October 27, 2023

Before Shabbat

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

Dear Federation and Community Leaders,

Several people have asked me to comment on the issue of the push for a ceasefire.

A ceasefire now would leave tens of thousands of rapists, killers, and kidnappers free and roaming their tunnels, holding hostages. When the Allies fought the Nazis in the Second World War, they didn’t cease fire to relieve the German civilian suffering. They knew that the future of the civilized world depended on prosecuting the war until evil was completely stamped out. Would more innocent civilians be harmed? Yes. Were there innocent German civilians mingled among the guilty? Yes.

It’s important to remember that thousands of Palestinian civilians rushed into Israel on October 7th, looting, killing, raping, and kidnapping. There is much guilt that isn’t just resting with Hamas. So when we talk about what the day-after looks like, we have to start with understanding that we can never have a situation like what we saw on October 7th again. There will have to be a denazification process among civilians. Every rapist, killer, kidnapper, has to face justice. War has started. And it will be the front line for humanity, decency, and civilization against rapists and kidnappers.

Regarding Monday’s planned, potentially-cancelled/postponed walk out by West Orange high school students: we’ve been aware of it, and we’ve been in close touch with law-enforcement. We respected the rights afforded by the First Amendment. And yet, we were deeply disturbed by the flyer sent out by a small group of West Orange students, urging fellow students to resist the “genocide of Palestinians.” Our Holocaust Education Council Director is following up with West Orange school officials to provide educational programming. And we’ve been in touch with West Orange Mayor Susan McCartney and we’re grateful for her support. We’re also tracking the Attorney General and Governor’s responses to the hate crime in front of Rutgers Hillel this morning, where fake bullets were left as a threat. Most importantly, we’re waiting for a clear call from President Holloway that this evil terrorist bullying is unacceptable, will be investigated, and that Rutgers will take immediate steps to protect its Jewish students. Anything less than that can never be forgiven.

I’m really proud to tell you that Jewish Federations have collectively raised $554 million for the Israel Emergency Campaign. The campaign was launched on October 12th with an initial goal of $500 million. To date, $111 million have been allocated to more than 60 organizations in Israel to support frontline communities, the Fund for Victims of Terror, trauma relief, medical equipment, support for first responders and volunteer efforts. One hundred percent of all funds raised are making it into the hands of the organizations that can do the most good on the ground. You can see more information here.

Also: check out this beautiful, and deeply meaningful memorial page on our website, mourning those we’ve lost from our partnership communities. This made me cry.

At the end of third week of the War with Hamas, Israel sent tanks and troops into Gaza for the second time. They went in overnight for a limited incursion that struck terrorists and sites on the ground. The raid, in eastern Gaza City, was carried out by infantry, combat engineering and armored forces, with Israeli Air Force drones and helicopters providing air cover. All Israeli forces left the areas several hours later, and no injuries to IDF troops were reported. See footage from the incursion here and video from the command center during the operation, here.

Once again, sporadic heavy rocket attacks from Gaza were launched against Israeli targets yesterday, including strikes directed at Tel Aviv, Petah Tikvah, Jaffa, Bnei Brak, Rishon LeZion, Ramat Gan, Herzliya, Holon, and Givatayim. One rocket caused damage, but no injuries, in Rehovot.

Israel continues to strike Hamas targets from the air. One attack yesterday killed the deputy head of Hamas’s intelligence directorate, Shadi Barud, while another hit the head of Hamas’s North Khan Younis rocket array, Hassan al-Abdullah. In the evening, an IDF strike killed three senior commanders in Hamas’s Daraj-Tuffah Battalion: the battalion’s commander, Rifaat Abbas; the deputy commander, Ibrahim Jadba; and a combat support commander, Tarek Maarouf.

In the north, attacks by Hezbollah, followed by Israeli reprisals continue daily. Yesterday, the IDF targeted a cell of terrorists who attempted to launch anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) from Lebanese territory towards an IDF position on the border. An Israeli UAV struck the terrorist position in response to the attack.

Meanwhile, on the Home Front, citizens of all stripes are contributing to the war effort. A study just released showed that 48% of Israelis have participated actively in some form of volunteer activity since the war began, including 3% from Israel’s Arab sector. In total, there are over 1,000 civilian initiatives in support of the IDF and of the communities that have been displaced in the south and in the north. Over 240 “command centers” for civilian volunteer operations have been set up around the country to coordinate these activities. See also, this article on why the ultra-Orthodox are suddenly enlisting in significant numbers in the IDF.

In a sign of both increasing American and Iranian involvement, the U.S. military used precision strikes in Syria, to attack weapons and ammunition storage areas that were connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Two F-16 fighter jets carried out the sortie on sites near the town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border. See this analysis by Ehud Ya’ari, one of Israel’s top specialists on the Muslim world, on Iranian involvement in the conflict.

Read this article by JUF Jewish Federation of Chicago’s Israel representative, “Resetting the Israel-Diaspora Relationship” in light of the war. And read this account from one IDF Givati Company Commander who grabbed his weapon and headed south when fighting broke out on October 7. As the war continues, so does Aliyah. Yesterday, 26 French Jews immigrated to Israel together. See more here.

Shabbat Shalom, may it be peaceful and filled with love. And may those in need of healing and support find it this weekend.

Chief Executive Officer