historic effort

JFNA raises more than two-thirds of its $500 million campaign for Israel 

Organization says the fundraising drive is one of the largest in its history, begins distributing grants to nonprofits on the ground

The Jewish Federations of North America has raised $388 million toward its $500 million emergency campaign for Israel in the wake of Hamas’ deadly rampage and ensuing war, the organization announced on Tuesday.

“Amid the horrors of what is happening in Israel, our community is rising up to be a pillar of support in a way I have never seen in my adult life,” JFNA Chair Julie Platt said in a statement. “From every corner of North America, from every Federation community, we are astonished by the generosity and speed with which people are stepping up to support Israel in her hour of need, whether supporting emergency workers and trauma counselors, hospitals, displaced families, or victims of terror.”

The $500 million campaign represents an unprecedented philanthropic mobilization effort in terms of its scale. In an average year, American Jewish groups donate roughly $2 billion to Israeli nonprofits, meaning this campaign — coming on top of existing donations — represents a 25% increase in just a few days. This comes at a time when American Jewish giving to Israel has been on the decline.

“It’s a large goal,” Eric Fingerhut, JFNA president and CEO, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “One of the largest in our history. While no guarantees, we have already seen evidence of the very strong desire of our communities to step up and assist our brothers and sisters in Israel.” 

Fingerhut said the fund includes “immediate, urgent needs as well as rebuilding and rehabilitation needs.”

The emergency campaign was adopted unanimously by JFNA’s board, which is representative of federations around the U.S., at a meeting last Wednesday night. 

Jane Sherman, a Jewish Agency for Israel board member in Detroit, has been making phone calls to raise funds for JFNA’s emergency campaign. 

Sherman said the experience reminds her of living through the Yom Kippur war in 1973. “I went through the same thing. Large rallies and getting people to come to the meetings. We didn’t have a lot of money in those days. My girlfriend and I went and sold our silver.”  

Sherman added that centralized federations are needed to rally the community because without them, “you would never raise this kind of money this fast. You call the troops together and they respond.” 

“All I’m doing is raising money,” Sherman, a mother of five adopted Ethiopian Israeli children, told eJP. “Last night, I called some of our major givers who are young people, my grandson being one of them, to get their people up and giving gifts. We’re at over $6 million.”

“Regretfully,” Sherman said, “it’s easier to [fundraise] now than it is normally.” 

The fund is “a system-wide effort,” a JFNA spokesperson told eJP. “People can donate through JFNA or their local federation.” The campaign is being run in partnership with groups including the Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Hillel International, the JCC Association of North America and National Council of Jewish Women. 

Of the $388 million that JFNA said it had raised so far, the organization said it had already distributed $10 million of it to a variety of emergency relief and support efforts in Israel, including direct assistance of victims of the Oct. 7 massacres, volunteer mobilization groups, emergency services, hospitals and mental health services.

The $388 million has come from direct donations to JFNA and from individual federations, some of which have raised tens of millions of dollars so far. UJA-Federation of New York has raised over $60 million so far — and recently began distributing $22 million in emergency grants — and the UJA-Federation of Toronto has raised over $50 million.

The announcement came alongside the “Unity in Crisis” event at the Sixth & I synagogue in Washington, D.C., which was attended by Jewish leaders and a bipartisan group of politicians. The event was hosted by a number of large Jewish organizations, including JFNA, as well as the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, American Jewish Committee, American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Anti-Defamation League, among others.