As the Israeli-Hamas war enters its fourth month, the Greater Boston Jewish community is playing a leading role in providing humanitarian support through a massive fundraising effort led by Combined Jewish Philanthropies that already has raised $55 million through its Israel Emergency Fund.
More than 5,800 donors have contributed to the effort, raising $30 million in the first week of the war alone, according to Shelby Weiner, CJP’s director of public relations. She said 100 percent of the funds are going toward direct support of the victims of the terror attacks.
The funds are supporting hospitals and other medical facilities; parts of the country most impacted by the war; infrastructure needed for safety; tactical support for military personnel; volunteer mobilization; and local needs in Haifa, Boston’s sister city.
Working together with philanthropists and venture capitalists, CJP has contributed $1 million – its largest single grant to date – to help the 430 surviving members of Kibbutz Re’im find temporary homes in Tel Aviv.
The kibbutz bore the brunt of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack, resisting Hamas militants for more than seven hours until reinforcements arrived. The trauma that the survivors are dealing with now is palpable, according to Sarah Abramson, CJP’s executive vice president for strategy and impact.
Abramson led the organization’s first solidarity mission to Israel earlier this month to “bear witness to the atrocities in the south,” meet with grant recipients, and determine where funds can have the greatest impact.
In a personal reflection after the trip, she wrote about “the utter destruction and despair, while also absorbing the resiliency and bravery of a people who have risen to meet this moment with a spirit that can’t be put into words but that can be felt in every breath you take while on the ground.”
She and others on the mission met with the survivors of Kibbutz Re’im.
“Time and time again, Israelis told us – the hugs you are bringing matter. It is one of our only sources of hope. You came to see what happened with your own eyes,” Abramson wrote.
One woman from the kibbutz told Abramson about “watching her home being desecrated and her friends murdered around her.” The woman, who described herself as a “peacenik,” who once drove Gazans to their doctor appointments, said she now has “lost her compassion.”
Some 21 CJP volunteers, donors, and community members went on the mission. Two more missions are planned soon. Already, $20.29 million has been distributed and another “large distribution” will be made later this month.
CJP’s 10-member Israel Emergency Fund Task Force is meeting weekly, according to Weiner, to review and approve recommendations for the ongoing distribution of funds. The current focus is on short-term emergency relief.
Nationally, the Jewish Federations of America has raised more than $800 million with 100 percent going toward direct support of Israel, according to Abramson.
“Israelis understand that the money is a symbol of the American Jewish community’s commitment to them, and that commitment is an unbreakable bond,” Abramson said. “There is so much pride in this relationship and, I think, that comes from their gratitude for standing by them during this challenging time.”
During the first months of the war, Abramson said, the priority was to direct support to victims of the terror attacks, the needs of wounded soldiers, and funding mental health trauma initiatives.
Among the initial recipients:
• Jewish Federation of North America Emergency Fund, $13.25 million: JFNA already has released over $98 million for direct support for victims of terror and care for at-risk populations, including children and seniors, through the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
• Brothers for Life, $550,000: The nonprofit created and run by injured Israeli veterans gives “critical and immediate help to injured combat veterans.”
• Jewish Agency for Israel, $500,000: The program supports interest-free loans and emergency grants to small businesses directly impacted by the war, particularly in the south.
• Civil Emergency Headquarters, $250,000: Civil Emergency is the largest volunteer organization in Israel and evacuated hundreds of residents from the conflict areas and collected and distributed thousands of boxes of basic supplies and food for IDF soldiers and displaced residents. Θ