December 20, 2023

Overhead, Overheard, Overall

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

I’ve been focused these past few days on our professional staff. I know that the out-facing stuff we do is inspiring and important, but all that requires a well-trained and motivated professional team (as well as our amazing lay leadership) to get us there. As I told some colleagues the other day, each one of them is a blessing for our community. No community is ever successful because its nonprofits are lean and have tiny administrative costs. It’s successful because it’s filled with generosity, talent and vision. I really love this picture, shared from my colleague Naomi Korb Weiss, because it’s a good reminder of what impact can look like when you invest properly in great people – you get to do more. In Naomi’s words, “I think the main point of the graphic … is not just that charity B helps more people, but that it was ABLE to grow and scale to that level of influence BECAUSE of the significant overhead it invested.”

So, remember that the “overhead” means program delivery to keep the organization you love today so that it’ll be there tomorrow: the back office, the finances, the upkeep. But also to keep the cemeteries running, the professionals smart, the audits thoughtful. Not just to pay for the training, the computer, the connection, and the paper. But also to give food to Holocaust survivors, services for those in need. To educate. To fight antisemitism.
The rescue operations, the relief programs, the security platforms all need you, and it’s almost the end of the year. Take a minute, please, and donate to help our community and Israel here – don’t just do good. Do great. Donate before the end of the year.
Anyway, take a look at this excellent article by my colleague Dan Elbaum, North American President of our federation partner the Jewish Agency for Israel, on Israel’s non-Jewish citizens. As the only Jewish Federation to have a partnership with an Arab Druze community in Israel, the beautiful town of Hurfeish, this speaks to us especially. Hurfeish, like the wider Druze community, has lost many of its sons fighting in the IDF, and we’re grateful for them, for our partnership, and for their service.
So here we are. Day 75 of the war. As fighting continues, additional IDF soldiers have been killed, bringing the total number of IDF casualties since the ground offensive began to 134, (and to 466 since October 7). Multiple, unconfirmed reports have emerged that “intensive” talks are taking place in Egypt over a possible deal for the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has arrived in Cairo to take part. According to some news outlets, Hamas would return 40 hostages it is holding, in exchange for hundreds of Hamas prisoners (including some accused of serious offenses) as well as a week-long ceasefire. Hamas is demanding a ceasefire while a deal is negotiated, but Israel says that any ceasefire will only begin once a deal is in place.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Operations

The IDF carried out strikes against more than 300 targets in the Gaza Strip over the past day. Some of the strikes were directed by ground forces against Hamas operatives amid battles. The IDF is also slowly announcing that it has largely completed its operations in certain areas. Today, the military said that it has concluded the full conquest of the Jabaliya neighborhood in Gaza. See the footage here. Earlier today, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel would bring senior leaders of Hamas “to the place they deserve – either the cemetery or prison.” According to Israel’s TV Channel 13, IDF troops have twice managed to reach tunnels in Gaza in recent days where they believe Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar was hiding just before they arrived. The report said that the IDF has primarily focused its activities in and around the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis to achieve its goal of assassinating Sinwar.

The director of Gaza’s Kamal Adwan hospital in Gaza has revealed in a Shin Bet interrogation that his hospital was turned into a military facility under Hamas’s control and that at one point, it had housed a kidnapped soldier. In this footage, hospital director Ahmed Kahlot can be seen telling authorities that Hamas had offices inside the hospital and used it as a base for operational activity. According to Kahlot, who said he had been a lieutenant colonel in Hamas since 2010, some 16 members of the hospital’s staff — including doctors, nurses, and paramedics — were Hamas operatives serving in the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the terror organization.


Hamas rocket attacks on Israel have been reduced to a sporadic level. Nonetheless, yesterday, four rockets were launched at Israel’s center, including Tel Aviv. One rocket fell into the sea, while Iron Dome successfully intercepted the other three. Millions of citizens were forced to take shelter. The rockets were launched from within the Moassi area of the Gaza Strip, designated as a safe zone by Israel and populated by displaced Palestinians.

In the north, Hezbollah seems to have slowly increased its level of rocket and other fire against Israeli targets. Yesterday, rockets hit a home in Kiryat Shmona causing damage, but no injuries (as most of the city’s population has been evacuated).

In the Red Sea, Israel and the United States military continue to shoot down missiles fired at commercial shipping vessels, by Iran-back Houthi rebels in Yemen.


Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have released videos depicting a total of five of the hostages being held, mainly elderly men. Israel describes the videos as “psychological warfare,” and media outlets have agreed not to screen the footage. While families of the captives were highly distressed by the scenes – which depict the men in poor health – all said they were relieved to know that their loved ones were still alive.

It is believed that 128 hostages remain in Gaza, following the earlier truce deal that freed 105. Four hostages were released before that, and one was rescued by troops. The bodies of 8 hostages have also been recovered and 3 hostages were mistakenly killed by the IDF. The military has also confirmed the deaths of 21 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. This likely leaves just over 100 living hostages, among them, 8 US citizens.

International Response

The Washington Post reports that US President Joe Biden wants Israel to move to a less intense stage of battle soon, “ideally” by the end of this calendar year in just under two weeks, despite US insistence that it is not putting a timetable on Israel’s military campaign. According to the newspaper, a 20-page document drawn up by the State Department lays out options for a post-war Gaza, increasingly managed by Palestinians.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has watched the IDF’s 47-minute film of Hamas atrocities, which we’ve started to show to leadership here in the Greater MetroWest community. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said that Guterres called it “humanity at its worst.” He added, “Now we will see if (Guterres’) public statements change and if he truly understands Israel’s mission to eradicate this evil from the face of the earth and bring home the hostages. If the UN held to its founding principles, we would have heard this on the first day of the war.”

American Jewish comedian Jerry Seinfeld visited the Gaza border community of Kibbutz Be’eri on Tuesday during a wartime solidarity trip to Israel. Along with his wife Jessica Sklar, Seinfeld met with Yuval Haran, whose father Avshalom was murdered on October 7. Seinfeld was reported to have expressed his admiration for the residents’ resilience and told them that he was “proud to be an ambassador for spreading the truth throughout the world.” See the photo here. Also Debra Messing, who has been a source of pride for so many of us since speaking at the DC Rally last month.

Interesting Stuff…

Israelis of all ages have volunteered for IDF reserve duty, even when no longer obligated to do so. See this awesome photo of reserve soldiers Martin Holt 87 years old (right), Ezra Yachin 95 years old (in the center), and Nacha Gilboa 85 years old (left). Yachin has fought in every war since 1948.High civilian toll in Gaza is the cost of crushing Hamas, Israeli military officials say

Israel’s Embattled but Resilient Economy

‘Friendly fire,’ that horrific oxymoron – Former Ambassador Michael Oron

Jewish Federations have now raised a total of more than $762 million system-wide and allocated over $265 million to a wide range of humanitarian organizations in Israel. Click here for our latest allocations update.