Funds for Israel come rolling in

The Bay Area’s three Jewish federations have all done their fair share, and more, to contribute to a national emergency campaign to raise funds for Israel.

Rabbi James Brandt

Variously referred to as “Stop the Sirens” and “Stand with Israel,” the funds were launched a matter of days after Israel began Operation Protective Edge.

The initial national fundraising goal was $10 million, which had already been met by the time Jewish leaders convened in Washington, D.C., this week for an assembly organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America.

The emergency fund is a partnership between JFNA, the Union for Reform Judaism and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Representatives from more than 50 Jewish federations from across North America attended the July 28 solidarity event. Among the 600 attendees was Rabbi James Brandt, CEO of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, and his board president, Steve Zatkin.

“It was inspiring to be there,” Brandt said. “The conference clearly demonstrated that the Jewish community in North America is not only standing with Israel, but mobilizing to support Israel.”

Jim Offel

Jim Offel, interim CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, told J. that his agency had raised $250,000 of its $300,000 goal as of July 25.

“Our community has really turned out,” Offel said. “The federation’s role is really around the humanitarian aid in Israel and people in our community very much respond to that.”

The Jewish Federation of the East Bay had raised $65,000 as of July 30, which was $38,000 more than a goal given to them by JFNA, which had offered suggested goals to its 153 local federations.

Most of that money has come not from major donors, but from donations at and after a community solidarity gathering that drew 400 people to Temple Sinai in Oakland on July 16. “I was pleased by how responsive the community was,” Brandt said.

So was Jyl Jurman, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of the Silicon Valley. She and her staff have been working to raise funds through email blasts and community events, such as a July 22 solidarity gathering at Congregation Beth David in Saratoga that drew more than 800 people.

Her federation had raised more than $86,000 as of  July 30, flying past the $17,500 goal she had received from JFNA.

Jyl Jurman

Jurman said her federation is working on putting together initiatives for more fundraising. “We still have major donors that we haven’t had a chance to connect with yet,” she said.

The funds will go to support communities hardest hit by rockets, vulnerable citizens (such as elderly residents who do not have easy access to bomb shelters) and trauma support.

The Jewish National Leadership Assembly in Washington included more than a dozen political speakers, such as Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer; Susan Rice, national security advisor; and John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives.

A statement from the Conference of Presidents said the assembly was “an important opportunity to let the people of Israel know that they are not alone as they face the continuing onslaught of terrorist attacks, with missiles launched at civilian populations by Hamas terrorists in Gaza.”

Held at the National Press Club, the assembly was quickly organized because of the urgency of the situation in Israel. Rabbis from across the nation also were there.

Brandt said one of the important parts of the gathering — in addition to showing Congress and the Obama administration that the national Jewish community is behind Israel — was to highlight the importance of the emergency fundraising campaign.

According to a report on, the campaign is now looking to raise $30 million, as the initial goal of $10 million was based on an estimate of humanitarian needs if the conflict lasted two weeks.

As of July 24, the report said, $8.5 million had been allocated to specific projects proposed by JFNA’s major partners (the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Joint Distribution Committee, World ORT and the Israel Trauma Coalition) and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and Masorti movement in Israel.

Abra Cohen