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Posts from the ‘Giving’ Category

Two Weeks Until Super Sunday

Your Gift Builds a Better
Future for Ethiopian Israelis

Ethiopian Israelis continue to face significant challenges as they struggle with poverty and the transition to a modern westernized society. That’s why the Federation supports programs like Tech Career, which provides technology and software training, and Yvel’s Megemeria School of Jewelry and Art. This program transforms new immigrants into skilled craftsmen, providing them with a better future, and helps build a more equitable Israeli society. Your gift to the 2013 Annual Campaign makes this possible. That’s the power of community.

Give now to the 2013 Annual Campaign
Answer the call on January 27, 2013
Register to volunteer at Super Sunday

Super Sunday – It’s More Than A Donation

Super Sunday, it's more than a donation.

Your Gift Lays the Foundation for
a Lifetime of Jewish Experiences.

It starts with PJ Library®, an engagement program that delivers free monthly Jewish children’s literature and music to families to enjoy together. Then our Affordability Project provides $1M in scholarships so that more families can afford to send their children to Jewish school and overnight camps. Our Jewish Teen Foundations help create the next generation of leaders and philanthropists by giving teens tools and confidence to change the world. And young adults form a closer connection to Israel and a deeper understanding of their roots on our Birthright trips.

Your support makes it happen.

 Answer the call on January 27, 2013

Register to volunteer at Super Sunday

To learn more about our work to build a vibrant, caring, and enduring Jewish community that is a force for good locally, in Israel, and around the world,
visit our website or email us.
That’s the power of community.

Update on the Situation in Israel – Friday

Dear Friends,

In the wake of a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas that took effect at 2 p.m. EST on November 21, Israeli officials were optimistic that the violence that has gripped Israel for eight days would finally end, but acknowledged that the conflict is “far from over.”

“Millions of Israelis are still under rocket fire or in bomb shelters. It’s too early to declare this finished, but we hope it will be,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren during a teleconference just after the cease-fire, held by The Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council of Public Affairs.

For most of the people in the affected regions, the last 8 days has been the reality they have faced on and off for the past 12 years. There are children for who rockets and bomb shelters are the norm – never having experienced anything different. It is not surprising that a recent study shows that almost half of children ages 12-13 in the town of Sderot demonstrate clinical symptoms related to post-trauma, the same goes for a third of the younger children.

Israeli professionals have developed highly effective responses and treatment for post-trauma stress, but we need to make sure that every child who requires treatment will receive it  for as long as it’s needed. Considering the modest socioeconomic capacity of much of the South’s population, it is important that therapy be readily accessible and affordable.

As Israel remains vigilant, the work of Jewish Federations continues. Through our Israel Terror Relief Fund, we will continue to address the most critical needs in Israel, providing support to children, people with disabilities and special needs, seniors and families who are victims of terror.

The Ambassador offered profound thanks to the Obama administration, Congress and the entire North American Jewish community. He also recognized Jewish Federations for our immediate $5 million commitment to help the people of Israel. “We are greatly indebted to our friends throughout the Jewish community who have stood by us, who have called the Embassy with offers of support, and who have made their ideas and commitment to Israel known to local leadership and press,” he said.

Let us hope that this cease fire becomes a prelude for real, lasting peace.

 Donate Now
Make a tax deductible contribution for immediate emergency assistance.

Sincerely yours,


Jennifer Gorovitz

Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund

Update on the Situation in Israel – Tuesday


In the last week, more than 1,300 rockets have been fired into Israel, which represents one third of the rocket fire during the entire Lebanon War in 2006. On Tuesday alone, 140 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel. While Iron Dome defenses intercepted approximately 389 rockets in the last week, at least 40 hit communities or settled areas in Israel, killing five Israelis and wounding many more.  Suffering has increased on all sides.

Update From Israel Solidarity Mission

“Time here now is no longer in weeks, days or hours. Think about it in seconds – 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 60 seconds,” said Michael Siegal, chair of The Jewish Federations of North America’s Board of Trustees, on a teleconference earlier today from southern Israel. “Nobody should live like this, where a siren goes off, and 15 seconds later, you have to go and get into a shelter. It is unrealistic to expect anybody to live like this.”

Siegal’s reflections from JFNA’s Israel Solidarity Mission – a tour of 15 senior lay and professional leaders through Israel’s south – gave context to the escalating violence, despite reports of an impending cease-fire. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Jerusalem today, where she reiterated the U.S. commitment to supporting Israel and pushed for a diplomatic end to the increasingly lethal conflict. We can only hope that Clinton’s arrival serves as a catalyst for peace.

A Story of Hope From Our Israel Office: Hagar, a Jewish-Arab School

I would like to share with you a beautiful letter that comes from Hagit Damri, the Executive Director of Hagar, a bi-lingual Jewish-Arab school in Be’er Sheva that is one of our grantees. In the shadow of all the violence and suffering, it reminds us of our common humanity, and of the important work we are doing in Israel to help create a society that is as just and as good as its people.

Dear Friends of Hagar,

Over the last six days a new wave of violence had flooded our region and wounded our routine. The usual Hagar sounds of children’s laughter in our school kindergartens and daycare, the vivid conversations of our community members in Hebrew and Arabic have been replaced by the frightening sounds of sirens and explosions. All schools in Be’er Sheva, including ours, have been closed and Hagar’s children and parents along with all of the families of the Negev are spending their days and nights in bomb shelters and protected spaces.

I am so proud and touched to learn that this wave of violence has not weakened us, and on the contrary, during the last six days Jewish and Arab friends and families are encouraging each other between the explosions, offering to host one another away from the rockets at their family homes in the north of Israel. Jewish and Arab teachers are reaching out to Jewish and Arab children, Arab and Jewish children are making an effort to be in touch with one another through phone calls and e-mails. One of our Jewish parents called and told me that she and her family (including a two-month old baby) were invited to spend the weekend away from the rockets with an Arab family in the northern Arab village of Sachnin; and as she and her family drove back she thought about the fact that before her family joined Hagar she never would have sought haven in an Arab Village.

Now more than ever Hagar’s community is proving its commitment to create a different reality — one where people refuse to define themselves as enemies but as friends struggling to find common ground.

At this time I want to thank all our friends who have e-mailed, posted and called asking about the well-being of our community and offering to help. At this point we don’t know what kind of damages we are facing. We will update and consult with you when the picture will be clearer. And finally your ‘likes,’ posts, letters and donations mean so much. Your support is not just helping Hagar, rather it is Hagar.

Thank you.

L’Shalom, MaaSalame, With Peace,

Hagit Damri

JCF’s Israel Relief Fund at Work – Shula’s Story

With record numbers of rockets hitting residential areas in Israel today, our partner JDC is working non-stop to provide help to the most vulnerable. Here is just one example.

Meet 83-year-old Shula Carmiel from Moshav Arugot, outside of Kiryat Malakhi in south-central Israel.

When the siren wails signaling another rocket attack on her hometown, there isn’t enough time for Shula to find shelter. Her small, single-story house does not have a safe room and the shelter is too far to reach with her walker. “I sit and pray that everything will okay,” Shula says. “I just wait for it to be over.”

Today Shula is a member of JDC’s Supportive Community for the Elderly in Moshav Arugot, where she receives a spectrum of services that allow her to live independently. Especially during this crisis, Hezi, her Supportive Community “father,” is a lifeline to Shula and her neighbors, keeping in constant contact with them and providing invaluable emotional support.

When Shula’s neighbor recently refused to come out of a nearby bomb shelter even after the sirens stopped blaring, Hezi visited her in hopes of convincing her to return home. To reassure her, he called her daughter in Haifa who came in the middle of the night to take her mother out of rocket range.

“He’s my father now,” Shula explains, pointing to Hezi, belying her 83 years. “Anything I need, he helps me with.”

While our partners are working on the ground, we’re working with our communities to help raise the funds needed for immediate humanitarian relief. Please support our efforts to help people like Shula and our entire Israeli family. Donations made to our Israel Terror Relief Fund are dispatched immediately to provide humanitarian relief.

More information on Operation Pillar of Defense can be seen on the Times of Israel and on Jpost.

As the Federation keeps up with the situation, we are monitoring the following sites:

Many posts on Twitter are also using hashtags, we are following two in particular:

#IsraelUnderFire and #PillarOfDefense

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to our entire Israeli family, and we pray that peace will come quickly.

Sincerely yours,
Jennifer Gorovitz
Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund

Update on the Situation in Israel – Monday

Update: Monday, November 19, 2012


Today’s report comes to you, in part, from my colleague Steve Nasatir, President of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, who is on the ground in southern Israel with a small group of Federation leaders. Unfortunately I was not able to join them, but our Israel Office Philanthropy Director, Gila Noam, is with them and provides her observations. Their visit makes one thing clear: the Israeli people in the south didn’t realize they had family in America who care so deeply. Our leadership has shown them that they do.

42 rockets were fired at Israel today. In total, there have been 1,128, and Iron Dome has intercepted 324, including 19 just today – rockets that would have landed on urban centers.  Three people have died and hundreds have been wounded.  Gazans have suffered hundreds of injuries or casualties as well.

Efforts continue to achieve a cease-fire, as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. President Obama called President Morsi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the ongoing violence, and underscored the need for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.

Steve Nasatir’s Report

“The citizens of southern Israel are tired but resilient heroes.” ~Alon Shuster, Mayor of the Sha’ar Ha’Negev Regional Council

Our group of Jewish Federation leaders are now in Sderot, and we hear the booms of bombs and the booms of fighter planes, and it is easy to grasp why people are tired after so many years.

I have known Alon for about a dozen years. He is a quiet but strong leader who has done much in this difficult region, where missiles of one sort or another have been dropping continuously over that time.  Twelve-year old children don’t know what living without the threat of being blown up is like. The people of the region are heroes and they are tired. Tired, but incredibly resilient.

I don’t know how they do it.  We are their partners, but we can’t begin to understand the toll this takes on their lives.

Shiva calls….

I just saw the Iron Dome defense system blow a Hamas rocket out of sky in the town of Kiryat Malachi.  We scrambled out of our vehicle and onto the ground. Red alerts are sounding in Ashkelon as well.

We went to Kiryat Malachai to pay two shiva (condolence) calls–the first to the family of Yitzach Amsalem, age 24, who was killed in a rocket attack last Thursday. We listened to his father and sister talk about their dear son and brother. Our Israel Terror Relief funds are helping pay for some of their immediate needs.

We then visited with the family of  Aharon Smadja, also killed in that attack. He was the father of a 14-year old and 9-year old twins. His brother thanked us for coming and said that at this time of great pain it’s good to see in our visit the unity of the Jewish people. “That will ensure our future,” he said. War crimes….

We met this morning with high-raking spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s office, who reported that 120 rockets were fired into Israel on Sunday. It’s not clear what happens next, but the goal is to reach a situation where the population lives normal lives, without the threat of rockets. To that end Israel is pursuing parallel military and diplomatic tracks.

Hamas firing on Israeli citizens is a war crime. Hamas embedding rockets among Palestinian civilians is a war crime. The Israeli Government believes that Hamas began this latest round of fighting after stockpiling 11,000 rockets. Israel needs others to prevent a new buildup when this is over.

Visiting new immigrants

We are far south now, about three kilometers from Gaza, at Ibim, a center for absorbing new immigrants.  We had a couple of red alerts and we can hear the booms.

The center is safe as the walls and roofs have been reinforced. With Federation funds the Ethiopian aliyah (immigration) has been accelerated and some of the olim (new immigrants) arrived only three days ago from Gondar province. Most of the children were out of our area on a trip to the center of the country, made possible by our Israel Terror Relief Fund. All in all 5,000 children are finding respite today under this Jewish Agency For Israel program.  We then moved on to Sderot to visit a bomb-proof indoor center for kids a very necessary facility.”

SF’s Israel Staff – Gila Noam’s Report

“I thought I knew. I thought I understood. After all, I live in Jerusalem, only 45 minutes away from the region being bombed and have been thru two Intifadas.”  This was before Gila had to drop to the pavement and cover her head today, and before she witnessed mothers running all out to a bomb shelter with their kids.  She describes the scene:

“In Sderot we visited a huge indoor playground. There must have been about 80 moms there, with kids of all ages and the atmosphere was absolutely joyful. We stood there and we all found ourselves smiling. Three minutes into our visit we were jarred by the almost deafening announcement of “Code Red.” All the moms jumped up in an instant, and began running frantically into the sheltered room. They seem to be pre-programmed for these situations and the speed of their running, with their babies in their arms, was almost frightening.”

Person after person in the region conveyed in his/her own way:  All we want is “relative quiet.” We have no aggressive goals; no interest in conquering territory. All we want is to live normal lives-we and our kids.

In all, the group experienced six “Code Red” missile alerts today.

Masa Update

All of our Bay Area Masa participants have been moved at least 40 kilometers from Gaza.  Josh Neuman, son of East Bay Federation Chief Development Officer Joanne Neuman, is in Jerusalem working with other Masa participants on setting up an online community to share their experiences with the world.  He had this to say:

“While we have relinquished any hope of retrieving our belongings, cleaning dirty dishes, and collecting more vital supplies, we remain steadfast in our dedication to Israel. After much discussion we have agreed to participate in three different volunteer programs, as many of us have become restless and feel useless while thousands need support. On the morrow some will depart for Jerusalem to engage in some public relations work with the Israeli State Department, updating friends and peers of the current situation so often misrepresented in the news via social media. Others will remain near Netanya, to help out a camp for children with cerebral palsy; our volunteers have already allowed the camp to keep its doors open and provide many needy children with love and care in the next few days. Personally, I will be in the north with three peers working at a camp for children displaced from their southern homes, bringing them some joy in these trying times.”

JCF’s Israel Relief Fund at Work

In addition to the immediate financial assistance, delivery of food packages and emergency kits, and children’s evacuation for respite care that we have described in recent days, today we have learned that our partner JDC has been able to deploy tens of thousands of volunteers to work with children confined to bomb shelters and has set up a crisis response page on Facebook to provide urgent, quickly accessible information to the Israeli public including Videos and tip sheets on how to handle children’s anxiety and trauma; information for people with disabilities and those helping them in times of emergency; and instructions for how elderly Israelis can cope or can be assisted during the crisis.

We encourage you to contribute to our Israel Terror Relief Fund, if you haven’t already done so, to ensure that these services can reach everyone who needs them.

The ongoing stories of strength and resilience of Israelis are remarkable. Fifty premature newborns in Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon had to be detached from all the devices attached to their incubators….the staff raced down the hallways pushing the incubators to a space that is protected from the bombs where they could reattach them to this lifesaving equipment. Seems like ages ago, but on the first day Kiryat Malachi got hit. This is a very poor town which until now hasn’t experienced these attacks, and so —was far less ready than other sites. A 4-year old little boy who was severely injured in that attack is being treated by doctors in Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer hospital, who are fighting to save his hand using some of the most sophisticated methods known to modern medicine.
More information on Operation Pillar of Defense can be seen on the Times of Israel and on Jpost.

As the Federation keeps up with the situation, we are monitoring the following sites:

Many posts on Twitter are also using hashtags, we are following two in particular:

#IsraelUnderFire and #PillarOfDefense

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all the innocent victims and our entire Israeli family, and we pray that peace will come quickly.

Sincerely yours,
Jennifer Gorovitz
Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund

Update on the Situation in Israel – Sunday


This report comes from the JFNA and San Francisco Israel offices. On Sunday, the fifth day of Operation Pillar of Defense, the conflict with Gaza continues, including ongoing rocket fire against Israel.

Today rockets landed next to a kindergarten in Ashkelon, hit a car, and the front of a house in Beersheva. A fireman and two residents have suffered shrapnel injuries. School remains closed within a 40 kilometer radius of Gaza for security reasons as all children remain in shelters.

In addition to the three Israeli civilians killed on Thursday, three remain in critical condition including an 8-month old baby. Over 80 Israelis have been taken to hospitals with injuries in recent days. Many more have been treated for shock and emotional trauma and the true toll of this conflict will only be seen in the months and even years to come. Hospitals are currently working with significantly reduced staff as many doctors and nurses have been called up for army service. Some 4.5 million Israeli residents, over half of Israel’s population, live in rocket range and are now on alert for attacks. Over 1300 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza in 2012 alone and approximately 900 in recent days.

Read more

Please Support the Israel Terror Relief Fund

We are thankful that the cease-fire is still in effect, but many Israelis continue to feel the impacts of the violence. Federation leaders witnessed the strength of Israelis in aftermath of war on a mission that offered a glimpse of life for many traumatized by the tension in the south of Israel. Participants visited programs and initiatives operated by The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), World ORT and the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), where Israelis are benefitting from your generosity.

The Federation’s Israel Terror Relief Fund, in collaboration with our partners, continues to address the most critical needs in Israel. Our Bay Area community contributed generously to this fund, and for that we are grateful. With support from the broader North American Jewish community, the Fund is helping children, people with disabilities and special needs, seniors and families who are victims of terror. To see images of the Israeli people’s amazing resilience, click here.

We thank you deeply for your support that is helping those effected rebuild their lives and their homes.

 Donate Now
Make a tax deductible contribution for immediate emergency assistance.

Celebrating Women’s Philanthropy at the Lion of Judah Luncheon

See more pictures of the event.

As we overlooked a crystal clear Bay and spectacular view, more than 90 of us (Lion of Judah and Pomegranates) from throughout the Bay Area gathered at the Saint Francis Yacht Club on October 24 to kick off the Lion of Judah 2013 Campaign with a meal and inspirational stories.

The spirit of tzedakah made the room radiate with palpable, synergistic energy, and we raised over $266,000 for the Federation’s local and global community projects!

A highlight of the day was a lively keynote interview with
Dr. Tricia Hellman Gibbs, led by Rabbi Sydney Mintz. In the conversation, Dr. Gibbs explained how her connection to her Jewish roots has impacted her personal community involvement and philanthropy.

Special thanks to our Federation leaders, CEO Jennifer Gorovitz, President Nancy Grand, Women’s Philanthropy President Carol Weitz, and Pomegranate Chair Vanessa Friedman, who helped bring this event to life and joined me in sharing personal family stories, reiterating how our involvement in the Jewish community today is motivated by the generations before us.

Adean Golub, Lion of Judah Endowment Co-Chair, shared her path to endowing her annual gift with us, and nicely summed up the Luncheon theme with a great quote from Muriel Ruckeyser, “My lifetime listens to yours.”

This campaign kick-off event was a true testament to the power of community – the power of women specifically – to create change in the world.

An Investment in Hope

Vera and Sophie Pesotchinsky

In 1976, at the height of the Cold War, Sophia Pesotchinsky and her family fled the Soviet Union. They arrived in the U.S. as refugees with a toddler, significant language barriers, no place to live, nor jobs awaiting them, and about $300 to start their lives over. And yet, with one obstacle larger than the next, they overcame them all. Sophia went on to co-create three life science companies and her husband Leon became a professor of mathematics at UCSB and San Jose State University.

Indeed, theirs is an inspiring American success story, but when you ask Sophia about life’s challenges she immediately shifts the conversation to the most courageous person she knows, her daughter, Vera.

Vera was diagnosed with Late Onset Tay-Sachs disease eleven years ago. Since that time, despite the unrelenting toll of her illness, she has received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wellesley College and Santa Clara University, worked in marketing for her family business, and has embraced life with dignity, great humor, and not a trace of self-pity.

“She is an inspiration to everyone – and I mean everyone she meets,” said Sophia. But mercilessly, her condition rages on. So Sophia decided to do whatever she could to help in her daughter’s fight. Thus, she established a Donor Advised Fund, dedicated to the eradication of Tay-Sachs and other degenerative neurological diseases. “If there is one thing I want people to know about our DAF it is that I believe it is helping us get closer to combating this disease. I’m an engineer, I analyze things. I don’t work in dreams. And the scientific breakthroughs we’ve had in the last six years, particularly with gene therapy, have given us real hope – not just for a cure for my daughter, but for people who struggle with any genetic neurological diseases. The first clinical studies are scheduled for the beginning of 2013.”

Of course, running a business, being involved with the Tay Sachs Gene Therapy consortium, and tending to the needs of her family doesn’t give Sophia a lot of time to take on the responsibilities of operating her own philanthropic foundation. “I’m a very busy person,” said Sophia. “So that’s why I set up my DAF with JCF. It was incredibly easy and it has allowed me to focus on what I need to focus on to stop this disease.”

To learn more or contribute to Sophia’s Fund #797 call 650.248.9630 or email

As Sophia has done, supporting causes that are personally meaningful through DAFs has become increasingly popular. Today more and more donors are using DAFs to honor loved ones and celebrate lifecycle events such as weddings, b’nai mitzvahs, memorials and graduations.

For information on DAFs contact Ruth Bender at 415.512.6205 or email

Young Adult Impact Grants Initiative Begins

Lana Volftsun

Lana Volftsun

By Lana Volftsun, Young Adult Impact Grants Initiative Member

This year’s IGI kicked off at the JCF where we had the opportunity to hear from Roger Bennett about the changing young adult Jewish experience in America. We discussed why we give and why we give Jewishly – what does giving Jewishly mean to us? Afterwards, we broke into groups to discuss our values. It was fascinating to see what motivates each IGI member to give and what fuels their passions. Our IGI chairs, Matthew and Jason Goldman facilitated a group discussion on the topic, ultimately unifying the group around shared values ranging from innovation to community to tradition. It was exciting to meet so many new people who also care about doing good Jewishly.

Our second gathering was held over dinner at the home of Doug & Lisa Goldman. I was thrilled that we were joined by Toby Rubin, Founder and CEO of UpStart Bay Area. She educated us about the local and national climate for serving post-college young adults and provided great examples of what has worked locally and nationally. We went around the table and shared our most valuable or engaging recent Jewish experience. Responses ranged from Birthright Israel and other travel opportunities to Mission Minyan or a casual Shabbat with friends. After a delicious dinner, we broke into small groups to discuss how we like to be engaged Jewishly and where we see areas that could be better served in the Bay Area. The warmth of the Goldman’s home and the excitement building around the table made for a really wonderful evening and I can’t wait for the next one! We’re convening again at the end of March to design our Request for Proposals and we may even have a local ‘field trip’ before then.

I’m thrilled to be part of IGI to learn more about myself, my peers, and to positively influence the Bay Area Jewish community. Thank you so much to everyone who made this program possible, I can’t wait to see the impact we make!


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