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U.S. Groups Raising Millions As Needs of Israelis Intensify

August 3, 2006
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The injured need ambulances and medical care. Those fleeing the North need places to stay. And the men and women who serve in Israel’s armed forces need equipment to make their mission a bit more bearable — and safe. Beyond the cost in human lives, Israel’s war with Hezbollah is expensive.

American Jewish organizations, which have long supported Israel, are working to help ease the economic burden.

Though they already have vast fund-raising networks in place, the philanthropic giants of the Jewish world are under pressure to quickly assess needs, attract donors and channel funds to the Jewish state.

The largest mobilization appears to be for the Israel Crisis Fund of the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella body of North American federations.

The UJC, along with local federations, have raised $23 million as of early this week. For more information, visit

Doron Krakow, UJC’s senior vice president for Israel and overseas, said about 60 percent of the funds will enable kids from the northern part of Israel, which is under attack from Hezbollah rockets, to stay in camps in the center of Israel.

The initiative has brought more than 6,000 kids between the ages of 10 and 18 to such camps, and the demand continues to grow, Krakow said.

The rest of the UJC funds are going to help those unable to leave the North — the sick, elderly and disabled — and to community centers in the middle of the country, many of which have been inundated by demand.

"We’re moving the money out as fast as it’s coming in," Krakow said.

Krakow credited his group’s fund-raising success to the "structural advantage" of having an organization with 155 local federations, each with its own grass-roots mechanism.

The Jewish Federation of St. Louis, for example, is embarking on an "aggressive" campaign — see — to raise $2.5 million, its president, Heschel Raskas, told JTA.

"Our Jewish community wants to step forward and be as active as we can," he said. He said the federation would utilize community synagogues, newspapers and Jewish organizations to attain the goal.

UJC may be leading the largest fund-raising drive, but it’s far from alone in mobilizing special campaigns.

Other groups raising money, along with their totals as of early this week, include:

The American Jewish Committee’s Israel Emergency Assistance has raised roughly $950,000. So far, the funds are helping vans deliver children’s toys and baby supplies to bomb shelters in the

B’nai B’rith International’s Israel Emergency Fund has raised $160,000. The funds will provide air conditioners, playground equipment and electronics to bomb shelters and makeshift camps for children in Haifa, Carmiel and Safed.

American Friends of Magen David Adom has raised more than $1 million; they average about $38,000 in gifts a day from Internet giving alone. The funds support their expanded activities on the ground, including increased blood transportation costs, extended ambulance deployment and additional need for oxygen due to panic attacks.

Friends of Israel Defense Forces has raised about $3.5 million to help soldiers. Funds are designated for care packages, air conditioned recreation tents, canteens and cell phone chargers.

The Jewish National Fund has raised more than $2 million, with funds allocated to sending children to camps away from the North, purchasing fire-fighting equipment and building security roads on the border with Gaza.

The Union for Reform Judaism has raised $100,000. That money is going to camps and kibbutzim where Israelis are holed up, waiting out the rocket attacks. Other funds will help convert an underground garage into a children’s play space in Haifa, transport people from the North and send care packages to soldiers.

World ORT has raised $400,000. Some money has been allocated to a children’s summer camp in Ashkelon. Officials say the rest will be doled out next week to post-trauma counseling, impacted families and teachers who work overtime to help students who are struggling academically as a result of the conflict.

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