Report: Israel Attacked Chemical Weapons Plant in Western Syria



Twitter image of the attack in Syria, Sept. 7, 2017 (Ivan Sidorenko @IvanSidorenko1

The scientific research center in Masyaf was Targeted by Jets Tonight. This Photo is from the Spot Hit.

Israel attacked a chemical weapons development facility near the city of Al-Maysaf in the Hama province in western Syria overnight Thursday, according to multiple reports on Twitter.

According to Israel’s Channel 2, the Syrian army claims 2 Syrian soldiers were killed in the attack, 3 more were wounded, and there is property damage.

The area under attack according to reports
The area under attack according to reports

If true, this makes it the first attack since the cease-fire agreement that was reached between the sides in July, and following a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin in late August.

Official Israeli sources refused to comment on the reports, noting they do not comment on foreign reports.

On Tuesday, the IDF launched its largest military exercise in 20 years in the north, simulating a war against Hezbollah. The exercises continue today. According to the IDF, Hezbollah was following closely the preparations for the maneuvers, in which the IDF Northern Corps is training with multiple divisions operating in simulated combat situations.

The exercise simulates a scenario of rapid escalation in the security situation in the north, in which the IDF is required to protect the area from terrorist infiltration, after a naval Hezbollah force has penetrated the settlement of Shavei Zion, and another force crossed the Bnot Ya’akov Bridge to attack the nearby Kibbutz Gadot.

Later the forces will practice an attack on Lebanese territory.

The Air Force, the Navy and the Intelligence Branch also participate in the exercises, training for the possibility a Hezbollah invasion.

New Beginnings

This evening, as we dip apples in honey, we celebrate Rosh Hashanah and its promise of sweet new beginnings. After a summer consumed with heartache, we hope and pray that this new year will be different.

This remains a time of new beginnings for me personally, having become CEO of UJA-Federation of New York on July 1. I’d expected a quiet summer to learn the ropes and plan for the fall, but as we know things didn’t work out that way. The very day I started, we received the devastating news that the three kidnapped boys in Israel had been murdered. Within days, rockets were being fired from Gaza, and Israel was at war.

During the same period, thousands of Jews from eastern Ukraine were forced to flee from their homes. Many left with nothing but the clothes on their backs, including Holocaust survivors who never imagined they would be displaced again.

Given these events, I traveled this summer twice to Israel and once to Ukraine, witnessing firsthand UJA-Federation’s unique ability — through a remarkable network of agencies and grantees — to respond on a moment’s notice to the needs of those in crisis.

I also spent the summer continuing to visit our network of beneficiary agencies across New York. At this point, I’ve been to more than fifty — the work that takes place at these agencies on a regular basis is nothing short of heroic, and each visit invariably brings tears to my eyes.

I’ve come deeply to believe that UJA-Federation represents a unique expression of Jewish collective responsibility, a modern-day global kehila (“sacred community”) that has been vital to the well-being of Jewish life for thousands of years. It remains so today and, with your help, will continue long into the future.

While UJA-Federation will celebrate its centennial in 2017, its roots actually date back thousands of years. There’s a written summary of the oral laws of the Torah from the second century that sets forth rules of charitable giving, and in particular details the creation of a communal fund to provide for those in need. The text specifies that a minimum of two people must together collect the funds, and that a minimum of three people must distribute them. (Turns out our current fundraising and allocations committees are in reality centuries old!)

Today, as a kehila for the 21st century, we must reflect, serve, and belong to the entirety of the Jewish community. Those are not mere words. Although Jews share a common history and destiny, we are an ever-evolving community, composed of Jews with widely diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Therefore, an important part of our mission must be to unite Jews from across the spectrum around issues of common cause and work to repair the fraying bonds of our Jewish community. And we must work to ensure that Israel, which is so central to our communal identity, remains a vibrant, secure, democratic, and Jewish state.

There’s a striking aspect of the prayers we recite in synagogues across the world on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. While the holidays are a time to reflect on our personal lives, the prayers are framed in the plural, in the collective. Even the most personal prayer in the Yom Kippur liturgy — the confession of sin, the Viduy — is recited in the plural voice: “We have sinned … we have acted treacherously …” This is because Judaism, at its core, is about collective responsibility. About feeling a sense of connection and responsibility for fellow Jews the world over. And that same sense of connection is the impetus for all that we do. We are there for the community in times of crisis and on a regular basis, helping to write the next chapter of global Jewish history.

May the coming year bring sweetness, peace, health, and life, as we continue together in the sacred work of caring for the needs of our global Jewish community.

Shanah tovah

Two Countries, One People

In this week preceding Rosh Hashanah, I traveled from Israel to Ukraine and back, experiencing how we are bringing new beginnings to Jews around the world.

I was joined by UJA-Federation of New York’s executive committee, on what was their first-ever mission to Israel as a group. Planning for this trip started last May, with the intention of marking my becoming CEO and affirming the centrality of our connection to Israel. However, the trip took on new meaning following the events of the summer.

One of our first stops was at Nahal Oz, a kibbutz only 800 meters from Gaza, whose surrounding fields were infiltrated by Hamas tunnels. Most tragically, a resident of the kibbutz, 4-year-old Daniel Tregerman, was killed by mortar fire shortly before the cease-fire went into effect.

Calm has been restored, but life is hardly back to normal. The kibbutz once housed more than 100 children; fewer than 50 children remain. Some of the remaining parents speak of leaving should hostilities resume. Huge concrete barriers have been erected around the kindergarten to protect the children from the possibility of resumed mortar attacks. And many of the fields in the kibbutz were destroyed during the conflict, causing significant economic hardship.

In 1956, Moshe Dayan famously referred to Nahal Oz “as bearing the heavy gates of Gaza on its shoulders.” Sadly, almost 60 years later, it still does. But it is not carrying this burden on its own. The Jewish Agency for Israel, one of our largest overseas agencies, is making it a priority to sustain this community and others in the area by providing loans and strategic assistance to struggling business owners. It is also encouraging young Israelis connected to Jewish Agency programs, including lone soldiers from North America, to make this area their home.

Following this heartrending visit, we met with impressive young Israelis in Beersheva who renewed our optimism about the future of Israel. Harnessing the energy and passion of Israel’s early pioneers, this group is committed to living and working in communities across Israel’s socioeconomic periphery for the long term. Reflecting the diversity of Israel itself and including graduates of secular Zionist youth movements, religious Zionists, native-born Israelis, and olim, they work with local municipalities to enhance education, welfare, and identity, creating strong and vibrant communities. Long supported by UJA-Federation, there are now 180 such communities, with the potential to transform the modern face of Israel.

Later, we met with the IDF general who leads Israel’s Home Front Command, the equivalent of our Department of Homeland Security. He stressed that in addition to shelters and early warning systems, the most important element in protecting Israel’s civilian population during times of crisis is resilience training — teaching people how to react and behave under fire. Citing as a key partner the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), created by UJA-Federation, the general described a new national Academy for Domestic Emergency Preparedness and Training that will expand ITC’s reach to 258 local municipalities. I am proud to say we are allocating $1 million to help make that effort a reality.

From Israel, I traveled to Dnepropetrovsk in central Ukraine with our president, Alisa Doctoroff, and chair, Linda Mirels. The situation in eastern Ukraine is significantly more dire than any of us had imagined, and what we saw there was brutal and hopeful at the same time. There are thousands of Jewish families who have become “internally displaced persons,” including Holocaust survivors who never imagined they would be displaced again. Fleeing from the east, they are being housed, fed, and comforted by our partners — the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency. These families are terrified, anxious about the looming winter, uncertain even who the enemy is. In a sad irony, some had been volunteers or workers for JDC in eastern communities — now they are clients.

I spoke to a family from Donetsk making aliyah because the parents can’t imagine a future for their son if they remain. I will not soon forget the look on the faces of those parents. But thanks to our support of the Jewish Agency, they were able to leave for Israel the day after we met them, just two weeks after deciding to go. Another man said he was “lucky to be born a Jew” with a homeland to go to, the most basic affirmation of the importance of the State of Israel.

At the end of our trip, we met with about 20 young people — counselors at Jewish summer camps and the local community center — who are firmly committed to staying. They spoke with enormous passion and intelligence about the importance of Judaism to their lives and their ambitious plans for tomorrow. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was something quite familiar about their passion and optimism: it echoed that of the young people we’d met just two days before in Israel. Two Jewish groups, thousands of miles apart, determined to sustain and enhance Jewish life.

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, I am humbled by the new beginnings UJA-Federation makes possible — in Israel, Ukraine, New York, and 70 countries around the world. And, notwithstanding the many challenges, I feel optimistic about the Jewish future.

Shabbat shalom

Looking Back and Forward

The first week of September is synonymous with “back to school,” a return to the full intensity of work and life after the lull of summer. But as we know well, this summer — tragically — was very different. Since the first weeks of July, we’ve been consumed with the crisis in Israel — mourning with Israel, rallying to voice our support, and traveling on missions to express that support in person. With our partners on the ground, we ensured that Israelis had what was needed to cope during the crisis, and now we’ll continue to be there as they heal from a summer spent under siege. Our hope is that with stability restored, Israel’s children, like all children, will return to school unencumbered by fear.

As we take this all in, a remarkable achievement needs to be recognized, one that fuels our response to crisis and everything else that we make possible. The 2014 Annual Campaign concluded on June 30th, raising $146.9 million. With an additional $27.6 million in planned giving and endowments and $11.5 million in capital gifts and special initiatives, a total of $186 million was raised this past year.

It’s the dollars raised through these campaigns that strengthen our network of agencies and grantees year after year. Through our strategic allocations of these funds, agencies are able to prepare for and respond to crises — whether rockets in Israel, war in Ukraine, or, as we experienced in 2012, a hurricane in our own backyard. And even as they are dealing with crises, agencies are carrying on the “usual” essential work of feeding, counseling, igniting Jewish journeys, and so much more. That’s the power of UJA-Federation of New York’s unique network.

All this is made possible because of your generosity and the generosity of tens of thousands of other New Yorkers who come from widely diverse backgrounds, but share a belief that we can do more good when we come together. To you and every one of our donors, big and small — thank you.

I also want to acknowledge John Ruskay, my predecessor, who led this campaign in his final year as CEO. In fitting tribute to John’s visionary leadership, more than $4 million was raised for the Ruskay Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership, which will engage in the vital work of training top-flight Jewish professionals for generations to come.

John was joined every step of the way by General Campaign Chair Jeff Stern, a brilliant and committed cadre of lay leaders and volunteers, and a team of professionals led by Mark Medin, who push themselves year after year to reach new heights.

The dollars raised are critical — but what really matters is what this money makes possible. For a teen from Sderot, a city hard hit by rockets from Gaza, it’s psychological counseling. For a Holocaust survivor in Ukraine, it’s food and medicine. For a mother in New York with a son or daughter on the autism spectrum, it’s a community standing with her and making sure her child has every opportunity to live a full life.

In this month of Elul that precedes Rosh Hashanah, we begin to reflect on the year past and the new beginnings ahead. How fortunate we are to have one another to carry us through days of crisis … and, now, into a new year filled with possibility.

Shabbat shalom

Power of Community

As the week winds down, the news from Israel is incredibly painful — including the heartbreaking news today of the kidnapped IDF soldier, Hadar Goldin. Right now, we are consumed with the weight of the crisis. But if there is some comfort to be had, it’s in the truly uplifting ways we’ve come together as a people and a community since this all began.

Focusing just on the events of this week:

On Monday, we came together on the streets of New York City in a massive public display of solidarity. Right across from the United Nations, 15,000 people — Jews of every denomination, non-Jews, elected officials, kids from summer camps — gathered to say: “We are one with Israel. You are not alone.” This story was prominently reported across Israel. They heard us.

On Wednesday morning, hours after I returned from a two-day solidarity mission to Israel with a group of New Yorkers, the board of UJA-Federation of New York came together to authorize up to $10 million in emergency support for the people of Israel. And then, on Wednesday evening, 150 of our community’s leading philanthropists came together at the home of Merryl and Jim Tisch. We were joined by Michael R. Bloomberg, who talked candidly about what motivated him to get on an El Al flight and travel to Israel during the FAA ban. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, told us how deeply grateful Israelis are for our support. Some in the room spoke emotionally of family and friends in Israel, and reminded us to reach out to them. And then, in a spontaneous and powerful display of generosity, more than $5.5 million dollars was pledged to support UJA-Federation’s work meeting critical needs on the ground in Israel.

We saw those needs being met firsthand while in Israel: providing life-saving emergency medical equipment for hospitals; comforting the wounded and traumatized; taking tens of thousands of children on day trips away from the hardest-hit areas; distributing supplies for bomb shelters; giving food and medicine, and reaching out to the homebound elderly and people with disabilities; offering trauma counseling; and so much more.

The power of community coming together is what makes all of this possible.

This Shabbat is referred to as Shabbat Chazon, the saddest Shabbat of the year, preceding Tisha B’Av on Tuesday, when we commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. But next Shabbat is Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Consolation. This Shabbat, we grieve as a community and hope and pray that next Shabbat will bring consolation — with Hadar back home safely at the Shabbat table with his family, and a return to calm and stability in Israel.

Shabbat shalom

Power of Community

As the week winds down, the news from Israel is incredibly painful — including the heartbreaking news today of the kidnapped IDF soldier, Hadar Goldin. Right now, we are consumed with the weight of the crisis. But if there is some comfort to be had, it’s in the truly uplifting ways we’ve come together as a people and a community since this all began.

Focusing just on the events of this week:

On Monday, we came together on the streets of New York City in a massive public display of solidarity. Right across from the United Nations, 15,000 people — Jews of every denomination, non-Jews, elected officials, kids from summer camps — gathered to say: “We are one with Israel. You are not alone.” This story was prominently reported across Israel. They heard us.

On Wednesday morning, hours after I returned from a two-day solidarity mission to Israel with a group of New Yorkers, the board of UJA-Federation of New York came together to authorize up to $10 million in emergency support for the people of Israel. And then, on Wednesday evening, 150 of our community’s leading philanthropists came together at the home of Merryl and Jim Tisch. We were joined by Michael R. Bloomberg, who talked candidly about what motivated him to get on an El Al flight and travel to Israel during the FAA ban. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, told us how deeply grateful Israelis are for our support. Some in the room spoke emotionally of family and friends in Israel, and reminded us to reach out to them. And then, in a spontaneous and powerful display of generosity, more than $5.5 million was pledged to support UJA-Federation’s work meeting critical needs on the ground in Israel.

We saw those needs being met firsthand while in Israel: providing life-saving emergency medical equipment for hospitals; comforting the wounded and traumatized; taking tens of thousands of children on day trips away from the hardest-hit areas; distributing supplies for bomb shelters; giving food and medicine, and reaching out to the homebound elderly and people with disabilities; offering trauma counseling; and so much more.

The power of community coming together is what makes all of this possible.

This Shabbat is referred to as Shabbat Chazon, the saddest Shabbat of the year, preceding Tisha B’Av on Tuesday, when we commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. But next Shabbat is Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Consolation. This Shabbat, we grieve as a community and hope and pray that next Shabbat will bring consolation — with Hadar back home safely at the Shabbat table with his family, and a return to calm and stability in Israel.

Shabbat shalom

Report From Solidarity Mission in Israel

This morning, I got off the plane following an intense and emotional solidarity mission to Israel. Joined by 20 UJA-Federation of New York leaders, we went to Israel to provide comfort to Israelis, but in the end, it was they who comforted us. We witnessed the courage and resilience of those who have been living under direct threat for weeks and, in some harrowing cases, years.

Sharing Heartache and Witnessing Courage
The goal of our mission was clear. With Israel suffering daily casualties, we came to say: you are not alone in this. We also wanted to see what our support was making possible and what more might be needed.

We met Israelis like Tal and Stav, two 16-year-old girls who live within miles of Gaza. Fear of the tunnels keeps them up at night. Tal spoke of girls in her neighborhood who won’t shower because they are scared that in the event of an attack, they won’t make it to a shelter in time. Tal could go stay with relatives up north. She chooses to remain because her mother — who operates the local resilience center — trained her to recognize signs of shock and trauma in the shelter, which is run by the Israel Trauma Coalition, a UJA-Federation grantee. At just 16, Tal assists her mother in treating others. Both girls were with a large group traveling to a much needed day of respite, funded by the Jewish Agency for Israel, one of our overseas partners.

UJA-Federation CEO Eric S. Goldstein visits a wounded soldier.

At Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, UJA-Federation is funding life-saving equipment. Since the conflict began, 872 people, including 448 soldiers, have been treated there. In one room there were three recently wounded IDF soldiers — one Jewish, one Druze, and one Bedouin. All were extremely touched by our visit. When a siren sounded, we ran to a shelter and then returned. It was a sad irony that we could run to shelter but the soldiers could not. They remained in hospital rooms that are not fortified.

At the JDC Center for Independent Living in Beersheva, operated by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) with our support, we met volunteers who are making phone calls to the 3,200 people with disabilities in the Beersheva area to understand their needs and make sure they are met.

Emotions were especially high when the mission traveled to a cemetery in Modi’in to meet Ofir and Bat Galim Shaar, the parents of Gilad Shaar, one of three teens who was kidnapped and murdered. This was the first time Gilad’s parents had been to the cemetery since their son’s funeral earlier this month. Gilad’s father spoke about the unity in Israel generated by the abduction. We expressed our heartache and how the murders had also united Jews across North America.

A mother and son's family home damaged by rockets in Sderot.

There was not a single rocket in Sderot that day, giving us reason to hope that we were on the cusp of a cease-fire. In the afternoon, though, just as we were leaving the cemetery, we learned that five soldiers had been killed in Eshkol by terrorists who came out of a tunnel in Kibbutz Be’eri. It was just one little indication of how quickly hope turns to despair here, with enormous psychological impact.

Read more stories from the ground and see a video about the psychological wounds of living in Sderot, a city that has been battered by rocket fire for many years.

On the Front Lines with Israel’s Heroes

On Saturday evening, 20 New Yorkers, lay leaders from UJA-Federation of New York, traveled to Israel on a two-day solidarity mission. We had come to Israel to provide strength and comfort to the people of Israel, but in the end, it was these incredible Israelis who strengthened and comforted us. These are just some of the people we met and their stories.

DAY ONE

Tal and Stav

We met Tal from Ofakim (approximately 12.5 milies from Gaza) and Stav from Kibbutz Be’eri (three miles from Gaza), both age 16, enjoying a day of respite arranged by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency. Fear of the tunnels discovered in Gaza keeps them up at night. Stav has less than 15 seconds to get to a shelter. One girl in Tal’s neighborhood won’t sleep with a blanket because she’s concerned it will cost her the precious seconds needed to get to a shelter in time. Tal told us she could go stay with relatives up north. She chooses to stay in Ofakim because her mother — who operates the local trauma center — trained her to recognize signs of shock and trauma in the shelter. At just 16, she assists her mother in treating others.

Linda Mirels

UJA-Federation board chair Linda Mirels in Sderot, holding a drawing by the daughter of Sderot’s mayor.

Trauma is acute across Israel, particularly in the South. Since the conflict began, more than 650 rockets have fallen in the Sderot area alone. Even the “day after” the last rocket, it will take months to years to restore this population to normalcy. The Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), created by UJA-Federation, is operating resilience centers across the country and getting 1,500 calls a day to its trauma hotline. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is also providing respite programs for kids with significant disabilities. Alan Gill, JDC’s CEO, said it was “oxygen” for the kids and their parents.

Michal

We met Michal, a seventh-grade science teacher and mother of three who lives in Sderot and is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder after her home was hit twice by rockets. She referred to the ITC as her “mental umbrella.” When the fighting began three weeks ago, Michal’s 15-year-old daughter refused for days to go to the bathroom or take a shower for fear of not getting to a shelter in time. Now she only goes to the bathroom if her mother comes with her.

Zahava

The home of Zahava and her family in Sderot that was destroyed by a rocket attack.

Another resident of Sderot, Zahava, recalled in a broken voice how she rushed her children and 3-month-old granddaughter into the safe room just moments before her home was hit. Zahava and her family smelled gas and were rescued by neighbors, as their gas lines had been hit and gas was leaking into the safe room. Workers from JAFI arrived with emergency cash assistance. Zahava is very traumatized. Both she and her son kept thanking us.

Mayor Alon David

The mayor of Sderot, Alon David, told us about his seven children — five of who have lived with constant rockets attacks since they were born. He shared a picture one of his daughters drew last week, in which she portrayed one of her sisters screaming “enough.” The trauma in her face was so clear from the emptiness in her eyes. He also spoke of the importance of ITC and what an indispensable and critical resource it is for his community.

Ofir and Bat Galim Shaar

Emotions were especially high when we traveled to a cemetery in Modi’in to meet Ofir and Bat Galim Shaar, the parents of Gilad Shaar, one of three teens who was kidnapped and murdered. This was the first time Gilad’s parents had been to the cemetery since their son’s funeral earlier this month. Gilad’s father spoke about the unity in Israel generated by the abduction. We expressed our heartache, and how the murders had also united Jews across North America.

As we toured across Sderot, we did not hear a single rocket, and there was a sense we were on the cusp of a cease-fire. In the afternoon, though, just as we were leaving the cemetery, we learned that five soldiers had been killed in Eshkol by terrorists who came out of a tunnel in Kibbutz Be’eri. That’s the hometown of Stav, the girl we’d met in the morning. It was just one little indication of how quickly hope turns to despair here, with enormous psychological impact.

DAY TWO

Wounded Soldiers

UJA-Federation CEO Eric S. Goldstein visits a wounded soldier.

We went to Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, where UJA-Federation funds life-saving medical equipment. Since the conflict began, 872 people, including 448 soldiers, have been treated there. In one room there were three recently wounded IDF soldiers — one Jewish, one Druze, and one Bedouin. All were extremely touched that we had come to see them. When a siren interrupted our visit, we ran to a shelter and then returned. It was a sad irony that we could run to shelter, while the soldiers could not. They remained in hospital rooms that are not fortified.

People With Disabilities

There are 3,200 people with disabilities in the Beersheva area. Since the conflict began, staff and volunteers at the Center for Independent Living in Beersheva call regularly to check on clients. Funded by JDC, our overseas partner, their focus is on providing food and medicine, and meeting other basic needs.

One of the JDC program staff expressed a hope that people with disabilities, whose common issues transcend difference, might inspire peace. We met with an Arab-Israeli who was handicapped by a car accident. Understandably, the sirens are the cause of tremendous anxiety to people with limited mobility because it’s very difficult to get to shelters in time.

New Immigrants

At the Ye’elim Absorption Center in Beersheva, there are 17 languages spoken by immigrants from all over the world. Despite the recent crisis, hundreds of new olim have come. Aliyah from France is up 300 percent and aliyah from Ukraine is up 150 percent.

We met with young children who are happy to be in Israel, but still feeling anxiety from the sirens and shelters.

Acts Big and Small

This evening will mark the start of yet another Shabbat that Israelis have spent under attack. Like so many of us, I have friends and family in Israel, and some have sons in Gaza. As painful as this is, I am reminded that through acts big and small, we are a people and a community that comes together when it matters most. Taking care of one another is what we do.

On Saturday evening, as I begin my fourth week as CEO, I will be leaving for Israel with 20 other UJA-Federation of New York leaders to express our commitment, just as our President Alisa Doctoroff did last week. At a time of increasing isolation for Israelis, our purpose is simple: we come to hear their stories, communicate that we share their heartache, and ensure they get all the help they need.

The same sentiment of solidarity was shared on a smaller scale earlier this week, when UJA-Federation staff in New York gathered for a conference call with our Israel office. To an overflowing room, our Israeli colleagues reflected on their experiences these last few weeks. One colleague spoke of his young son, who has sadly become accustomed to the sound of sirens, as if that was a permanent part of life. Another colleague, who recently made aliyah, recalled walking outside when a siren sounded. With nowhere to go, she sat on the side of the street until a stranger led her to a safer spot and stayed to make sure she was okay. Listening to these poignant stories brings us closer to what’s happening in Israel and is yet another powerful reminder of why our work is so important.

Responding to Concrete Needs

Thanks to your generosity to our annual campaign, we have been supporting agencies on the ground doing heroic work since day one of this crisis. Joining with federations from across North America, we immediately provided $10 million in emergency aid. With your help, we’ve already enabled our partners in Israel to:

equip bomb shelters and safe rooms to meet the needs of people with disabilities; deliver meals, medicine, and other supplies to the homebound elderly and people with disabilities; support resilience centers and provide round-the-clock counseling to people coping with all levels of psychological trauma; provide respite activities for some 50,000 children by busing them away from the most intense areas of attack; and care for the caregivers — educators who sit for days with children in bomb shelters, social workers who see traumatized clients all day long, municipal workers who mend the physical damage of the rockets — who need urgent care themselves to keep going.

To help us meet both today’s acute needs and what will be needed the “day after” to help Israel rebuild and heal, please give to our Israel Emergency Fund.

Standing Together 

This Monday, I invite you to join UJA-Federation in a community rally in New York City (link to a web or facebook event page). This will be an opportunity to join hand in hand as we publicly affirm our commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself. It’s a message that needs to be heard by our elected officials, by the media, and, most importantly, by our family and friends in Israel.

Acts big and small make a difference. As we prepare for Shabbat, whether in New York or Jerusalem, or anywhere there are people who love Israel, we hope and pray that these dark and turbulent times will be followed by the dawn of more peaceful days.

This week’s Torah portion concludes the book of Numbers. As we do in synagogue at the conclusion of each book, we say together: “Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek.” “Be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen one another.” Those words resonate with particular meaning today.

Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek.

Shabbat shalom

P.S. I just learned that a giant of our community, Alan “Ace” Greenberg, passed away, and like all who had the honor of knowing him, I am deeply saddened. Ace was a magician, literally quite talented at sleight of hand, but even more so with his ability to inspire others to give as generously as possible. For years, Ace hosted our campaign launch event, which became known with some reverence and affection as the “Greenberg event.” A legend of Wall Street and a stalwart champion of the Jewish people both at home and in Israel  — his memory, spirit, and impact will remain an enduring legacy.

Acts Big and Small

This evening will mark the start of yet another Shabbat that Israelis have spent under attack. Like so many of us, I have friends and family in Israel, and some have sons in Gaza. As painful as this is, I am reminded that through acts big and small, we are a people and a community that comes together when it matters most. Taking care of one another is what we do.

On Saturday evening, as I begin my fourth week as CEO, I will be leaving for Israel with 20 other UJA-Federation of New York leaders to express our commitment, just as our President Alisa Doctoroff did last week. At a time of increasing isolation for Israelis, our purpose is simple: we come to hear their stories, communicate that we share their heartache, and ensure they get all the help they need.

The same sentiment of solidarity was shared on a smaller scale earlier this week, when UJA-Federation staff in New York gathered for a conference call with our Israel office. To an overflowing room, our Israeli colleagues reflected on their experiences these last few weeks. One colleague spoke of his young son, who has sadly become accustomed to the sound of sirens, as if that was a permanent part of life. Another colleague, who recently made aliyah, recalled walking outside when a siren sounded. With nowhere to go, she sat on the side of the street until a stranger led her to a safer spot and stayed to make sure she was okay. Listening to these poignant stories brings us closer to what’s happening in Israel and is yet another powerful reminder of why our work is so important.

Responding to Concrete Needs

Thanks to your generosity to our annual campaign, we have been supporting agencies on the ground doing heroic work since day one of this crisis. Joining with federations from across North America, we immediately provided $10 million in emergency aid. With your help, we’ve already enabled our partners in Israel to:

equip bomb shelters and safe rooms to meet the needs of people with disabilities; deliver meals, medicine, and other supplies to the homebound elderly and people with disabilities; support resilience centers and provide round-the-clock counseling to people coping with all levels of psychological trauma; provide respite activities for some 50,000 children by busing them away from the most intense areas of attack; and care for the caregivers — educators who sit for days with children in bomb shelters, social workers who see traumatized clients all day long, municipal workers who mend the physical damage of the rockets — who need urgent care themselves to keep going.

To help us meet both today’s acute needs and what will be needed the “day after” to help Israel rebuild and heal, please give to our Israel Emergency Fund.

Standing Together 

This Monday, I invite you to join UJA-Federation in a community rally in New York City. This will be an opportunity to join hand in hand as we publicly affirm our commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself. It’s a message that needs to be heard by our elected officials, by the media, and, most importantly, by our family and friends in Israel.

Acts big and small make a difference. As we prepare for Shabbat, whether in New York or Jerusalem, or anywhere there are people who love Israel, we hope and pray that these dark and turbulent times will be followed by the dawn of more peaceful days.

This week’s Torah portion concludes the book of Numbers. As we do in synagogue at the conclusion of each book, we say together: “Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek.” “Be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen one another.” Those words resonate with particular meaning today.

Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek.

Shabbat shalom

P.S. I just learned that a giant of our community, Alan “Ace” Greenberg, passed away, and like all who had the honor of knowing him, I am deeply saddened. Ace was a magician, literally quite talented at sleight of hand, but even more so with his ability to inspire others to give as generously as possible. For years, Ace hosted our campaign launch event, which became known with some reverence and affection as the “Greenberg event.” A legend of Wall Street and a stalwart champion of the Jewish people both at home and in Israel  — his memory, spirit, and impact will remain an enduring legacy.