Israeli flags at a rally in San Francisco's Union Square, Sept. 18, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Israeli flags at a rally in San Francisco's Union Square, Sept. 18, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

In times of crisis, the Jewish community gives generously

When I woke up on the morning of Oct. 7, the terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel hit like an earthquake. There wasn’t a minute to waste or to come to grips with what was unfolding.It was time for the Federation to mobilize immediately, as we have in crisis and emergency for more than 100 years. The Federation jumped into action, convening lay leadership and our professional emergency response team to build an immediate campaign for support and action.

Israel is at war, and the Israeli people have suffered profound losses that we in the Bay Area — as part of the global Jewish people — share.

Jewish federations across North America teamed up with the Union for Reform Judaism, the Conservative movement, Jewish Community Center Association, Hillel International and others to launch one of the largest campaigns in modern Jewish history to support Israel. As of Oct. 27, $554 million had been raised, exceeding the $500 million goal for immediate emergency humanitarian relief in Israel.

In the Bay Area, the Federation emergency fund raised more than $14.5 million, going to urgent needs in Israel such as medical supplies, trauma counseling, relocation for families living in the south, cash assistance for basic needs and to families of those killed, injured, kidnapped, first responders and more. All while also planning for longer-term needs such as rebuilding communities that have been destroyed, and providing emotional support for children, the bereaved, hostages and those who witnessed and were exposed to the atrocities.

And it’s not enough.

Here at home, children and families are struggling at schools that have responded poorly or with outright antisemitism, and the psychological insecurity we are feeling is palpable, even with no credible or specific threats to our local Jewish community. Jews have never been more exposed or vulnerable since the Holocaust.

The Federation leads Jewish community security efforts across Northern California, and Director of Community Security Rafi Brinner and his fantastic, expert team have been working around the clock. They ensure that our gatherings and rallies are safe, that places like preschools and day schools, community centers and synagogues have reviewed and tightened security plans. They work in partnership with the FBI, local law enforcement and the Secure Community Network to monitor evolving security needs and concerns.

We also work side by side with the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, principally on rising issues of growing antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment in the Bay Area. JCRC ensures the community has critical resources and guidance around Israel for parents, schools, universities and on college campuses to keep students safe and build support for the Jewish community. Our work together is more important than ever.

Another aspect of the support system is the Federation’s recently established Israel Affairs Task Force. Chaired by endowment committee and board member Guy Miasnik, it is focused on elevating Israel-related activities such as fundraising, allocations,  organizing around gatherings and rallies, and organizing local needs including the relocation of Israeli families to the Bay Area.

Last week I traveled to Washington, D.C., with Federation board chair Eileen Ruby. We joined hundreds of Jewish leaders from Federations across North America and major national Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, National Council of Jewish Women, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, American Jewish Committee and others. We heard directly from our nation’s political and elected leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. We have also been touched by the support of President Biden, Gov. Gavin Newsom, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

During that meeting in Washington, I felt as safe as I had felt all week, surrounded by a warm, embracing Jewish community and friends of the Jewish community who pledged to stand by us. The Jewish people have been resilient for thousands of years, and we will persevere.

But we need your help. Please consider making a donation to the Federation’s Israel Emergency Fund and join thousands of community members who are standing up for Israel. This moment will define our generation, and the world is watching.

The Federation has always served as a central address for meeting the needs of our Jewish community locally, in Israel and around the world. This is the battle of our lifetime, and we will be remembered for what we are doing. The Federation stands with Israel, as we always have, and in times of crisis we are better together. Am Yisrael chai!

Visit the Federation’s website at for information about how you can help.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of J.

Joy Sisisky
Joy Sisisky

Joy Sisisky is the CEO of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.