October 19, 2023

A Historic Day in Support of Israel

Kim Hirsh Executive Director, Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ

Earlier this week, I witnessed a historic day for the American Jewish community and its ironclad support for the state of Israel. 

I have heard stories from my parents about what happened in 1967 and 1973, when American Jews came together in boardrooms, offices and living rooms to step up to support the state of Israel. 

On Tuesday at a special emergency gathering in Washington, D.C. of leading Jewish philanthropic families and Federation leaders from across the country, I watched this play out at a staggering level.  

With great pride, I also saw first-hand the incredible leadership role our Greater MetroWest community plays in driving and inspiring philanthropy from across the nation for the people of Israel. 

I was honored to accompany members of the Wilf, Halpern, Goldberg, Gottesman, and Cooperman families from Greater MetroWest at a national private caucus for the Israel Emergency Fund sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America.  

Our Greater MetroWest delegation ranged in age from 25 to 89—multi-generations all deeply committed to the Jewish community and, especially now, to the people of Israel. [Representing GMW in the photo above are (left to right) Kim Hirsh, Jeremy Halpern, Brett Tanzman, Paula Gottesman, Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, Mark Wilf, Courtney Cooperman, Rabbi Samual Klibanoff, and Federation President Michael Goldberg. Dannin Rosenthal, representing the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, was attending the leadership briefing following the morning caucus of philanthropists.]

Donors flew into D.C. on short notice from Cleveland, Palm Beach, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, and elsewhere. By day’s end, some 100 Jewish philanthropists in this one board room, combined with gifts from elsewhere in the nation, had committed a jaw-dropping $388 million for Israel Emergency Campaign—well on the way to reaching JFNA’s $500 million goal. 

These funds, given through Federation Israel emergency campaigns like our own Emergency Fund for Israel here in Greater MetroWest, will be disbursed through a massive JFNA-coordinated grants process to Federation partner organizations and non-profits on the ground in Israel for urgent humanitarian needs, such as medical supplies and equipment and housing, as well as longer-term rebuilding and rehabilitation, ranging from rebuilding homes and infrastructure to trauma counseling.   

David Heller, national campaign chair for the JFNA, noted that the idea for the national major donor caucus came from Mark Wilf, a long-time major donor to our Federation and former president of the Jewish Federation of Central NJ, which merged with the former MetroWest in 2012 to become Greater MetroWest. Wilf is immediate past president of JFNA and currently chairman for the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is playing a key role in assisting victims of terror and other Israeli populations deeply affected by the crisis. 

Heller recalled a phone call he received shortly after October 7. “Mark called me and said we need to get everyone in a room together,” Heller recalled. “He said this is what his father, Joe Wilf z”l, used to do when Israel was in crisis. Joe would gather people together in his office and everyone would announce their gifts,” Heller said. “Mark told me: that’s the best way to do this.” 

And boy was it ever. 

Donors from across the room stood up, spoke of their love of Israel, and announced gifts from individuals, family foundations, and communities. $15 million from a family foundation in Cleveland. $10 million announced by the third generation of a leading philanthropic family in Chicago. “$40 million and rising” from donors in Boston. Donor after donor in the room stood up to announce $1 million individual gifts.  

In total, our Greater MetroWest delegation committed $22 million that morning. When combined with thousands of gifts from individual donors across our community and emergency grants from the Federation and JCF boards of trustees, our Greater MetroWest community has raised more than $25 million for Israel’s emergency in less than two weeks. 

Rabbi Samuel Klibanoff of Etz Chaim of Livingston, who accompanied our Greater MetroWest delegation, delivered a brief D’var Torah to this extraordinary national gathering of donors. 

“We have all been reciting Tehillim – Psalms regularly these last few days. A number of chapters begin with the phrase ‘Lamnatzeach,’” he said, noting that the common translation for this word is “conductor.”  He noted the classic Hebrew root of that word is “Netzach,” or victory.  

“The idea is that when instruments are playing in an orchestra, we don’t aim for them to dominate one over another. Real success is when they play in unison and absolute harmony. The conductor is the one who ensures that this victory takes place,” the rabbi said. “We will win this war against evil if we all act as conductors who foster unity and absolute harmony during these troubling times.” 

 I will never forget this historic day when the Jewish community came together in absolute harmony for the people of Israel.