communal gatherings

American Jews briefed on attacks in Israel as communities look for ways to help

Thousands take part in virtual gathering to hear from Israelis about the war and from federation leaders about how to proceed

Thousands of American Jews gathered virtually on Sunday afternoon for briefings from U.S. Jewish organizations directing Diaspora community members how to help following an unprecedented assault by Palestinian terrorists who infiltrated Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, killing at least 900 Israelis, wounding some 2,500 and taking over 100 people hostage.  

Ein Milim – there are no words, so this is the time for deeds,” Taly Levanon, founder and CEO of the Israel Trauma Coalition, said on a Zoom call hosted by UJA-Federation of New York, which drew some 1,100 viewers.

UJA-Federation announced an initial $10 million in emergency funding from its endowment to provide immediate relief to the victims of the terrorist attacks. The federation’s CEO, Eric Goldstein, explained that the funds will go toward trauma relief and grants to thousands of victims of terror as well as emergency resettlement of immigrants, elderly people, children and Ethiopian and Ukrainian refugees. Goldstein said the victims’ fund is already nearly depleted. “[These are] the beginning of very difficult days for Israel. We can’t lose focus on the need to support Israel,” he said. 

Rabbi Noah Farkas, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, announced Sunday night during a virtual vigil that the Goldhirsh Yellin Foundation will match up to $1 million raised from Federation’s Israel Crisis fund.

In separate briefings Sunday, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), which has also launched an emergency fund, hosted two webinars. The first one provided an update on the situation in Israel, gave a sense of what federations are doing with partners on the ground and explained what can be done in North America to support Israel. Later in the day, JFNA held a briefing in conjunction with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) reiterating the points discussed earlier featuring speakers including AJC CEO Ted Deutch and Israeli journalist Yaakov Katz.  

JFNA CEO Eric Fingerhut told the participants, many from federations across the country: “The first area [we can impact] is to help Israelis cope with what has happened, this unprecedented attack and we will do that. But the second is to help Israel in North America. My friends, we all know that however supportive our civil society and political leadership is, that the challenges over the coming days and months will be significant.” 

Fingerhut urged Diaspora communities to notify JFNA of plans to hold local events, including solidarity rallies and vigils. “We can elevate it [and] Israelis want to hear it. They need to know the support and we want to make sure our community understands the breadth and depth of the support all across North America.” 

He added the importance of staying in contact with members of Congress, mayors and governors, local communities, business leaders, CEOs of major companies and heads of major religious organizations. “We need to sustain that, not just be in communication today.”

“Stay tuned not only on the campaign and funding side but also as we build our communal response,” Fingerhut said. “It will be both our support for partners on the ground and our support in North America, in our communities at home, to ensure that Israel has the ability to respond to and the time they need to address this significant terrorist and military conflict that will be our proud legacy.”