20 October 2023
I knew something was not right when Gil texted me early Saturday morning on October 7th to call him. Since that moment, I have had sleepless nights and countless tears.
I don’t know what broke me more…thinking about the rescue team finding a family slaughtered, the father’s arms draped around his wife and three teenage children as his final embrace, or the kidnapped son texting his parents, “I love you. I’m sorry.”
In the last 13 days, our Jewish Federation has worked tirelessly to mobilize our community, raise funds, and deploy money as quickly as possible to ensure that immediate needs in Israel were met. On Monday, we sent an initial $2 million in grants from the Israel Crisis Relief Fund to provide emergency medical care through several regional hospitals, United Hatzalah, and Magen David Adom; and to support evacuation efforts, trauma response, and the Fund for Victims of Terror.
Amidst our grief and pain, we instinctively sought community. We came together to comfort each other. We checked in on friends who have family in Israel. We went to vigils, rallies, and gatherings hosted by friends. Many remembered their parents and grandparents raising money for the Six Day and Yom Kippur wars. Sadly, now it is our turn. I have frequently heard people say, “When I look back on this time, I never want to say, ‘I could have done more.’”
I was deeply moved when two young couples marshalled their friends and peers into action and raised $1 million in one night. And when someone in our community heard there was a scarcity of IDF helmets, she connected with Federation. We called our colleagues on the ground in Israel to learn that they had helmets but needed phone chargers. With two more calls, our staff bought out an entire store’s supply of chargers. Now, more than 1,000 IDF soldiers can call home.
Today, nearly two weeks into our shared response, the generosity continues.
I hope you take immense pride in knowing that our community has raised more than $10 million from more than 3,700 people.
I am in awe of our community.
The next many weeks will be enormously challenging. Hate crimes are on the rise. Our children are walking around in heightened fear. The Israel narrative in the news and on social media is alarming. Together we will face it as a community, stronger than ever. As we do, know that you have a partner in Federation.
We are here for you. This is what collective giving looks like. Our impact is immense. We are forever grateful for your generosity.
I said to Zach Briton, Federation’s Chief Development Officer, who is overseeing the Israel crisis relief fundraising, “I have no words.”
He replied, “I do. Am Yisrael Chai. The nation of Israel lives.”
It lives in all of us.
Shabbat Shalom. May this truly be a Shabbat of peace,
Robin Hettleman Weinberg
President, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
P.S.: Join Federation for a webinar this Sunday, 10/22, at 5 PM ET to hear from Gil as he shares updates on the situation in Israel live from Jerusalem. Register here.