Jul 18, 2014

1,050 Pack Our Israel Solidarity Gathering - A Moment for Which Our Federation Was Built

As we send this message, Israel continues its Operation Protective Edge ground efforts begun yesterday - after Hamas resumed rocket fire from Gaza throughout our homeland only two hours into a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire. Our hearts, minds and prayers are with our Jewish family under siege and with those in harm’s way to protect them, as we unequivocally support Israel’s right to defend its citizens. May they experience some Shabbat peace and may they know, as was so clearly evidenced at our Israel Solidarity Gathering on Wednesday night, that South Palm Beach County’s Jewish community stands proudly and fervently with them and is here to help however we can.

Spontaneous, loud and proud, the crowd of 1,050 opened our Israel Solidarity Gathering singing Am Yisrael Chai on Wednesday night, with signs proclaiming “We Stand with Israel.”

Looking out at a sea of blue and white, at the myriad of caring, committed Jewish neighbors representing the vibrant diversity of ages, backgrounds, observance and neighborhoods in South Palm Beach County’s Jewish community today, I knew that this was one of those moments for which we’ve built our Federation. As our Board Chair Al Gortz said in his welcome, it was one of those moments when our critical role in bringing this community together to care for our people was unmistakable. One of those moments when we are needed – and need each other - most.

For the second time in just a few weeks, we rose with one voice, standing together in anxiety, outrage, tears, strength and unwavering support for the State of Israel and our Jewish family there. Once again, about 1,000 of us came together with just a few days’ notice, including those with whom I was honored to share the podiums at B’nai Torah Congregation.

To the hushed crowd, Rabbi David Steinhardt (B’nai Torah), Rabbi Robert Silvers (Congregation B’nai Israel) and our Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation Chair Richard Steinberg spoke of their gripping recent experiences in Israel under siege. As Silvers spoke, an air raid siren sounded through an app on his phone – and mine – that issues a life-saving alert whenever a rocket is launched over Israel. Rabbis Greg Weisman (Temple Beth El) and Philip Moskowitz (Boca Raton Synagogue) led us in prayer, and Cantor Benjamin Tisser (B’nai Torah) raised our voices and ruach. We also heard from Consul General of Israel Chaim Shacham and, through a riveting video, from IDF soldier Ron Bronstein about the irony of waking to sirens as his alarm goes off, and how much our support means to those living through the rockets’ rain of terror on much of our homeland.

In my own remarks at the Gathering, I spoke about our historic obligation here in our golden American diaspora to see that our family in Israel also lives in peace with security.

About our responsibility to advocate for the continued special strategic relationship of the United States and Israel, particularly for Israel’s “game-changing” missile defense system. Members of Congress Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel sent a powerful statement of support for our Gathering, and for Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. And we were pleased that State Senator Maria Sachs and State Representatives Lori Berman and Bill Hager joined us in solidarity.

About our critical role in ensuring the significant humanitarian aid needed by the people of Israel during these terror attacks and in their eventual aftermath. Because of the unique support network of our Federation system, our overseas partners – the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) – are always on the ground. Even before the rockets began to fall, they were assessing the needs of our Israeli brothers and sisters and ready to step in.

And when the government of Israel asked us to intensify these efforts in this crisis because far more is needed as the physical and psychological damage continues, we immediately launched our Israel Emergency Campaign. Part of a broad national effort, our community has already sent nearly $300,000 in contributions of all sizes to be used quickly and directly on the ground in Israel where it is most needed and being put right to use through our overseas partners. Of course, more is needed as the physical and psychological damage continues – so if you have not yet done so, please become part of our South Palm Beach County response now to provide our Israeli family with urgently needed social services, financial assistance, counseling and more. (These emergency campaign gifts are separate from the JFSPBC Annual Campaign.)

Our brothers and sisters in Israel desperately need your help.
100% of the funds will go directly to support Israel.

Please support the Israel Emergency Campaign.

Reflecting on the impact we will have, and on Wednesday night’s remarkable experience, I could not be more proud and grateful. I congratulate and thank our South Palm Beach County Jewish community for coming together so quickly with fervent support and generosity at this traumatic time for the people of Israel.

Unfortunately and undoubtedly, there are difficult days ahead. But we know that together our community and our people are strong and indeed do extraordinary things.

I invite you to read my remarks from the Gathering. You may also view more photos from the event, and Channel 25 coverage. We will continue to keep you updated about developments in Israel on our website, and on Facebook. And, as always, I look forward to receiving your thoughts at asktheceo@bocafed.org.

B’shalom,

Matthew C. Levin, President & CEO
Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County

Past Messages from Matt