by Adam Kessler
Operation Protective Edge seems to have woken up Jews around the world.Â Whether connected personally to a loved one fighting in the IDF or running for shelter, or virtually through the constant stream of social media, the Jewish people are empathizing more than ever with their brethren in Israel.Â Acting on the urge to “do something”, individuals and groups have found meaningful ways to help. One organization, the One Israel Fund, has seen an outpouring of support for the work it does.
One Israel Fund’s reputation for successfully providing aid where it is most needed has broadened the organization’s visibility and value.Â Its latest mission is called Operation: No More Jewish Victims and the goal is to prevent terror attacks before they occur. This summer, when the Gaza border communities reached out for help, One Israel Fund sprang into action, and Jewish American support followed suit.
Whereas most organizations were focused on comfort items for the soldiers of the IDF, One Israel Fund was the primary organization working to get lifesaving equipment and supplies into the “1-4” Jewish communities along the Gaza border directly affected by the most recent violence in Israel. These aforementioned communities get their name based upon the fact that they exist in 1 to 4 kilometers from the border with Gaza – and some reside a mere few hundred feet. As the terrorists’ tunnels come in past the armies and directly inside the communities, it is vital for the community security patrol to have the tools and resources to defend themselves when necessary.
Originally established in 1994 to support the families living inYESHA (the Hebrew acronym for the communities of Judea, Samaria and those formerly in Gaza), the organization is committed to ensuring the welfare and safety of the over 150 thriving communities in the region.Â It expanded its efforts in 2005 after the expulsion of residents from Gush Katif, and continues to rebuild the lives and new communities of those uprooted from their homes as well as those southern communities which have borne the brunt of attacks since the Disengagement.
This summer One Israel Fund saw new donors and previous donors alike turn their concern for the safety of all residents ofIsrael into wildly successful fundraisers. From backyard barbecues to bake sales, grassroots campaigns raised a total over $300,000 to help the organization continue its work.
A desire to help expressed one Monday night over dinner manifested into a full blown event by Thursday of that same week.Â Six friends from the Five Towns celebrated a gala siyum at the home of Gabriel and Rebeka Boxer, with over 150 people in attendance. Their enthusiasm was so contagious that every single item and service was donated by close to 20 different local vendors, and the event raised nearly $20,000.
Shoshie Manela, Devorah Rosner and Jackie Erlichman, also of the Five Towns, put their creativity and culinary skills together and ran a bake sale that raised another $10,000.Â Â Alan and Sharon Shulman of West Hempstead hosted a barbecue at their home courtesy of Alan’s company, Mauzone, and then Mauzone went on to match the contributions 1:1 for a total of $50,000.
Long Island communities were not the only ones to mobilize.Â The Syrian communities of Brooklyn and Deal, New Jersey participated in a paintball tournament headed by Jack Cattan. There was a rally and concert organized in Brooklyn and “Bowl for A Cause” was a grassroots event put together by Eve Stieglitz and Ryan Shemen and was held at and partially sponsored by Bowlmor in New York City.
Some individuals took it upon themselves and launched campaigns for much needed items.Â Albert Maslaton ran a drive for security vests and Jessica Goldsmith raised money through RootFunding.com for specialized water canteens called shlukers for the IDF.
Longtime supporters also renewed their commitment to One Israel Fund this summer.Â Board Member, Suzie Schwartzstein, along with Deena Segal, Breezy Schwartz and the ladies of Beaver Lake Estates in Monticello, ran a “package party” resulting in a fun evening which provided security equipment to the border community of Alumim where Suzie’s extended family resides. The Beaver Lake Synagogue ran a successful appeal as well.
Fayge Feder, co-owner of Cedarhurst boutique Kiss and Makeup has routinely coordinated with One Israel Fund and sent donations of makeup and cosmetics to female IDF soldiers throughout the years.Â This summer the store also encouraged their customers to donate as well by offering discounts on all products purchased for donation.
Appeals were held at the White Shul and Khal Machzikei Torah, Agudath Israel of West Lawrence, all of Far Rockaway and Congregation Or Torah of Skokie, Illinois.Â Online campaigns were coordinated by Jonathan Kestenbaum of Israel, Dov Gelman of My Brother’s Keeper International and Michael Gerbitz of United with Israel.
The fundraising continued past Labor Day weekend with a lavish barbecue and Israeli wine tasting event, generously hosted by Lynn and Joel Mael of Lawrence. Several upcoming events are currently being planned in other communities as well, including Boca Raton, Florida.
One Israel Fund is very grateful for its support at all times.Â As supporters turned their compassion into contributions, One Israel Fund turns the donations into supplies within a matter of days.Â Unlike the larger American Jewish organizations, One Israel Fund is able to evaluate the needs quickly and efficiently.
Executive Vice President Scott Feltman works with Director of Security Projects Marc Provisor to pinpoint the immediate and the long-term needs of each community.Â Provisor, a former head of security in Shilo credited with responding to over 100 attacks there during the Intifada years, is the “security man on the ground” in Israel and personally visits the communities. In coordination with residents, government officials and the IDF, Feltman, Provisor and the One Israel Fund staff work to fill the gaps insecurity and essential medical services.Â They also look to address social, recreational and educational needs as well.
Working not only during times of crisis but dedicated to supporting the more vulnerable populations at all times, One Israel Fund’s projects address a wide range of needs, from armored vans to refurbishing of armored ambulances to high-tech thermal surveillance cameras. Communal projects include playgrounds, youth and senior centers, schools, synagogues, mikvaot, libraries and health clinics.Â It funds schools for at-risk youth in some communities and special needs schools in others.
One Israel Fund also helps provide specific items to the IDF, including working with the IDF Chief Rabbinate’s Office in supplying religious items like IDF olive green tzitzit and portable containers containing synagogue supplies for use in the field.
This summer the focus was on security for the Gaza border communities.Â Working with the Ravshatzim, the community security chiefs and civilian liaisons to the IDF, One Israel Fund assisted in setting up and upgrading perimeter surveillance camera and emergency lighting systems, and communication gear.
Many of the supplies like Quikclot combat gauze, head lamps and cloth stretchers, are low cost and easily obtainable.Â Other specialized items, such as the TacSight camera, are ordered immediately when funds are available and sent over as soon they are ready for delivery. The TacSight is a portable thermal imaging camera to help the security teams patrol their borders at night.Â This same technology was utilized to see terrorists emerging from the underground tunnels. This new security equipment has already prevented several potential attacks.
Even the jaded residents that are somewhat accustomed to the unrest in the region are now living under extreme stress.Â Communities being pummeled by mortars have been sending out the women and children to relocate as the situation becomes unbearable.
The gratitude of the residents is evident as the security chiefs, medical teams and mayors have all expressed appreciation to One Israel Fund and their donors for bringing in exactly what they have been asking for to properly secure their towns. Provisor will often take donors out to visit these communities to get a glimpse of the strained conditions.Â The residents are aware that most other organizations are willing or able to help them and grateful community members are at times brought to tears by the show of support.
“The ripple effect of crossing the Green Line to help is creating achdut that is beyond the politics and baloney”, says Provisor.
“I find it equally ironic and rewarding that One Israel Fund, an organization created to build and fortify the ‘settlements of YESHA’ is now crossing over the so-called Green Line to help thoseÂ communities which have traditionally opposed the communities of YESHA, many of which were established in the early days of the State,” says Feltman. “But that is changing in a very big way.Â They see, very clearly, that we are the organization coming to their aid, the one organization that they would never have identified with in the past.Â And it’s making a real and meaningful difference.Â This point is clearly not lost on them.”
With the abundance of Jewish organizations focusing on different worthwhile causes and various needs, One Israel Fund remains intent on standing out and making its mission known.Â The recent confusion with The New Israel Fund, a group committed to “social justice” with a goal of dismantling settlements, giving support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement and funding organizations which seek to undermine the IDF, was unfortunate and disturbing.Â The unwavering commitment of One Israel Fund and its donor base is vital to the lives of all Israelis living under constant threats.
One Israel Fund also works to anticipate need before crisis hits.Â Plans for the upgrading of security had been mapped out for the community of Itamar, but funds were hard to raise before the tragic and brutal murder of the Fogel family occurred.Â The existing security cameras had gaps in coverage and left the residents of Itamar vulnerable.Â Provisor remembers being told by potential donors at the time that the equipment was not necessary.Â “It’s quiet there”, he was told.Â Of course, after the murders, it was easy to raise funds.Â Provisor wishes that mindset would change since, oftentimes, One Israel Fund, through the security apparatus in existence, know of impending attacks before they occur and have the knowledge to prevent them.
As the fighting in Syria escalates, the communities up north in the Golan have been inquiring about assistance from One Israel Fund so they too can be better prepared to protect their residents. Rocket attacks in the north and south also continue to pummel the fledgling communities that are comprised of many of the families evacuated from Gush Katif in the summer of 2005. With the first stage almost complete in the southern communities, Provisor says he is now concerned with getting back to focusing on the Judea and Samaria region to ensure that the communities are properly prepared against inevitable attacks from the Arabs in his own backyard.
While war and other threats to Israel’s security create a heightened awareness of these needs and boost donor support, stable reliable support is clearly needed in the “quieter” times as well.Â While awareness and contributions rise during war time,weaker financial climates have severely impacted the organization.Â Even with a cease fire, there is no guarantee of true quiet. One Israel Fund is determined to continue and expand its work and donor support is imperative.
Says Provisor, “We must keep the support flowing.Â We have to have the common sense to be proactive and prevent future victims.Â We have the know-how, we just need the funds.”
To donate or learn more about One Israel Fund visit www.oneisraelfund.org.