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      Solidarity Under Fire - JFNA Mission Experiences Missile Attacks

      With $5 Million Already Pledged, JFNA delegation came to the south to assess the needs on the ground.
      By Yoni Kempinski
      First Publish: 11/21/2012, 2:57 PM

      Delegation Under Fire
      Delegation Under Fire
      JFNA

      Amidst ongoing violence on the Gaza-Israel border, a delegation of lay and professional leaders from The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) arrived in Israel for a two-day Emergency Solidarity Mission. 

      The Mission was spearheaded by the chair of the Board of Trustees of JFNA, Michael Siegal who will lead the group of 12 Jewish leaders representing the 155 Federations and more than 300 smaller Network communities that make up JFNA. The members of the delegation hail from New York, Chicago, Boston, New Jersey, Cleveland, Miami, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Minneapolis and Birmingham, Alabama.

      “The ongoing crisis being faced by the people of Israel, particularly those in the south, will not be fought by the Jewish State alone,” Siegal said upon arrival in Jerusalem. “We are here to express our firm solidarity and to say that as always, when Israel is in need, we are here.”

      On the first day of the Mission, the group travelled to the South, where they were repeatedly forced to find shelter as air raid sirens wailed. At one point while driving in the Sha'ar Hanegev region, the group escaped from their cars and dove for cover in an adjacent ditch where they witnessed an Iron Dome missile repel an incoming rocket almost directly above their heads.

      The group also visited a house in Kiryat Gat that suffered a direct hit and met with the homeowner, who expressed his deep appreciation for their visit. In Kiryat Malachi, they made a shiva condolence call at the home of two of the victims who were killed in the fatal rocket attack last week.

      "Spending the day in this area gave us just a small glimpse of an understanding of what the residents of this region are going through at this time,” Siegal said.

      The delegation will also travel to affected areas of the south including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sderot and Be'er Sheva with the goal of bringing a message of solidarity to the people and examining specific areas of need. In recent days, Jewish Federations has announced that it will commit up to $5 million to the Israel Terror Relief Fund for the immediate needs of the people of Israel, especially in the south, through both existing reserve funds and new contributions from Federations.

      “Throughout Israel’s modern history, we in America have always been there in times of need and we recognize that the threat facing Israel’s home front represents an unprecedented danger to its citizens,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of JFNA.  “We knew we had to come to experience firsthand what is happening on the ground so that we can best respond to whatever the needs might be.”

      During their time in the south, the delegation will also be meeting with IDF personnel and be personally briefed by Avi Dichter, Minister of Homefront Defense, who has established an operations center in the affected region. Upon their return to the US, the delegates will brief their own communities, local and national politicians and media to encourage continued support of Israel.

      Jewish Federation partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and World ORT, along with the Israel Trauma Coalition, are delivering immediate services and assistance on the ground throughout the south. Such services include trauma counseling, financial assistance, portable bomb shelters, and potentially other initiatives including bringing children in the strike zones out of harm’s way.

      Jewish Federations are working in close coordination with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), and others across the Jewish community who are uniting to come to Israel’s side through the Israel Terror Relief Fund.