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Jewish Journal

Groups Rally to Raise Funds for Israel During Crisis

by Tom Tugend

July 27, 2006 | 8:00 pm

Jewish organizations throughout the Los Angeles area, as well as supportive Christian groups, are shifting their fundraising efforts into high gear to succor civilians and soldiers in embattled Israel.

As in past Middle East crises, community response has been outstanding, according to organizational spokespersons.

In the lead is The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which expects to raise at least $2 million in emergency funds through intensive phone and e-mail drives, plus pledges gathered at last Sunday's community rally.

The money is earmarked mainly for seniors, whose centers in northern Israel have been closed in the face of rocket attacks, and to ease the lot of children stuck in bomb shelters for extended periods, said the Federation's Deborah Dragon. Ellen Rofman, regional executive director for American Friends of Magen David Adom/ARMDI, was trying to figure out how to keep her members involved during the traditionally slow summer months, when the fighting started near the Gaza Strip and then in Israel's north. Now she is in the midst of a $1 million drive on the West Coast to help build a new first aid station in heavily shelled Sderot and provide medical supplies for Israeli residents of border towns near Lebanon.

At parlor and synagogue gatherings, responses have been enthusiastic, said Rofman, citing one example: "I had been working on one man to give $79,000 to buy an ambulance, without making much headway. But last week, he called me to say that the time had come, and he was mailing a check."

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the United States has launched Operation Security Blanket, with a goal of $3 million. The funds will be used to send endangered children in northern Israel to summer camps, purchase emergency response vehicles and help build bypass security roads along the Gaza Strip. To meet the national goal, JNF supporters in Los Angeles expect to contribute between $500,000 and $1 million, said Israeli emissary Rami Ganor.

"The response has been incredible," Ganor said. "People are calling in, asking us, 'What can we do to help?'"

Within five days, the Western region of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces collected more than $500,000, with a target of up to $2 million, said Miri Nash, executive director.

Funds are being directed mainly toward upgrading rest facilities and canteens for Israeli combat soldiers and for providing entertainment for the troops, said Nash, who is also preparing care packages in her spare time.

Explaining her support for the IDF aid drive, Erika Glazer said, "My home is in Beverly Hills, but my heart is in Israel."

A group of StandWithUs activists is leaving July 31 for a mission to Israel. It will bring along approximately $10,000 worth of gifts for soldiers and terror victims, as well as 200 pieces of baby clothing, said spokeswoman Rebecca Olch. Bea Chenkin, executive director of the local Ameinu chapter (Labor Zionists), said her organization had set up a children's emergency fund to send youngsters from northern Israel to summer camps and give toys to shelter-bound youngsters.

Holocaust survivors belonging to the 1939 Club are aiming for $50,000 in their current Salute to Israel campaign, with the money going to facilities for Israeli soldiers and disabled veterans, according to the group's president, William Elperin.

The Rev. Victor Styrsky, California director of Christians Standing With Israel and Christians United for Israel, is planning a series of "Nights to Honor Israel" in Beverly Hills, Simi Valley, San Diego, Bakersfield, Fresno, Berkeley and Sacramento. Funds raised will be given to the Jewish federations in the various cities for Israel-related projects, Styrsky said.

The Council of Israeli Communities is planning future fundraisers and working closely with the Christian support groups, said Haim Linder, a council official. Saundra Mandel, acting director of the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) Los Angeles chapter, said her group is contributing to a national AJC emergency fund to aid Haifa's Rambam Hospital and an elementary school in Sderot.

Local chapters of the American Jewish Congress, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Zionist Organization of America and Simon Wiesenthal Center are primarily focused on pro-Israel advocacy, but are urging their members to support the Jewish Federation campaign, various spokespersons said.

The Journal did not receive responses from other Jewish organizations on their present or planned efforts.

Spokespersons for all contacted Jewish organizations stressed that all of the emergency funds will be transmitted in full to Israel, without any deductions for administrative expenses.

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