In November 2012, Jews around the world stopped and watched, their emotions a jittery mix of fear, hope, and pride, as Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense. Across Boston’s Russian Jewish community, immediate thoughts went to the children of Sderot. This small town in the Negev is less than a mile from Gaza, and has been a constant target for Qassam rockets for the past decade. There were no doubts that this latest series of attacks would be much worse than anything Sderot’s residents had experienced thus far.

For more than five years, the Russian Jewish Community Foundation (www.rjcf.com), a grassroots volunteer organization in the Greater Boston area, along with numerous individuals in the Russian Jewish community, has been actively helping the town of Sderot and its children. Through these ongoing efforts, it has been possible to provide financial support for a community center and afterschool activities, run the annual Boston-Sderot Summer Camp program (staffed by young Jewish volunteers from the Boston area), and focus on making a positive difference in this war-torn town. 

This past November, as the situation in Israel escalated, urgent messages from RJCF with requests for help started flying across the Internet. In response, the Russian Jewish community and other friends of Israel, Jews and non-Jews alike, came together to donate more than $30,000, within a matter of days. The money was used to evacuate 50 Sderot children away from the rockets. As a result of years of collaboration between RJCF and the volunteers and staff in Israel, an infrastructure was in place that allowed for this rescue to happen as efficiently and safely as possible. 

Thanks to the quick outpouring of financial support from Boston, and to the heroic actions of Israel-based teachers and volunteers, the children were rapidly transported to a kibbutz near Haifa. While there, they slept through the night without interruption by sirens, played outside without having to run to bomb shelters, ate full meals, visited a zoo… The immediate call to action by the RJCF and the generous response of the community enabled these traumatized children to feel a sense of peace, even if just for a few days.

Although it is not possible to prevent bombs from falling on Sderot, and it is not always feasible for those living in the US to offer physical help to Israel, RJCF has created a means for Boston’s Russian Jews to make a profound difference… To help create positive and hopeful moments in the lives of Sderot’s youngest, most vulnerable, and most innocent citizens. 

(For more information about RJCF or the Sderot projects, visit www.rjcf.com)

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