November 27, 2023

What Not to Do

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

Dear Federation and Community Leaders,

It’s Giving Tuesday tomorrow. I’ve been asked by several people this weekend what my thoughts are about this. I posted a short video online, but here’s the essence:

Don’t give to the organizations that doubleside hate against Jews, the ones who call rapists and murderers “militants.”
Don’t give to the colleges that refuse to protect our kids, who downplay the intimidation, harassment, and Jew-hate on campus.
Don’t give to the fake friends and absent allies, whom we expected to stand with us as we stood with them, who disappeared – or worse – after October 7th.

Give to what you love.
Give to what makes your heart soar. To your community, to Israel.
To fight Jew-hate and to ensure safety.
To care for those in need.
To build Jewish community.
And to save lives.

For me, that means our community’s emergency fund for Israel – we’ve made more allocations this week for victims of terror, trauma relief, respite care, and more – and for our United Jewish Appeal, to make sure we’re constantly vigilant and ready to respond. Please give tomorrow, generously.

We’re watching the huge spike in Jew-hate and demonization of Israel on American college campuses. The number of incidents and level of vitriol has reached unprecedented levels in the last six weeks. But the delegitimization of Israel has been a growing phenomenon on American college campuses for the last 25 years. Our Jewish Federation saw this happening years ago and responded proactively. Through our Teen Israel Leadership Council (and before it, Write On For Israel) our JCRC has recruited top high school juniors and seniors for a two-year fellowship designed to position them for Jewish leadership on campus by teaching them about Israel’s history and current events and preparing them to make Israel’s case on campus. Since 2002, more than 175 Greater MetroWest public, private and Jewish day school students have graduated from this leadership program; many have led their Hillel and campus AIPAC groups; all report a greater level of confidence in standing up to Israel’s detractors on campus.  Since October 7th, alumni have been in direct contact with JCRC Director Linda Scherzer for help dealing with specific situations.

For Jewish college students attending one of the six local GMW universities, our Hillel Director and JCRC Director have provided support, guidance and educational opportunities to help students deal with a multitude of challenges, from antisemitism on social media, to harassment  at pro-Palestinian protests. We coordinate with law enforcement, campus security and administration officials to make sure that our students are safe and supported, and work closely with colleagues at ADL and others to evaluate when incidents of free speech cross the line and need to be reported to the NJ Attorney-General’s office and Department on Civil Rights.

Hostage Release

  • As part of a deal negotiated by Qatar (with assistance from the United States and Egypt) 39 Israeli hostages have now been released from Hamas captivity and have been reunited with their families in Israel, in three separate groups, over the last three days.
  • The hostages set free have mainly been young children, their mothers, and elderly women. In addition, one young man with dual Israeli-Russian citizenship, Roni Krivoi, was released as a gesture to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Krivoi initially managed to escape from Hamas and hide in Gaza for four days before being recaptured. Krivoi had initially been held in a building that ended up collapsing as a result of IDF airstrikes and then managed to make it out and flee. He then hid alone for several days, but Gazan residents captured him and returned him to Hamas.
  • As well as the Israeli hostages, some 18 foreign laborers, mainly from Thailand, have also been released, while 15 more Thai workers remain captive.
  • An additional set of 11 hostages looks likely to be released later today.
  • In exchange for those let out, Israel has released 117 terrorists from prison and granted a four-day ceasefire. Those released were all women and under-18 minors, many serving sentences for attempted murder, stabbings, and other terror attacks.
  • If Hamas agrees to release additional prisoners, Israel will let out three imprisoned terrorists for every hostage, as well as grant an additional day of ceasefire for every 10 hostages let go.
  • While each release has been received with immense joy; celebrations are often bittersweet. Almost all of the hostages still have immediate family members being held in Gaza, and most have come out to discover that loved ones had been killed on October 7.
  • Despite the hostage deal stipulating that minors would be released together with their mothers, Hila Rotem, 13 years old, returned Saturday night from captivity alone. She told Israeli media today that her mother was present with her during the entire period of captivity, except for the last two days. “Hamas separated us two days before the liberation,” she said.
  • Most hostages have been released in reasonable health, although many had lost considerable weight. See emerging details on their conditions in captivity.
  • Nonetheless, one of the hostages, 84-year-old Elma Avraham, was returned in critical condition and is now fighting for her life in Beer Sheba’s Soroka hospital. Her family says that she was not given critical medications during her captivity and was mistreated.
  • Israel has said that the last-minute confusion, stalling, misinformation and uncertainty surrounding each release is a psychological warfare tactic being used by Hamas.
  • new opinion poll shows that the majority of Israelis see the release of the hostages as the number one goal of the war, followed by toppling Hamas.

Israel Defense Forces Operations

  • As part of the hostage deal, Israel has paused all operations in Gaza. The deal also includes six hours per day when Israel suspends drone movement over Gaza.
  • The IDF says that it will continue its war on Hamas, to eliminate the terror organization, as soon as the ceasefire expires.
  • Hamas announced on Sunday that the IDF eliminated the Commander of the Northern Brigade Ahmad Al Ghandour and the Commander of the Rocket Division Ayman Siam a few weeks ago. Al Ghandour was one of the senior members of the terrorist organization, and leader of the armed forces in one of five regions in Gaza, and has been in his position for at least 18 years, and is a key personality in the organization’s hierarchy. See more here.
  • Just before the cease-fire took effect, the IDF confirmed that it had arrested the director of Shifa Hospital. The IDF said that the director was apprehended and taken in for questioning following evidence showing that the Hospital, under his direct management, served as a Hamas command and control center. An underground tunnel and numerous supply caches belonging to Hamas have been located in the hospital since the IDF entered the building last week. IDF footage of the building proves that the terrorists made their way to the hospital, bringing the hostages with them. The attack itself, it is believed, was planned in the hospital. The IDF has since published additional footage from some of the tunnels under the hospital, including blast doors, command centers, functional sinks and restrooms, and evidence that the hostages were held there for some time.
  • Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Gaza yesterday, where he received security briefings with commanders and soldiers and visited one of the tunnels that has been uncovered. “We are here in the Gaza Strip with our heroic soldiers. We are making every effort to return our hostages, and in the end, we will return them all. We have three goals in this war: Eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages, and ensure that Gaza will not go back to being a threat to the State of Israel. I am here to tell the soldiers, who all tell me the same thing, and I repeat it to you, citizens of Israel: We are continuing until the end – until victory. Nothing will stop us, and we are convinced that we have the force, the strength, the will, and the determination to achieve all of our goals for the war, and this is what we will do.” See more here.
  • The IDF coordinated the entry of 200 trucks of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, 42 of which were loaded with shelter equipment (see photos). As part of this aid, some 3,600 tons of tents, blankets, and mattresses have been transferred to the civilian population ahead of the winter. Over 2,000 trucks have entered the Gaza Strip since the start of the war, transferring water, food, supplies, and medical equipment.
  • While Hezbollah is not a formal party to the ceasefire agreement, the Lebanese terror group has also refrained from firing rockets at Israel since the deal began.
  • The Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry says that over 13,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, as a result of the war.

 International Response

  • US President Joe Biden spoke on the phone with relatives of the 4-year-old Israeli-American who was released from Hamas captivity. Avigail Idan was freed on Sunday, over 50 days after Hamas terrorists murdered her parents in Kibbutz Kfar Azza. Idan saw her mother Smadar killed in front of her and then ran to her father Roee who shielded her with his body as terrorists shot him dead. She then ran to a neighbor’s home, where she was kidnapped along with the others inside.
  • Israel’s President Isaac Herzog today welcomed President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier who is making a solidarity visit to Israel. The German Chancellor visited Israel on a similar mission last month.
  • The Prime Minister of Ireland has been widely condemned for tweeting that the Israeli hostage children were “lost” and had now been “found,” as opposed to “kidnapped.” Read more.
  • Tech leader and X owner Elon Musk arrived in Israel today to meet with Israeli politicians and victims of the October 7 attacks. Musk visited by Kibbutz Kfar Azza – among the worst hit on October 7 – together with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Musk was shown some of the horrors of the Hamas attack and visited the home of the Israeli-American toddler Avigail Idan, 4, who was kidnapped to Gaza and was released yesterday as part of the hostage deal.

Stories Of Heartbreak, Heroism And Hope

  • See details, photos, and moving videos of hostages being reunited with their families.
  • Nine-year-old Irish-Israeli girl Emily Hand was among those released. Due to confusion, her family had originally been told that she had been killed. Read more.
  • More than 17,000 babies have been born in Israel since October 7, many given names like “Yisrael Chai,” (Israel Lives). There have also been 45 called “Be’eri” (named after the Kibbutz that was hit so hard that day), and 3 called “Nova,” after the Rave where hundreds of young people were murdered. Read more.
  • Watch here as released hostages Ohad Monder (aged 9), his mother Keren, and his grandmother Ruthie are reunited with Ohad’s father at an Israeli hospital.
  • Read about HaOgen, an Israeli organization supporting families of those reserve soldiers called up during the current war. HaOgen has received funding from the Jewish Federations’ Israel Emergency Fund.
  • Watch as Doron Asher and her two toddler girls, Aviv (2.5) and Raz (4.5), released from Hamas captivity on Friday night, are reunited with the family’s father Yoni.

 Further Reading

  • Op-ed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “If Hamas and Iran win, the rest of the civilized world is next.”
  • Read Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog’s opinion piece in Newsweek, expressing the sense of outrage and betrayal over the international community’s failure to condemn the use of gender-based sexual violence by Hamas. The op-ed was published ahead of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and following the widespread testimonies and evidence of rape and molestation of dozens of women by Hamas terrorists in the attack on Israel on October 7.
  • See this background on the legal aspects of hostage exchanges.
  • Read more about the relationship between Hamas and Iran.
  • Jewish Federations have now raised a total of more than $659 million system-wide and allocated close to $200 million to a wide range of humanitarian organizations in Israel. See our impact stats.

With prayers for the safe return of all the hostages,

Chief Executive Officer