and Israel, especially some so-called human rights organizations. Due diligence is more than critical. We are working with partners to clarify the best avenues to give. We’ll share with you what is needed. ALLMEP, which works closely with the US State Department and the Israel government, is usually a good resource in that regard. While it’s admirable that many of us want to help Palestinians, those that feel that our priority should be Israel and the Jewish Community shouldn’t feel guilty or inadequate. The scale of the need in Israel is enormous and it’s very unlikely that anybody but Jews and a few allies contribute to them.

To finish, I wanted to give you a look “under the hood” regarding how we make our list of vetted organizations to support. Besides the obvious (that the organization is legitimate, effective, and properly managed), we use four basic criteria to include an organization in our list:

  1. One is technical, that the organization has a way of receiving tax deductible dollars.
  2. The second has to do with critical mass. There are literally thousands of low scale efforts and small organizations that serve a handful of people. While most do amazing work, we believe that at this stage of the crisis one has to focus in organizations that can deal with a high volume of cases.
  3. We include organizations that have direct and specific programs related to the crisis. As we said, each of the 40,000 Israeli nonprofits is affected, but we’re prioritizing those that are having a direct impact on needs related to the war.
  4. We include organizations that are part of, or coordinated with, a larger effort that includes the relevant governmental bodies. For example, the kibbutzim funds that we include work in coordination with a recently formed governmental reconstruction committee.

Our list is evolving and changing almost daily. We estimate that when the dust settles, there will be between 100 and 120 nonprofits directly involved with the war and reconstruction effort that will meet our criteria. It’s important to note that a list – even with the explanations that we’re adding – may not tell the entire story, so we encourage you to use our staff to get specific guidance in each of the areas. Our team works out of a more extensive and detail list of nonprofits. Please contact them at [email protected].  

Stay safe and strong and never doubt that together we will win.

Am Yisrael Chai