By Jeff Finkelstein |
Yesterday, 316 Jews lifted off from their native country of Ethiopia to arrive in their new home in Israel. The Israeli Government recently approved bringing 2,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel and this first planeload launches Operation Tzur Yisrael with another 100 arriving today. While the government approves the operation, it is the work of the Jewish Agency for Israel, one of our overseas partner agencies, that facilitates the preparation, the travel and the k’litah (absorption process into Israeli society). It is our Community Campaign that makes this possible.
Just two years ago in Israel, Federation’s Chief Development Officer Brian Eglash and I were given the honor and responsibility of addressing the Aliyah Committee of the Knesset representing the Federation system encouraging the government to expedite this aliyah (immigration). I get goosebumps staring at these pictures capturing the arrival on Israeli soil.
You make history happen by giving to and by encouraging others to support our collective efforts. I invite you to join our Federation for our first ever Virtual Super Sunday on Sunday, December 13th. You can help out right from the comfort of your home. Learn more and register to make calls at https://jewishpgh.org/event/super-sunday/.
Next Thursday night begins Chanukah, a holiday about miracles and reclaiming Jewish identity. How perfect for it to be in the same week as this airlift from Ethiopia! Take two minutes to watch a video from Ben Gurion Airport capturing the arrival yesterday and hearing from Isaac Herzog (the Chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel) explicitly expressing his gratitude to the Federation system.
Shabbat Shalom. Happy Chanukah. Go Steelers. And PLEASE wear your mask!
By Kim Salzman |
Today is an exciting today for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Just a few hours ago, 316 Ethiopian Jews made Aliyah to Israel, fulfilling their lifetime dream to return home.
Our historic international partner, the Jewish Agency, will now provide these new olim (immigrants) a home for the next year or two in absorption centers around the country where they will learn Hebrew and get acclimated to life in Israel. Your Community Campaign donations help support JAFI as they bring more than 2,000 Ethiopians to Israel in this wave of immigration, settling them in their new lives.
By Kim Salzman |
Below is an update from Kishorit, one of our longstanding grantee organizations. I encourage you to read it despite its length as they seem to be handling the pandemic quite well.Kim Salzman
I hope you are healthy and adjusting as easily as possible to our new global reality. When I first reached out to you in March, I never envisioned that 5 months later we would still be facing the immense challenges posed by Covid-19. In Israel, we are fighting a very serious second wave of Coronavirus. As Corona reaches every community in Israel, and as morbidity rates and anxiety levels rise, we have redoubled our efforts to ensure the physical safety and emotional well-being of our members. Early on, we understood that loneliness and isolation could be just as deadly for our members as the virus. We needed to find a way to preserve the social fabric of our community. In consultation with a team of infectious disease specialists, we made some initial adjustments to our employment centers and leisure time facilities, and now we have decided to test the entire Kishorit community for Coronavirus every ten days. Although this has placed a heavy burden on all of our staff, particularly our nursing staff, it has allowed us to adhere to the strictest disease prevention protocols while preserving the members’ desperately needed daily routine. In this time of immense stress and uncertainty, going to work together and sharing leisure time activities is an absolute necessity, and a special blessing.
For me, one of the silver linings of the pandemic has been watching the Kibbutz Kishor members embrace and support the Kishorit members. Being integrated into a larger community has given the Kishorit members an unparalleled sense of safety, security and comfort. I, personally, have drawn enormous strength from my neighbors and friends, and from the feeling that we are truly all in this together.
In addition to the immediate impact that Corona is having on our members, it is having a financial impact on our businesses and community. Our dog kennel, which is usually full during summer vacation, is virtually empty. Our estate winery, which generally hosts groups and sells wine to restaurants, has temporarily shut its doors to the public. With restaurants closed and sales down, we have made the difficult decision to sell some of our grapes from this August’s harvest to another winery. Aside from the loss of revenue, we estimate that the increased costs of personal protective equipment and sanitizing necessary to keep our businesses running until December 2020 will be $100,000.
In spite of the pandemic, the rhythm of life continues to hum in Kishorit. There are moments of great joy, and moments of great sorrow. Over the past few months, one of our members underwent a successful kidney transplant, while another member was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and began chemotherapy treatments. On a national level, tensions have flared on the Lebanese border, not far from Kishorit, and we are constantly reminded that our simple lives are fragile. Through all of the ups and downs, we feel very blessed to have you as part of our extended community. Your outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming, and is not taken for granted. I can’t wait until the travel restrictions are over and I will be able to see you in person once again. Until then, please accept a socially distanced hug and my deepest thanks for all that you continue to do for Kishorit. With love, respect and gratitude.
By Kim Salzman |
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit the Karmiel Beit HaMitnadev (The Volunteer House) for United Hatzalah, one of our Israeli grantee organizations supported by the Federation’s Community Campaign. United Hatzalah has more than 6,000 volunteers around the country, including 107 medics in the Karmiel and Misgav region. With the help of their unique GPS technology and ambucycles, their volunteer medics arrive to the scene of an accident or disaster in less than 3 minutes across the country and 90 seconds in metropolitan areas. Their mission is to arrive at the scene of medical emergencies as soon as possible and provide the patient with professional and appropriate medical aid until an ambulance arrives, resulting in many more lives saved.
In 2019-20, our Federation supported the purchase of a new ambucycle for a Karmiel volunteer medic. This ambucycle was dedicated to the 11 victims from the October 27 shooting in Pittsburgh. Arik, the volunteer medic who drives it, told me that he took the time to read about all eleven victims and that he remembers the attack in Pittsburgh every time he drives it. With the help of this ambucycle dedicated to the October 27 victims, Arik is able to save lives. How symbolic.
In 2020-21, our Federation is supporting Hatzalah’s coronavirus readiness, including the purchase of 25 oxygen kit refills/replacements and 300 sets of personal protective gear. Our support will provide approximately three disposable kits per medic in Karmiel and Misgav.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Israel. Thousands of at-risk Israelis have been isolated in their homes without access to even the most essential resources. United Hatzalah has stepped up to help coordinate and deliver food packages and medications to elderly citizens, Holocaust survivors and other affected populations. One day, Arik was informed that an elderly couple in his neighborhood had run out of medicine and that the local pharmacy would soon be closing. The dedicated volunteer dropped what he was doing, hopped on his ambucycle and sped to the pharmacy, arriving just minutes before it closed. With the precious cargo aboard, he rode to the couple’s home and presented them with their much-needed medication.
Enjoy these pictures from my visit to The Volunteer House.
Joint Business and Empowerment Training for Jewish and Arab Women in the Galilee
EEW assists women from the geographic and social periphery of Israel who possess entrepreneurial spirits but lack access to suitable business training and bank credit to develop small businesses of their own, gain self-sufficiency, and alleviate the cycle of poverty they have found themselves in. This program provides continued support for business and empowerment training for Jewish and Arab woman in the Galilee. The program includes one joint Jewish and Arab yearlong business training and personal empowerment course, two financial literacy courses, and a bilingual business marathon conference. Learn More
Vocational Training and Job Placement for Single Mothers – Karmiel Course
itworks strives to narrow employment gaps and promote diversity in Israel’s booming high-tech industry. The program is designed to close income gaps for single mothers in Karmiel by providing training and skills necessary for placement in high-demand professions in the area according to local needs. The program is open to women of all backgrounds who are underemployed or unemployed, with no academic background. Ninety percent of the 120,000 single mother households are headed by women. 80% of single mothers are employed, however, 25% of these working women live in poverty. The program’s goal is to move these women into positions earning at a minimum $1,780/month (6,500 ILS) thus moving them out of poverty and into economic independence. Learn More