Images of protests against Israel in the US and Europe, amidst warfare, provoked deep dismay. A pervasive sense emerged that the entire world opposed us. Yet simultaneously, a massive rally in support of Israel took place in Washington. Thousands of Jews and non-Jews traveled from across North America to back Israel, organized by the Jewish Federations of North America. But their efforts achieved more than demonstrated solidarity - receiving significant financial aid as well.
"The outpouring of donations stems from familiarity - many Americans know this land well, and most have loved ones living here", explains Rebecca Caspi, CEO of the Israeli Office of the Jewish Federations of North America. Since October 7, 2023 their fundraising has directed over $600 million for Israeli civil society and national resilience. Caspi attributes the inspiring generosity and urgency of response to preexisting community ties on which federations have long relied to mobilize rapidly during times of need.
So how does it work?
Since the onset of war, the Pitchon Lev organization has received donations, aid and support from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). JFNA represents 146 Jewish federations serving medium and large Jewish communities across North America - in both the US and Canada. Throughout the year, they care for Jewish communities. Now, however, they have mobilized to provide assistance directly in Israel - offering donations and ensuring all who require help within the country, on the frontlines and in civilian areas, receive support.
Thus far in the hostilities, Pitchon Lev has already distributed tens of thousands of food packages to frontline areas and nationwide. Additionally, they have delivered tens of tons of supplies, including winter equipment, tactical gear for soldiers, and provisions for infants. The "Heart on the Front" (“הלב בחזית”) initiative, partnering with Yediot Ahronot, invites Israelis to donate to security forces and evacuated families from northern and southern regions. The expansive contribution from JFNA further strengthens and warms hearts while aiding the relief efforts.
At times of peace and especially during conflict
Caspi notes the federations' vision is to promote Jewish communal well-being. Their highly organized grassroots networks allow swift response, she says. Currently, the federations operate along two tracks: direct Israel support; and North American advocacy enabling flexibility if needs change.
Post-war, the federations rely on Pitchon Lev and others to sustain emergency fundraising for Israeli citizens' war-impacted needs—chiefly welfare and nutrition. Within two weeks, donations surpassed half a billion dollars, now exceeding $600 million. A significant portion was transferred to Pitchon Lev for their recognized ability to efficiently address mass dislocations and new hardships, Caspi explains. Funds were allocated through the Federations to hospitals, medical NGOs, terror victims’ assistance, trauma services, civilian aid networks and municipalities requiring resources. Together these relief systems aim to strengthen communities enduring ongoing crisis impacts.
A united community rallies
As relief efforts widened, the Jewish Federation of Chicago mobilized additional support. "In the past two months, $43 million in donations arrived from 6,400 Chicago donors," says Ofer Bavly, head of the city's Israeli office. Home to around 320,000 Jews, he notes the community maintains deep Zionist connections to Israel, with most families having relatives there.
As "one of the most cohesive diaspora networks," the Chicago Federation annually donates millions across Israel. When fighting began, it also aided Pitchon Lev's "wartime recruitment for food and IDF supplies," explains Bavly. After thoroughly vetting Pitchon Lev and visiting distribution hubs, the Federation recommended the community make a transfer through the organization, trusted for efficient frontline assistance. Even amid persistent crises, international solidarity nourishes hope wherever needed most.
Friends around the world
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is one of Israel's largest social service organizations, primarily assisting underserved populations through aid to seniors, emergency services, and new immigrants. As CEO Ayelet Shila Tamir notes, it also enjoys support from over 700,000 Christian friends of Israel as well as domestic donors, collaborating closely with government and local authorities.
The Fund coordinates extensively with Pitchon Lev. "When warfare began, we immediately joined efforts with Pitchon Lev and others," says Shila Tamir. Donations to Pitchon Lev focus on feeding unexpectedly expanded disadvantaged groups and potential additional contingents in an economic crisis. Pitchon Lev stands ready to quickly deploy assistance through the Fund's financial backing, allowing continued and enhanced operations to flexibly meet shifting needs. To date, the "International Fellowship of Christians and Jews" organization has donated approximately NIS 80 million toward civilian welfare, emergency organizations, and society as a whole weathering this ongoing trial.
Steadfast support in uncertain times
Anticipating strains ahead, welfare leaders meticulously evaluate needs and strategize for 2024. "We foresee deepening demands aggravated by economic troubles diverting budgets to security," says Eilat Shila Tamir of the Friendship Fund. As government assistance may fall, donations will grow paramount to social services weathering turmoil's aftermath.
Pitchon Lev's CEO Eli Cohen expresses profound gratitude for partners enabling continued reinforcement of homeland stability. "Thanks to Jewish Federations of America, Chicago Federation and Friendship Fund backing Pitchon Lev's response has outlived war's immediacy," he says. Their aid, combined with goodwill from worldwide Jewish and Christian communities, ensures crucial infrastructure and deliveries sustain families in conflict's waning days and the rebuilding to follow. Though obstacles persist, solidarity lifts Israel's resilience in challenging times.
First published: 19:28, 11.27.23