Agencies spring into action to raise emergency funds

Shortly after Israel launched its military operation against Hamas on July 7, the Jewish world began mobilizing to provide a range of services.

The Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Reform and Conservative movements, began an emergency fund called “Stop the Sirens.” To donate, visit or your local federation’s home page.

Jim Offel, interim director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, pointed out that the fund will provide “emergency aid and alleviate the pain and suffering of Israelis living in harm’s way. One hundred percent of the funds collected will be sent directly to our trusted partners on the ground.”

Claudia Felson, chair of the Israel and Overseas committee for the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, said the aim is to raise $10 million. The funds, which will be sent to Israel almost as quickly as they come in, will help transport and shelter vulnerable populations in Israel, including children, those with disabilities, and the elderly and housebound. In addition, some of the money will support professionals who counsel those who have been traumatized by rocket fire from Gaza.

The campaign is being implemented in collaboration with the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Dror Israel, the Israel Trauma Coalition and other groups. The Union for Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism are also partners.

In addition, JFNA called for a special mission to Israel’s south on July 14 and 15. Practically on the spur of the moment, federation leaders from throughout North America — though none from the Bay Area — flew to Israel and visited towns under assault such as Ashkelon and Sderot to show support.

A group of federation campaign chairs and campaign directors already on a trip to Israel, including a handful from the Bay Area, traveled to the south a day earlier to show support.

Here are some additional fundraising efforts underway:

Jewish National Fund: Several board members of the Bay Area chapter of the Jewish National Fund have held events in their homes to raise funds for immediate assistance, such as firefighting equipment and mobile bomb shelters. “[JNF] has had to evacuate kids with special needs to the North,” JNF board member Rose Barlow said. “We’ll be phoning our supporters in the next week to focus on these additional needs.”

JNF also is seeking to keep up people’s spirits by doing things such as keeping a recreation center in Sderot open 24 hours a day. For more information, call JNF’s local office at (415) 677-9600 or visit

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces: Informed by the IDF that many soldiers don’t have time for full meals or showers in light of the current situation, Friends of the IDF is seeking donations of $36 for toiletry kits and $18 for snack packages for soldiers, as well as other donations. For more information, call the FIDF Bay Area chapter at (415) 547-8360 or visit

Magen David Adom: Israel’s national emergency medical response and blood services organization “has been rushing toward danger to save lives,” according to American Friends of MDA.

Orthodox Union: The Israel Emergency Fund will help offer respite and psychological services to children in the conflict zones. Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley has jumped into action, hoping “to collect necessary funds to sponsor at least 50 youth (or an entire bus),” Rabbi Yonatan Cohen wrote on his Facebook page.

B’nai B’rith International: An Israel Emergency Fund has been opened.

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews: The agency has started an emergency support center for the elderly and is allocating more funds for bomb shelters in southern Israel. Fellowship volunteers will deliver food, medication and emotional support to the elderly in endangered areas. — j. staff & jta