The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has launched a Crisis Fund campaign designed to raise $12 million in emergency relief to address the deteriorating situations in Israel and Argentina. The announcement came just as Federation President John Fishel and Chairman Jake Farber returned from a two-day visit to Israel, as part of an emergency 40-member delegation assembled by The Federation's parent organization, United Jewish Communities (UJC).
During their short stay in Israel, Fishel and Farber, on behalf of The Federation, pledged $1 million in advance of the $10 million in funds that will be devoted to Israel. The figure is Los Angeles' segment of a national $300 million UJC goal.
The $10 million raised for Israel through The Federation's campaign will go toward providing the following: mobile emergency units, increased security at schools and on buses, grief counseling, trauma centers and financial assistance to victims of terror and their families
The Federation has rededicated itself to "help Israel at this critical juncture beyond what we normally do," Fishel said at an April 12 press conference upon his return,
"The situation in Israel is indeed very dire, and the people in the state of Israel are under siege," he continued. "I had a chance to view with my own eyes [at the targeted Netanya Park hotel] the incredible power and damage done by a suicide bomber in the middle of a religious ceremony and happy Passover ceremony, that killed 28 people."
In addition to fundraising, The Federation hopes to energize and mobilized Los Angeles Jews over the next few weeks by co-sponsoring local solidarity events, such as the April 17 block party that was held on Landfair Avenue in Westwood, co-sponsored by Los Angeles Hillel, and the 54th Annual Israel Independence Day Festival at Encino's Woodley Park on April 21.
While there is no formal deadline to reach the Crisis Fund's fiscal goal, Fishel would like to raise the money before summer's end.
"They are asking for the solidarity of American and world Jewry and for people interested in preserving democracy and freedom," Fishel said.
While it is not The Federation's policy to offer political commentary, Fishel himself spoke of the necessity to support Israel's right to protect its citizens from Palestinian aggression, such as the rash of suicide bombings that have claimed over 100 civilians in just the last two weeks.
"Unless you're there, you can't imagine what it's like to get on a bus every morning and not know whether it's going to explode or commute to work and not know whether a sniper's going to fire at you," he said.
While in Israel, Fishel spoke to "those who lost loved ones" that were "senselessly murdered." He also spoke of "a very sobering experience" he had conversing with a 45-year-old Ukrainian single mother who, in 1994, was the only survivor of a suicide bombing rampage that killed eight people. The tragedy left her with burns over 70 percent of her body.
"There is a link between the terrorism afflicting the United States and afflicting Israel," Fishel said. Of the $12 million being raised for the Crisis Fund, about $2.25 million will be set aside to help Jews in Argentina recover financially and/or make aliyah to Israel.
"This is a community that has been thrown into poverty," said Fishel of Argentina's Jews.
For more information concerning The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Crisis Fund to aid Israel and Argentina, please visit www.jewishla.org .