November 7, 2023

Standing Against Hate, for Israel, and in Solidarity

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

Dear Federation and Community Leaders,

Join us at the March for Israel on November 14th in Washington DC to show our support for Israel, stand in solidarity with the hostages, and condemn antisemitism. Register here, and read this Jerusalem Post article about the March.

Federation funds and supports a special communal security initiative, the Secure Community Network, which helps us protect and keep the community safe. This morning’s briefing included the following information: In the wake of the 7th October Hamas terror attacks on Israel, they’re reporting an unprecedented uptick in incident reports. The 772 incident reports SCN logged in October marks the highest of any month in their nearly 20-year history of tracking data, a 109% increase from the 368 incident reports logged last month (September 2023) and a 192% increase from October 2022. A jarring 19% of of these October incidents have originated from campus settings, with 149 documented instances of incidents like harassment, violence, and death threats, among others. SCN is on pace to refer over 800 individuals to law enforcement in 2023, outpacing last year’s total of 770, with 148 referrals in October alone.

My outstanding colleague Michael Masters, SCN’s exec, says that this historic number of incident reports concerning Jewish safety and security is a sign of the heightened threat risk North American Jews face, and underscores the need for vigilance and preparation within our communities. I’m glad that our colleagues across the federation system are actively collaborating with federal, state, and local security partners, and providing Jewish institutions with up-to-date guidance, tools, and intelligence to help address the security challenges of this fluid and dynamic threat environment. While there are no active credible threats, we and they will continue to provide support, resources, and guidance to ensure that everyone can continue to practice Jewish lives safely and freely.

I’m sorry to tell you that a Jewish man has died after a pro-Palestinian protester struck him in the head with a megaphone on Sunday, according to our colleagues in the Los Angeles Jewish Federation. The altercation occurred at a pro-Palestinian protest on Sunday in Westlake Village in the Los Angeles area. According to a statement by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the man was struck in the head with a megaphone held by one of the protesters and died of his wounds on Monday. JTA has confirmed that the man’s name is Paul Kessler, z”l. A Jewish security official confirmed the account of how he died. A brief video circulating on social media shows an elderly man in a blue-and-white striped shirt and jeans laying on a sidewalk and clutching his head in a pool of blood. A person wearing pro-Palestinian symbols crouches down to tend to him, as does another man wearing the same outfit as him. An Israeli flag is leaning against a nearby wall. “We are devastated to learn of the tragic death of an elderly Jewish man who was struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor in Westlake Village,” the Federation statement says. “Our hearts are with the family of the victim [and] We remind you that this is the fourth major antisemitic crime committed in Los Angeles this year alone. Violence against our people has no place in civilized society. We demand safety. We will not tolerate violence against our community. We will do everything in our power to prevent it.” Former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who sits in Israel’s war cabinet, said that Kessler’s death is “a warning light that must resonate throughout the world.” Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid posted on X that Kessler was killed “because he was a Jew.” “It is not because of Gaza, it is because of antisemitism,” Lapid continued. “This is what happens when protesters glorify Hamas and call to ‘globalize the intifada.’”

Israelis held a day of mourning today, marking the shloshim, the traditional one-month period, since the October 7 massacres. It’s confirmed that 31 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground offensive began, and 240 hostages are being held by Hamas in Gaza. In addition, over the last week, the IDF has struck more than 2,500 Hamas targets by land, air and sea. A 20-year old olah chadasha (Israeli new immigrant) from Atlanta, Georgia, Rose Ida Lubin, was killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem yesterday. The Israeli-American was serving as a Border Police Officer when she was stabbed by a 16 year-old Palestinian. Read more here.

Israel Defense Forces Operations
The ground operation continues in full force. Last night the IDF took control of a Hamas military outpost in the heart of Gaza City, locating anti-tank launchers and missiles, weapons, and intelligence materials at the site. Troops also found rocket launchers inside a youth group clubhouse (see video here) and others launched from a mosque (video here). Israeli planes, directed by ground troops, also struck a cell of 10 Hamas members who identified the terrorists and directed an aerial attack on the outpost. Troops later identified an anti-tank squad operating nearby and directed an additional airstrike.

Also overnight, the military targeted dozens of positions for mortar launches into Israel, while naval forces attacked a number of Hamas targets, using precision weaponry. The IDF also says that it is stepping up efforts to find and destroy Hamas tunnels. See video of the operations here and of an IDF explanation here.

Israel again opened a humanitarian corridor in Gaza, to allow those civilians who have remained in the north to escape to the southern part of the Strip. The safe passage was open from 10:00am – 2:00pm. Watch video here of civilians using the route to escape south. Israeli sources reported that more than 7.5 million gallons of water are now entering Gaza daily with the opening of a second pipeline from Israel. The Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry says that over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, as a result of the war. Hezbollah says that 63 of its fighters have been killed on the northern front.

The Home Front
The country continues to mourn the massacre of October 7:

  • Watch here the full interview that Piers Morgan conducted with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog about October 7, and the war that has followed.
  • Read this article where Avihai Brodutch, 42, describes “31 days of agony,” not knowing how his hostage family is being treated and feeling powerless to help.
  • The Knesset passed a law that would allow the families of people who are missing or were kidnapped to receive the same compensation given to families of fallen soldiers. The law also contained an amendment dealing with the families of fallen soldiers, adding the partners and spouses in single-sex relationships to be considered as IDF widows and widowers.
  • Separately, the Knesset cut its own budget by $20 million, redirecting those funds to the benefit of the war effort.
  • Three survivors of the Rave massacre gave a moving interview on the UK’s Channel Four. See more here.
  • Read here about the North American Jewish community marking 30 days since the October 7 massacres.
  • An Israeli-Bedouin family from Tel Sheva is offering $1 million for information regarding the Hamas terrorists who killed their son Osama Abu Assa on October 7. Read more here.

The level of rocket fire from Gaza remains low, although there is at least one major barrage per day, sending millions to their shelters, and exposing them to the very loud iron dome interceptions above major cities. In the North, Hezbollah has continued its medium-intensity attacks across the border, while the IDF strikes at cells and the sources of fire. Read this background piece on why a second front does not seem to be opening up.

International Response
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his first interview with foreign press since October 7, speaking to ABC yesterday, just after he held another phone conversation with U.S. President Joe Biden. During the interview, Netanyahu said that Israel will need to keep “security control” over Gaza for an “indefinite period.” Watch the full interview here. Separately, Netanyahu met with foreign ambassadors based in Israel and told them that, “If we don’t win, Europe will be next… There is no substitute for victory. This battle is your battle and our victory is your victory.” See video here and read the Prime Minister’s full remarks here.

Meanwhile. former Israeli ambassador Alon Roth-Snir was appointed as coordinator of international efforts for the release of hostages in Gaza. Roth-Snir previously served as Israel’s envoy in Norway, as well as deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Strategic Affairs unit.

It has been confirmed that the U.S.’ proposed $14 billion aid package to Israel, will contain significant funds for Iron Dome expansion, including 100 new anti-rocket interceptors.

The United Arab Emirates is setting up a field hospital at the edge of the Gaza Strip with some 150 beds, a surgery department and intensive care units for adults and children. Five aircraft flew out of Abu Dhabi for Arish in northern Egypt today, carrying equipment and supplies for the facility.

South Africa has decided to withdraw all of its diplomats from Tel Aviv for consultations for what it called Israeli “genocide under the watch of the international community,” Minister Khumbudzo Ntshaveni announced following a South African cabinet meeting on Monday.

See this very interesting photo, from a historical perspective, of the commander of the German Air Force donating blood in Tel Aviv’s Sheba Hospital earlier today.

Efforts on the Ground
Israelis of all stripes have come together to support soldiers and bolster morale in the country, many sharing inspiring tales.

  • A second intake of 120 ultra-Orthodox volunteers was drafted into the IDF yesterday.
  • The Resilience for Our Children program is supporting the emotional and mental well-being of approximately 9,600 children and youth aged 6 to 18 in Sderot and the Eshkol Regional Council. Founded and led by social entrepreneur Ronny Douek, and supported by Jewish Federations, the program has already been funded with $7.7 million, including a personal donation of $1.3 million from Douek himself. Read more here.
  • A group of non-Jewish cowboys from Montana and Arkansas have arrived in Israel to volunteer in the south and help Israel. See here.
  • The owners of a small plant nursery in Kibbutz Be’eri, thought they had lost their business when they evacuated. When they returned for the first time, a month later, they discovered that soldiers had broken into the nursery. They discovered a small miracle – their thriving nursery and a handwritten note explaining. “Sorry we broke into the nursery, we had to water the plants. With love, the soldiers.”
  • Watch this unique, Gaza War-style, gender reveal from an IDF soldier expecting a child.


Other Resources

  • Local Authorities: Jewish Federations have produced a document answering questions about funding impacted localities and municipalities in Israel. See here.
  • Volunteering: Birthright Israel has opened a volunteering program, where people from outside of Israel can come to Tel Aviv and take part in food rescue operations to prevent shortages in the Israeli market, including work to sort, pack and distribute goods for civil and military personnel.
  • Critical Information: For those in Israel looking for help, critical information about the situation on the ground, or other assistance, see this resource page put together by Jewish Federations.
  • Supplying Protective Equipment: See also this Jewish Federations information page on requests for personal protective equipment which are circulating and this update regarding volunteering.
  • Read the latest communication from the Community Mobilization Center here.

Jewish Federations
Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel Emergency Fund has surpassed $600 million, $148 million of which has already been allocated to the most pressing needs on the ground through 116 partner organizations and NGOs. Read more. And click here for the latest allocations report.

JDC Webinar: Federation partner JDC will be holding a webinar exploring the latest in the war, and its own activities bringing relief. The webinar will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, November 8th at 12:00 PM (ET). Register here.

Jewish Agency Webinar: Federation partner The Jewish Agency for Israel will also be holding a webinar on “Antisemitism on College Campuses Since October 7.” It will take place Thursday, November 9, at 11am EDT, and will feature Adam Lehman, CEO of Hillel International; Amira Ahronoviz, CEO & Director General of The Jewish Agency for Israel; Campus Leaders; Jewish Agency Israel Fellows & American Jewish student leaders. Register here.

Knesset: The heads of Jewish Federations of North America have received a letter from the Knesset, thanking the community for its unprecedented support during the country’s dark hour. See the letter here.

With prayers for peace, and the safe return of the hostages,

Chief Executive Officer