An Update on “Stop the Sirens”
As you know, the conflict in Gaza has intensified. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Israeli soldiers killed in action, with our brothers and sisters in Israeli, and with all who are in danger.
When the conflict began, the Reform Movement made a decision to join Stop the Sirens, a community-wide campaign, coordinated by Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA), to provide relief and support to the most heavily impacted Israeli communities. We did this rather than creating our own campaign to support our Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) congregations and the vital work the IMPJ itself is doing because we thought it was important to show support for the larger communal effort.
The campaign has already allocated $8 million for “respite and relief.”
ARZA Chair Rabbi Bennett Miller is doing a great job representing our Movement on the JFNA Allocations Committee, assuring that the allocation reflect Reform Jewish values as well as Reform Movement interests.
We could not be more pleased with the partnership we have seen from JFNA and others this week. Moving forward, we expect that the emergency campaign will also help the partners facilitate long term responses to the emergency.
To date, the Allocations Committee has approved requests for funding from the IMPJ for more than $180,000. That has allowed the IMPJ to do the following:
- Providing respite for children and families through programming outside of missile range:
- This past Thursday, a group of 70 (about 50 children and some adults) were hosted by the IMPJ in Haifa through the Leo Baeck School. Due to the immense pressure they were under, the full group continued on Friday to the Lavie Forest where they were hosted by IMPJ volunteers for a weekend of programing.
- By this Thursday, the Leo Baeck School will have hosted more than 400 people from Yerucham and other cities in the South. Today alone they hosted a group of 70 Bedouin children and their mothers. Next week both Beit Shmuel (Jerusalem) and Beit Daniel (Tel Aviv) will begin hosting as well.
- Emergency respite to institutionalized people with emotional challenges:
- This past weekend Kibbutz Yahel hosted three families who are “emotionally challenged,” and this coming Wednesday and Thursday 10 families will be hosted at Kibbutz Lotan.
- IMPJ professionals have teamed up with song leaders and cultural directors, providing activities in hostels and group homes throughout the south including in Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, and Sederot.
- Emergency aid packages:
- IMPJ has prepared 800 packages and distributed 300 of them that include toys, activity books, games, and in cases where needed basic food items. IMPJ volunteers have handed these packages out and carried out activities in shelters in Sederot, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Asdod, and Gedera, and in the Sha’ar HaNegev region. They expect to distribute an additional 800 packages in the coming week.
It is also important to remember that three IMPJ congregations continue to face the challenge of operating under fire. All three remain open, had services this past Shabbat, and continue to serve both their members and the larger community.
We encourage all members of Reform congregations to continue to provide funds and donations to their local Jewish Federations to assure that continued funding will be available in the coming weeks as it is likely that the current crisis will not end in the next few days. Our ongoing support for Israel and its citizens will continue to be desperately needed. More information about Stop the Sirens and how to support this vital campaign is available at www.urj.org/israel.
Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, all of Israel, and wherever there is suffering.