Peace in Israel is fragile but support is stronger than ever

by | Jul 16, 2021 | Other News

Lisa Richmon

The pandemic surges and lulls before it rises again, but attacks on Israeli peace remains a front burner issue that never lets up.

United Jewish Federation of Tidewater continues its partnership with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, known as The Joint or JDC. The Joint was founded in 1914, during World War 1, as the first Jewish organization in the United States to dispense large scale funding for international relief, just like programs created to aid Israel today.

Money raised by JDC also funds programs that repair and rebuild some of the most distressed Jewish communities around the world.

For 10 days in May, the world watched as sirens blared, rockets fell, and social unrest erupted across Israel. Amid that crisis, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and The Joint went to work as overseas partners, caring for the most vulnerable citizens and meeting their most urgent needs.

“Thanks to the support from UJFT, JDC-developed programs touch one million of Israel’s most vulnerable in any given week,” says Sandy Katz, JDC’s senior director, Strategic Relations. “This partnership support knows no bounds; they know they have family ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with them when the next crisis hits, or the next siren sounds.”

Meeting new challenges is part of that outreach. This latest flareup revealed the toll taken on Israel’s over-taxed social workers and mentors who are on call 24/7 to assist families and young adults with a wide range of needs. JDC, with the help of Tidewater’s Israel Emergency Fund, ensures support for these caregivers and social welfare professionals through a program called “Helping the Helpers.”

Tidewater is working with JDC to meet the psychological needs of those living in crisis-affected areas along the Gaza border and in the city Lod, which was plagued by Arab-Jewish rioting. There, particularly among local schoolchildren, therapy and emotional support help them deal with the trauma, heal, and mend ties among neighbors.

Financial concerns loom large for Israelis as the recent crisis exacerbated the pandemic’s economic toll. Located just three miles from the Gaza border, Kibbutz Magen serves as a pilot site for JDC’s Skill Up Initiative, which provides Israeli workers with the training and tools they need to advance their careers and provide for their families. It is just one of JDC’s employment initiatives which have benefitted more than 20,000 Israelis in the last year.

Fabián Stark is a proud participant of Skill Up, where he received job training and now works at the solar energy factory located in the kibbutz. Throughout the pandemic, and in the face of constant threat of rockets, Skill Up remained open, so Israelis like Fabián wouldn’t have to worry about employment and supporting their families.

“I go to work despite all of this because this is what we decided,” says Stark. “We live here. And we will overcome this just like we have overcome many things in the past. That’s the Jewish people.”

This is part of a series of articles spotlighting local and overseas partner agencies that are beneficiaries of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s annual Community Campaign.