Supporting Israeli Women

Content Warning: This week’s reflection contains references to the sexual assault and violence that took place during Hamas’ attack on Israel in October 2023, which some may find distressing.

Today, we celebrate International Women’s Day — a day first established in 1911 to celebrate the achievements of women around the world with the goal of building a world free of gender bias and discrimination. In 2024, we have a responsibility to both celebrate how far we have come and recognize how much more work lies ahead.

Today, we must also call out and remind everyone of the incredible brutality of Hamas’ attack on Israel with particular cruelty toward Israeli women. The world needs to be reminded of the intentional use of sexual violence in ways too awful to be described in this message. Moreover, the continued intentional refusal by so many to recognize this violence and talk about Hamas’ responsibility must be repeatedly elevated.

Most recently, after many months, The United Nations (UN) finally announced findings following a two-and-a-half-week investigation indicating rape and other forms of sexual violence occurred on October 7th and for the months following among the hostages held. The UN is not alone in their slow response to this violence; much of the world remained — and remains — silent despite alarming reports from Israeli officials almost immediately following October 7th.

Federation condemns the continued intentional silence by individuals and governments around the world.

Federation is also working on the ground in Israel to support victims of sexual assault and all women who are suffering as a result of October 7th. The Jewish Community Foundation recently provided emergency allocations through The Women’s Fund to address the urgent needs of women, including trauma and therapeutic services, relocation support, and aid for single mothers. Federation’s Israel Crisis Relief Allocations committee has also provided significant grants to address immediate and long-term trauma facing the thousands of victims in Israel.

Federation stands firm in its commitment to our partners on the ground in Israel to continue to provide much needed support to victims of sexual assault and all affected by this ongoing tragedy. We will also continue to examine ways to address the needs across all segments of Israeli society over the coming months and years.

Together, we strive to pave a path towards healing, empowerment, and a future defined by compassion and justice for all.

Shabbat Shalom,
Gil Preuss
CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington