Israel is at war with terrorist groups in Gaza, who have mounted an unprecedented offensive that has already killed at least 40 Israelis and injured hundreds. Our Jewish Federations colleagues on the ground are assessing the situation, in close touch with our partners at the Jewish Agency, JDC, and local Federation partners. My colleague Eric Fingerhut is in Israel, coordinating with our Israel office on the response. One of our beloved GMW friends, Ofir Libstein, Mayor of Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, was killed while fighting terrorists who entered his Kibbutz. There are other casualties, including from Kibbutz Erez and among our Federation staff’s families. Michal our Federation Director and her kids are safe and in a protected room. There are reports of kidnappings and burning houses.In the coming hours, we will send more comprehensive updates, including an announcement for a webinar update to be held tomorrow.
If there are emergency funds needed, we’ll update, but our priority is to support the United Jewish Appeal, which is our community’s immediate emergency response for all crises, and will be used first to support immediate needs on the ground. Donate here Our Chief Security Officer sent out an update and instructions to all synagogues and agencies this morning, advising them of the situation. In the conclusion he wrote: While there is no evidence of any related threats to Greater MetroWest, given that Saturday and Sunday are the concluding days of the holiday of Sukkot, we are advising Jewish institutions in our area to raise their level of vigilance. As we have seen during past conflicts between Israel and Hamas, there have been spontaneous eruptions of violence directed at Jewish communities that were triggered by conflict in the Middle East. The Greater MetroWest Community Security Initiative (CSI) is in direct contact with local law enforcement in our region and we have requested increased patrols in Jewish neighborhoods, near Jewish institutions especially as this holiday season concludes. We are also in contact with our partners including the Community Security Service (CSS) and their security teams. If you have any concerns or see anything suspicious, please be in contact directly with your local law enforcement and your CSI Regional Director. In the meantime, you will shortly see a statement showing our full solidarity and support of Israel. Once again, on a holy day of the Jewish calendar, the people of Israel have come under attack. Once again, the brave military forces of the State of Israel are responding and will defend our beloved Jewish state. And once again the Jewish communities of North America stand in total and complete solidarity with our Israeli brethren. We pray for their safety and will do everything we can to ensure the complete and total success of their efforts. And once again our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest will act immediately and comprehensively to support our families and friends as they defend Israel. The prayer for the State of Israel we recite in synagogue every week – including this morning – says ונתת שלום בארץ ושמחת עולם ליושביה – “Grant peace in the land and happiness to all its residents.” On this day, which is the holiday of Simchat Torah in Israel – we literally sing and dance with simcha – with happiness. Today is not a day of simcha in Israel, but it is a day of solidarity, determination and utmost seriousness. Israel will prevail and the Jewish people will stand together as we always do. Am yisrael chai.