Walder Foundation commits $3.6 million to Israeli causes, focusing on mental health, religion and security

Chicago-based organization says it plans to continue donating to nonprofits in Israel, efforts to combat antisemitism in U.S. going forward; ‘We will stay the course,’ president says

The Chicago-based Walder Foundation has committed $3.6 million in grants to Israeli causes following the Oct. 7 terror attacks and ongoing war with Hamas, focusing on mental health, security and religious initiatives, as well as general needs, and with plans to continue making donations going forward, the organization said.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of Israel and are focusing our Israel emergency grantmaking on mental health and security — areas in which we already fund at the local level and have close partners,” Elizabeth Walder, president and executive director of the Walder Foundation, said in a statement.

Roughly a third of the grants have already been issued — $1.15 million providing emergency medical and humanitarian needs — with the rest going out shortly and more planned for the future.

“We’re looking to pace ourselves over time because the needs will be evolving and emerging over time,” Walder said. “We will stay the course.”

A tenth of the emergency grants — $360,000  — will go to the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago (the city’s federation) for its Israel Emergency Fund to support Israeli groups on the ground, including Leket Israel, Latet Humanitarian Aid and HIAS. 

The Walder Foundation has also granted $118,000 to the Jewish Agency for Israel to support its Operation Falcon, which brings critical equipment to Israel; $75,000 to the Israeli Center for Addiction, which is working closely with the survivors of the Nova Music Festival massacre; $72,000 to American Friends of Magen David Adom; and $25,000 to the American Friends of Migdal Ohr, which supports the Israeli nonprofit of the same name that works with orphans, children with special needs and at-risk youth.

In addition, the foundation has provided an undisclosed sum to Bring Hersh Home, an initiative by the family of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who has Chicago roots and who was kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7.

The Walder Foundation, which cites its founders’ “Orthodox Jewish faith” as a driver of its activities, has also specifically funded a number of Orthodox and religious organizations in Israel, including Aish Global, Colel Chabad, Ohr Torah Stone, Nishmat and Atida, a group that recruits and trains Haredi women as data science engineers, specifically in the security field. 

The foundation said these grants “demonstrate the Walder Foundation’s broad support across the spectrum of Orthodoxy in Israel, and beyond.”

“We view many of these grants as unity grants. That’s what we’re all about — bringing the breadth of Orthodox communities and beyond together, especially during this difficult time,” Walder said.

The foundation said it also intended to issue grants toward efforts to combat antisemitism in Chicago and nationally.