A Big Todah: The Power of Collective Giving

by Misha Galperin

If you are like me, you are anxious about the situation in Israel. You realize how vulnerable we are right now. A cease-fire may be no more than a chance to re-fuel, re-load and re-energize the forces at work against us. We are unsure what the days and weeks ahead will bring or what it will require of the global Jewish community in support. But anxiety has a cost; it can get in the way of gratitude.

During this fragile break in fighting, it is time to acknowledge the power of the collective and to say thank you to the North American Jewish community for coming to Israel’s aid with record speed and unified compassion. When Israel’s local municipalities and the National Emergency Authority Third-Sector Roundtable (RACHEL) asked for your help, you responded. The Jewish Federations of North America provided necessary and almost instant relief. Federations across the U.S. and Canada were quick to respond. And The Jewish Agency, serving as the vital bridge between Jewish communities and Israel, connected Jewry’s support to beneficiaries on the ground. Here is what our togetherness did during Operation Pillar of Defense:

You created a Day of Respite for 30,000 kids who live in the southern part of Israel and under the daily threat of rocket attacks to central Israel for a day of fun and normalcy at amusement parks, museums, shopping malls, and zoos. Respites were slated for a day for each child and took place Sunday through Thursday as soon as Home Front Command allowed buses to travel from the south. The Victims of Terror Fund provided immediate cash assistance to dozens of families who suffered bodily injury or destruction to their homes through rocket fire.

Amigour, The Jewish Agency’s housing subsidiary, renovated fifty bomb shelters and fortified homes in the south. It was contracted to repair the apartment building in Rishon Letziyon that was hit by rocket fire aimed at Tel Aviv. Staff members went shelter to shelter to absorption centers in the south to make sure immigrants from Ethiopia and elsewhere who arrived to Israel within days or weeks of this military operation were calm and prepared. Imagine moving to Israel and fulfilling a dream, only to get there and have thousands of reservists called up to military service while rockets are being stopped by an Iron Dome. Volunteers set up activities for the kids and musical performances for adults and seniors.

Masa Israel Journey connects 11,000 young adults to study, internship, and volunteer opportunities in Israel each year. When the rocket attacks escalated, we relocated our program participants in southern Israel to The Jewish Agency’s new International New Media Center in Jerusalem. Working 12-hour shifts, lots of twenty-somethings flooded social media channels with thousands of blogposts, comments, tweets and Facebook updates to promote Israel and correct myths and falsehoods about the situation that were traveling via social media.

Speaking of social media, Partnership 2Gether, The Jewish Agency’s Peoplehood platform which partners 550 global Jewish communities directly with Israeli communities, created solidarity through technology. Jewish school kids from all over the globe – Ukraine to Mexico, San Francisco to Peru skyped, wrote letters and emails and communicated to sister city schools throughout Israel, as an expression of solidarity and friendship during tough times.

Some of you took this personal commitment to our Jewish homeland a step further. You went on solidarity missions to Israel with groups or on your own. You comforted people under fire. You went to Sderot. Some of you paid shiva calls to the families who lost children in Kiryat Malachi. Some of you lay on the ground during sirens, jumping out of cars and leaving offices within 15 seconds, just like every citizen of Israel who was in harm’s way.

To all of you we say Todah Rabbah, thank you very much. We know that we may have much more to do in the days ahead to show our support, but let’s not forget to say thank you for all that you have done already for our Israeli brothers and sisters. In Hebrew, we have an expression: “Gam ze ya-avor” – this, too, we will overcome. We will overcome the challenges ahead because we are committed to each other and a shared destiny. Thank you for caring, supporting and strengthening our global Jewish family.

Misha Galperin is President and CEO of International Development for The Jewish Agency for Israel.