Piedmont activist raises $1 million for Israel’s emergency

From his Piedmont home, Amnon Rodan methodically went through the call lists, reaching out to donors to raise emergency funds for Israel. But as he dialed the numbers, his thoughts were far away — in an Israeli military hospital where his cousin, a commando in the Israel Defense Forces, fought for his life, a Hezbollah bullet having torn through his chest.

“It’s a very personal situation for me,” said Rodan of the recent war and its impact on Israeli society. “While I live in the East Bay and am part of the federation, I’m also an Israeli and most of my extended family lives in Israel.”

That personal connection turned Rodan into a man on fire, as he led the charge for the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay’s Israel Emergency Campaign.

So far, he’s done well, bringing in $1 million in a matter of days.

That’s part of the East Bay federation’s goal of raising at least $1.2 million, money that will in turn flow to the $300 million national target set by United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of North American Jewish federations.

While $1.2 million may seem a relatively small amount compared to $300 million, the rapid response from East Bay donors — and Rodan’s persuasive powers — are a source of pride and inspiration for the federation leadership.

“He was the right guy,” said federation CEO Loren Basch. “At a time when everyone was feeling futile, here’s a guy who really changed his community.”

“He did an amazing job,” added Donald Brody, federation president. “It shows what one person can do.”

Of course, Rodan would be the first to say the East Bay federation’s Israel Emergency Campaign is not a one-man show. The effort actually began at the outbreak of the war, while Basch and several other federation leaders were in Israel on various missions.

“The war was hitting hard in the north,” recalled Basch. “Hundreds of thousands of Israelis were living in shelters. We sent a letter from Jerusalem to our donors and raised $100,000, twice what we asked. By the time I came back it became a $300 million goal from UJC, the largest amount of money [requested from] the diaspora.”

That’s when Rodan stepped up to the plate.

“The appeal was easy,” he said of his fundraising effort. “In times of war, the Jewish community has always been exceptionally supportive of Israel. I asked [donors] to join in, recognizing that as a Jewish community in the U.S., it is our obligation to support Israel. I have so many family and friends [in Israel] doing the heavy lifting. All we have to do is write a check.”

Said Basch, “This is just round one. We’re going to try to raise another $300,000 by the High Holy Days. Our goal is to give every Jew in the East Bay a chance to support Israel.”

Added Brody, “The disruption to the economy throughout Israel is enormous. Amnon is from Israel. Not only did he have the ability to go to other large donors, but because of his personal knowledge and contacts, he could make the case.”

A longtime Jewish community activist with the federation, AIPAC and other organizations, Rodan is the husband of Dr. Katie Rodan, a dermatologist and co-founder of the Proactiv skin care company. The couple has two daughters.

While it’s a wonderful life for the Rodan family in the Bay Area, for Amnon Rodan, especially, Israel is of paramount importance, and never more so than now, in the wake of the war against Hezbollah.

Happily, his soldier cousin is recovering from his wounds.

“Everyone wants to help,” said Rodan. “Everyone feels the crisis on a personal basis. [The fundraising effort] is not a drive to hit the elite and making a number. It’s about getting every person a chance to get involved.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.