Time to lean in and stand with Israel
OpinionGuest columnist

Time to lean in and stand with Israel

Whether you give money, volunteer, join the Federation’s Solidarity Mission to Israel, attend a vigil, contact your elected officials, everyone has a role to play.

Brian Eglash
Students gather at the University of Pittsburgh and demonstrate support for Israel on Oct. 9. (Photo by Adam Reinherz)
Students gather at the University of Pittsburgh and demonstrate support for Israel on Oct. 9. (Photo by Adam Reinherz)

Israel is an isolated country with few true allies outside of the United States and Diaspora Jewry. With the world mostly focused on what is happening in Gaza, the media — including some Jewish media —have forgotten Diaspora Jewry’s impact in Israel. Many news outlets covered the horrific aftermath of terrorists murdering 1,200 Israelis, injuring 6,900 and kidnapping 253, but fewer have covered Jewish Pittsburgh’s impact since that attack.

It is time for us to lean in and stand with Israel. Whether you give money, volunteer, join the Federation’s Solidarity Mission to Israel, attend a vigil, contact your elected officials or newspaper, or educate peers about the situation in Israel, everyone has a role to play. Part of this role is to pay attention to the immense needs in Israel. The funds raised in Pittsburgh — $7.5 million toward an incredible national total of $780 million — help to support relief, recovery, resilience, rebuilding, lifeline services and medical and trauma support.

Take, for example, the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for Victims of Terror. The fund provides immediate cash assistance to people injured or with property damage from terrorist attacks, missile attacks and wars. Within 24 hours of an attack, we enable JAFI to show up and provide immediate cash assistance to victims to help them get through the tumultuous weeks ahead. Afterward, JAFI personnel help those folks for months and sometimes longer with a wide range of assistance. Over the years the fund has helped approximately 8,000 people; since Oct. 7, the fund has helped over 10,000 additional victims of terror. The magnitude of this effort seems to go unnoticed.

Another immense area of need is trauma relief and psychosocial counseling. Thanks to Jewish Federation support, the Israel Trauma Coalition is helping to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder for thousands of people since Oct. 7. JAFI and Jewish Federation’s other core partner, the Joint Distribution Committee, have supported more than 200,000 evacuees from Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip and the northern border with Lebanon. Organizations such as the Chamal in Jerusalem, Brothers and Sisters in Arms, Dror Israel, Eshel Chabad, Association for Wellbeing of Soldiers, Latet and Pitcon-Lev have set up temporary schools for the evacuee children, distributed food to homebound older adults in border communities, provided clothing and other essential supplies for evacuees who fled their homes with nothing, and provided essential supplies for activated soldiers. Few in Jewish Pittsburgh seem to understand the impact we have already had on millions of traumatized Israelis, much less the immense need that we will see in years to come.

In the area of medical and trauma needs, we have funded dozens of hospitals around Israel, giving supplies and helping them to expand their rehabilitation centers given the thousands of newly injured patients.

Our Federation helped first responder organizations such as United Hatzalah (volunteer emergency medics) and Magen Dovid Adom as well as ZAKA, doing the holy work of gathering pieces of human flesh from the Oct. 7 massacre so they can have a proper Jewish burial. Organizations such as the Association of Rape Crisis Centers are supporting hundreds of individual victims of sexual violence from Oct. 7.

In the last few days, a plane carrying hundreds of mobile oxygen generators and rehabilitation equipment arrived in Israel to help the Yad Sarah medical nonprofit replenish its stores as the Houthi attacks on container ships limited sea routes.

Even in the area of Israel’s food security, the world seems to have turned a blind eye. Eighty percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in Israel are normally harvested in the Gaza Envelope. With Pittsburgh support through the Jewish Federation, Leket Israel and HaShomer HaChadash mobilized more than 100,000 volunteers to help pick agricultural products.

Several weeks ago, Federation’s Board Chair Jan Levinson and I returned from a deeply moving Federation mission to Israel. During our visit to our Partnership2Together region of Karmiel and Misgav, we met Idit Ohel, the mother of Alon, who was kidnapped from the Nova Music Festival. Our Federation is helping to support people like Idit through the Hostages and Missing Families Forum. We saw the impact of our emergency grant so Karmiel/Misgav could purchase supplies for their rapid response security teams. We met Ahmad Suade, a Muslim Bedouin, IDF veteran, and Deputy Mayor of Misgav, charged with protecting thousands of Jewish children. He showed us security provisions including mobile bomb shelters at schools, parks and sports fields, all made possible with the support of our Jewish community.

The needs in Israel seem endless, but the impact our community has made on the ground is enormous. Pooling our resources together as a Jewish collective allows us to meet the needs on the ground, and immediate support on Oct. 7 could not have been possible with Jewish Federation’s ongoing support. This impact is worthy of more attention from the media.

We believe “Kol Arevim Ze le Ze” (all Jews are responsible for each other). This concept is more important than ever as we are only stronger when we stand together as the Jewish People. As the war continues and the recovery phase begins, paying attention to the forgotten needs in Israel will be paramount. I am confident that our beloved nation of Israel will not only overcome enormous odds as we always have done but also provide us with a hopeful future. Am Yisrael Chai! PJC

Brian Eglash is the chief development officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

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