Jewish National Fund-USA’s recently inducted leadership, including Boston board president Rhonda Forman and New England chairperson Risa Aronson, believe the community will continue to provide unprecedented philanthropic support for rebuilding efforts in Israel’s south as the organization moves forward with its Israel Resilience Campaign, which has raised over $50 million to address the immediate and future needs of the Israeli towns hardest hit on Oct. 7.
“We’re under no illusions that the road ahead is easy,” said Forman, who was volunteering in Israel during the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. “It’s not just about resurrecting buildings and infrastructure. The souls of these communities have been damaged in a way that will require a multigenerational response from our Zionist movement.”
While families and communities in the Israel Envelope (formerly known as the Gaza Envelope) have begun to move back from their temporary accommodations, most communities have yet to return.
“By the end of February, 20,000 people from the Israel Envelope will have returned to their homes,” explained Aronson. “Yet it’s impossible for them to return to how life was before. They have suffered so much and experienced the darkest of times. However, that’s why it’s crucial that our New England community band together to help build back these communities in a way that makes them even stronger than before. To succeed, we must make the Israeli towns and villages bordering Gaza the most desirable place to live in all of Israel.”
In early December, Jewish National Fund-USA launched its Volunteer Missions in Israel, which now have over 1,000 people registered. Participants on the five-day missions help local farmers pick fruits and vegetables, carry out civilian functions on army bases and support injured Israelis and those with long-term disabilities in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities.
Sara Hefez, Jewish National Fund-USA’s executive director in New England and the Capital Region, added how inspired she feels by the community’s unprecedented support, saying, “Bostonians, New Englanders and supporters throughout our region have mobilized like never before to support our Jewish homeland. People are giving with their hearts, their dollars and their time. I have been touched by the number of community members, especially those who have never been involved with our campaign before, who have signed up to join one of our volunteer missions. It’s incredible how we all come together during moments like this.”
Those unable to volunteer in Israel can still support the country’s immediate and future needs by contributing to the Israel Resilience Campaign at jnf.org/supportisrael.
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