Perhaps the most frequently used saying in our work at the Jewish Federations of North America is “kol yisroel arevim zeh lazeh” – all Jews are responsible for one another. Though it may be often used, I am writing to share with you an example of this principle that truly is extraordinary.
As you know, our Federation annual campaigns are at the heart of our ability to build and sustain flourishing Jewish communities. And at the heart of our flourishing communities is our commitment to supporting the State of Israel and Jews around the world. We have an especially long history and close bond with three organizations, each of which plays a unique role in supporting the Jewish people – the Jewish Agency for Israel, JDC and World ORT. The funds that our Federations and our Network of Independent Communities have allocated to these partners year in and year out have made it possible for them to do the valuable work of protecting Jews around the world, caring for the neediest among our people and connecting our communities – especially our children and young adults – to each other and to Israel. (You can view their thank you letters below).
In the fall of 2019, as a Federation system we established a goal for 2020 of raising and allocating $72M to the Jewish Agency’s core unrestricted operations and $29M to JDC’s core unrestricted operations. Of course, it turned out that we were faced in 2020 with unprecedented needs in our local communities as a result of the COVID pandemic. At the same time, the pandemic significantly disrupted our annual campaign schedules and events. Nevertheless, you – our incredible Federation leaders – understood that our brothers and sisters around the world were also suffering from this crisis, and that we could not shirk our responsibility to help them as well.
It is therefore with enormous pride that I write to share that we didn’t just meet our goal – we exceeded it! Our Federation and Network communities raised and allocated $72.8M for the Jewish Agency and $29.9M for JDC’s core unrestricted needs in 2020. In addition, World ORT will receive an unrestricted allocation of $1.9M, which also exceeded the projected amount. I cannot adequately express my thanks to our donors, our lay leaders and our professionals in each and every community who made this result possible.
Most importantly, we’ve seen these funds at work. With our support, the Jewish Agency created a special security fund for Jewish communities in Europe and South America hit hard by the pandemic and facing rising antisemitic violence. JDC deployed life-saving humanitarian aid for the poor and elderly in hundreds of locations. In Israel, they delivered widespread relief for vulnerable Israelis facing isolation, unemployment and other challenges. The Jewish Agency’s MASA program made it possible for hundreds of our young adults whose colleges and internships were cancelled to come to Israel to live, learn and grow their ties to the Jewish state. And World ORT continued to ensure that students around the world kept learning and building their Jewish identity through customized programming and online experiences.
We are certain that the “extra” funds we have raised in 2020 will make it possible for our partners to meet the increased needs of our most vulnerable individuals and families during this pandemic.
Thank you again for your leadership and commitment. We look forward to building on this success in the year ahead.
Read Thank You Letters
The Jewish Agency for Israel
Mark Wilf is Chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees.