On Oct. 25, 2023, just 18 days since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, we announced that CJP’s Israel Emergency Fund has raised $45 million from nearly 5,000 donors, who contributed gifts ranging from $2 to several million dollars. And this is just the beginning.
Please find the transcript from the press conference below.
Rabbi Marc Baker, President and CEO, Combined Jewish Philanthropies:
On the morning of October 7th, on what was supposed to be the most joyous festive holiday of the year, we awoke to learn that Israel had been brutally attacked by the terrorist group Hamas.
What unfolded was the worst, most brutal massacre of innocent Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas murdered and mutilated over 1,400 people, including men, women, babies, grandparents — wiping out entire families, devastating entire communities. There’s at least 4,000 people injured. There’s more than 200 captives being held in Gaza — not only Israelis, but citizens of the United States and other countries around the world.
We should all join the worldwide call for their immediate release and their safe return home. Here in Boston, our Jewish community and our Greater Boston community have deep personal ties to Israel. We have tens of thousands of Israelis living here. And for all of us, in one way or another, this is personal. This is a moment of tremendous heartbreak and grief.
We grieve for our Israeli brothers and sisters. We grieve for this crime against humanity. In our Jewish tradition, we see every human life as sacred, as created in the image of God, and we grieve over the loss of any innocent life at the hands of this inhumane terrorist organization, sworn to the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel. Together with Israel, with the leaders of this country and leaders from around the world, we are also hearing the call of history right now.
Israelis are as united as ever. Their spirits are resilient and strong as they fight this war to defend their citizens and their future. Here in North America, Jewish Federations of North America and our North American community has announced a $500 million emergency relief effort. And here in Boston, CJP, together with our partners, with friends from across this community, has mobilized to do whatever we can to help.
Today, just 18 days since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, I announce — with extraordinary gratitude — that CJP’s Israel Emergency Fund has raised, so far, $45 million. This historic level of support has come from nearly 5,000 donors, with gifts beginning at $2 and extending up into the millions. I could not be prouder today to say that I am from Boston, and to say that we stand with Israel, and we stand together for our shared humanity.
This outpouring of support has been overwhelming. Every person I talk to asks, “What can I do to help?” “Where can I give?” The solidarity and the unity that we are feeling from the leadership of this country — from elected officials and from our friends and allies — gives us hope during this incredibly difficult time. And it’s especially meaningful right now because as Israel is fighting this war with Hamas, here at home we are seeing a shocking and frightening rise in hate against Israel and hate against Jews — both here in this community and across the country — with people marching on college campuses and in the streets of Boston, denying this attack and defending and celebrating Hamas.
Many in our community are wondering, “Can we feel safe here?” And that’s why all of the expressions of love and support that we are receiving from so many across this community and every single gift to this emergency fund, no matter how large, is a reminder to all of us that we stand together in this incredibly challenging time — that we are united in our fight against terror and in our fight for humanity.
Together, we will build a world of compassion, goodness, and light. Thank you. Now, I’d like to turn it over to my colleague, Dr. Sarah Abramson, who will share a bit more about the fund and the impact it’s already having.
Sarah Abramson, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Impact, Combined Jewish Philanthropies:
Thank you, Marc. And thank you to Boston’s community, the Jewish community, and beyond. Together, with a task force of eight volunteers, I have the sacred responsibility of distributing this unbelievable generosity to and from our community to the people, the places, our friends, our family in Israel that need it the most. To date, the task force has already distributed $9.25 million, with 100% of those funds going to people and places in Israel that we hold dear and who are in pain.
Each single dollar is a gift from a person in our community. It is for the murdered, the traumatized, and for the people who are working and not sleeping to pick up the pieces. It is given to us, entrusted to us at CJP in the spirit of thousands of years of a people who have been unwanted, turned away, and harmed.
In community and with resilience, we have always come back more compassionate, more passionate, more steadfast in our belief in Israel, her right and need to exist, and in our personal commitment and connection to her people. The people of Israel are suffering. The worldwide Jewish community suffers with them. But what a blessing to live in Boston, to be part of a community who is part of that thousand-year-old chain that says, “We will step up and hear the call.”
And Boston has done that again. Whether it’s the bar mitzvah boy who turned over his celebration to be about collecting funds, and in one evening, raised $7,709 for this fund. What about the children at school who went home and baked furiously, messing up their kitchens, so that they could give the proceeds from the bake sale to the people who need it most in Israel?
They are feeding the bodies and the soul of a people and her homeland. We are grateful for every brownie, for every call, for every dollar. But we recognize that this is urgent, and we call for more. We need more brownies, more dollars, and more calls. Our team is doing a needs assessment and working directly with organizations on the ground.
There are indescribable humanitarian needs and our incredible $45 million is only going to let us get started. So far, we have funded emergency medical and trauma response, like the Israeli Trauma Coalition. We have fought hard to support kibbutzim on the front lines that need to be rebuilt. We have funded entrepreneurial mobilization organizations like the Civil Situation Room.
And that is just the beginning. We hear small stories of children who throw up every single time they hear an air siren go off. These are mental health needs that are going to traumatize people for life, and we will be there with them, providing mental health first aid. Homes are gone. Lives are destroyed. But we are still here and we will rebuild.
This is a gift from our community. And we know that as part of that effort for the Jewish Federations of North America, we will be there for the most vulnerable in Israeli society and for us all. There are so many ways for you to support us. You can advocate for the 200 captives still being held. You can call and ask us how we’re doing.
You can give to our fund and you can hold our community in your hearts. And speaking of hearts, it is a great privilege to introduce Iris Schor, a wonderful community volunteer, an Israeli from Haifa, who has lived here for many years. She is a retired lieutenant in the IDF, and she is a lawyer. She is an active member of our Jewish community.
And she is part of our family.
Iris Schor, Israeli citizen and Greater Boston resident:
Thank you, Sarah. I’m here today as the Israeli voice. I was born and raised in Haifa, but have been living here for the past 20 years with my family. Boston and Haifa are sister cities, and have a special relationship for over 30 years, which is very personal to me. Today, I’d like to represent all my fellow Israeli citizens living in Israel and Greater Boston, and thank CJP for your heartwarming support and generosity for our people and for our beloved country, Israel.
Israel is going through devastating times, the worst times our Jewish people have experienced since the Holocaust. A little over two weeks ago, on October 7, evil terrorists attacked our homeland, murdering and abducting innocent civilians, including babies, children, women, and the elderly. Some of them are Holocaust survivors. They murdered and tortured our people in unimaginable ways. No words can describe the horrors our friends and family have endured and are still experiencing every single day.
I speak with my family and friends in Israel daily, and they are shocked. They are grieving and they are terrified from what is yet to come. They are running in and out of the bomb shelters. They are mourning the loss of innocent lives and brave soldiers, and they are praying that their sons and daughters that are serving in the army will come home safely.
We are heartbroken. We are sad and we are very scared. The loss we have suffered so far is devastating, and the unknown that is coming ahead is very frightening. The only light we have seen during this extremely dark time is the love and support we are receiving from our Jewish American friends here in Greater Boston. I appreciate every phone call and message I am receiving from my local friends, asking about my family and friends in Israel and about how I am doing.
And I know my Israeli friends here feel the same. In addition, we are extremely thankful for the historical amount of funds that CJP has been able to raise in a very short period of time. These funds will generously support people in Israel in many meaningful ways, and we are full of gratitude. We feel your love. We know you share our pain and that you are mourning with us and we are extremely grateful for your generous support.
One cannot go through these types of challenges without a good friend, and we feel lucky to have your strong friendship during these difficult times. Your love and support will keep us strong and will allow us to prevail. Toda raba. Am Yisrael Chai.
Rabbi Marc Baker, President and CEO, Combined Jewish Philanthropies:
Thank you all for being here. Thank you for your support during this incredibly challenging time. Iris, thank you for your words and for your courage. And thank you to all of our Israeli brothers and sisters living in Israel and here in Greater Boston. That concludes our time together. Sarah and I will be available for questions immediately following. Thank you.