Once again, we find ourselves at an unsettling — and pivotal — moment in Israel’s history. In its 58th year, it must again defend its right to exist. Since July 1′, more than 3,000 missiles have fallen on Israeli cities and towns, striking schools, apartments, and playgrounds, killing and terrorizing Israel’s citizens. A million and a half Israelis in the north have been forced to flee their homes to get out of the line of fire. Seventeen thousand children had to be moved out of the range of Katyusha rockets. Hundreds of thousands of families have been forced into bomb shelters. Once thriving streets are deserted; businesses are locked up; and the economy is stalled.
That’s why we urgently need to help Israel. Now. UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey has joined with federations across the United States to launch the Israel Emergency Campaign. The time of watching our TVs and feeling distant and helpless is over. By supporting IEC, our federation will raise funds to immediately enable our partners on the ground to evacuate people; care for and relocate families and children in danger; provide food and medicine for the elderly and disabled; assist victims of physical and emotional trauma; and make sure all Israelis in the north can find safe haven. Longer term, the IEC will help rebuild homes, facilities and services destroyed during this terrible period.
On Monday, Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, asked us — the Jewish federations of North America — to serve as the central philanthropic expression of Jewish solidarity. He asked us to meet Israel’s critical needs now. The prime minister emphasized that Israeli families cannot afford for us to wait. When our brothers and sisters in Israel need us, there must be no hesitation. We must be there for them, as we have been in the past.
The Israel Emergency Campaign conducted in ’00’ and ‘003 in our community raised $6.5 million to keep children safe, serve vulnerable populations, and respond to the needs of victims of terror during the Intifada. In ‘001, we raised $1.7 million for the Operation SAVE and Operation Lifeline campaigns.
Our national system has committed to raising hundreds of millions of dollars extra to assist the people of Israel. The first major IEC national goal was to raise $300 million, but as the bombing of northern Israel continues, there has been an additional request of $’00 million. As always, northern New Jersey will be among the leading federations, on a per capita basis, in responding to this national effort. Our original goal for the IEC was $5 million.
Thanks to the tremendous generosity of the Russell Berrie Foundation, which announced an unprecedented $’ million matching gift to our Israel Emergency Campaign, we have increased our goal to $6 million for IEC. The foundation will work with our federation leadership to identify the most pressing needs in Israel. With this tremendous boost to our local IEC efforts, our federation has already sent $’00,000 to our sister city of Nahariya and another $150,000 to the Jewish Agency for Israel to assist Israelis throughout northern Israel.
To reach our IEC goal, UJA NNJ is asking contributors to consider a gift of half of their annual campaign gift — payable over two years. People who do not contribute to our annual campaign will be asked to make a gift that is meaningful to them.
This campaign must succeed. Israel’s citizens are counting on us. It is Israeli men, women, and children who are on the front lines. Those who were in need before these attacks — the poor, the elderly, those with disabilities and new immigrants — are truly in dire straits. The strain on Israel’s human service resources is unimaginable.
IEC funds are already making a difference. Contributions to this campaign have moved 17,000 children from the conflict zones, provided hundreds of air conditioners, emergency lighting, toys, and televisions to families living in bomb shelters, relocated ‘,000 new immigrants from the north to absorption centers in central Israel, and provided medication, meals, and emergency supplies to hundreds of seniors whose day centers have been forced to close by the bombing.
What’s more, when the fighting stops, the needs won’t stop. Thousands of homes will need to rebuilt, two million unemployed Israelis will need our assistance as they try to put their shattered lives back together, and counseling and trauma services will be needed by those finding it hard to cope with the horrors of this war.
We will particularly be there for the people of Nahariya, our Partnership ‘000 community in the north that has come under heavy bombardment. Our ties to this city and the special friendships we have developed with its people run deep. In the past turbulent weeks, our community leadership has been in close touch with our friends and partners in Nahariya. Our federation leadership will continue to keep abreast of the situation there on a daily basis and to identify immediate, high-priority needs for the children and families who have lost so much in such a short time.
Our work has just begun. That is why we are now turning to the members of our northern New Jersey community to help. As before, we are counting on people’s compassion, sense of community and love for Israel. This is why I ask you today to make a secure IEC donation on-line by visiting www.ujannj.org. or calling ’01-488-6800. One hundred percent of your contribution will provide support for victims of violence.
When you make your gift, I hope you will consider the words of Karnit Goldwasser, wife of Ehud Goldwasser, who is one of the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers. While speaking in northern New Jersey last week, she said, "Where do I get my strength? From Udi … and from the people in this room."
We all pray for peace, but, until then, we pray for strength. For Karnit, for all Israelis, and for Jews everywhere.