As a community, we care about Israel. We have always held Israel near and dear to our hearts. It is the place where we celebrate our bar-mitzvahs, where we send our children to study for their gap year, and where some of us celebrate our holidays. That is why, when Hamas attacked, we were both devastated at the atrocities committed against our fellow Jews, and were determined to help Israel in any way possible.
As a community, we are a powerful force. Due to our geographical distance from Israel, we will not be doing the physical fighting for our homeland on the ground. However, we have stepped up in support of our brothers and sisters in Israel, with our organizations setting to work immediately. Community organizations committed to raise funds, send supplies and equipment, charter planes to help others escape, collect essentials for reserve troops, and do everything they could. It is important to recognize the extraordinary efforts that the organizations of our community expended to help Israel in this time of crisis.
While much has been done thus far, it is still early in the conflict, and the support we are giving to Israel is only the start. There is much more to be done. But right out of the gate, the Sephardic Heritage Museum has led the charge of our community to provide comprehensive help to Israel.
The Sephardic Heritage Museum
The Sephardic Heritage Museum set up a simple website with a short mission statement, a video, and a place to donate. With that setup alone they raised $1.43 million, which clearly demonstrates our commitment to Israel and our drive to offer our support. We want to give. We see our brothers in pain in Israel and want to help. We just need the proper avenues to help them, so that we can do our best as a community.
The Sephardic Heritage Museum’s mission statement, detailed all of the ways that the money collected through them will be used. Donations will be distributed in three essential areas: transportation efforts, merchandise/supplies, and trauma/medical support.
The transportation efforts were intended for members of our community who were caught in Israel when the fighting broke out. Whether they were on bar mitzvah trips, studying for the year, or even just celebrating Simchat Torah in Israel, planes were chartered to get everyone back home safely.
For merchandise, the Sephardic Heritage Museum brought our community together to collect resources and ship them to Israel. Shipments included food, clothing, home goods, pharmaceuticals, and much more. These are being delivered directly to soldiers as well as to displaced victims of the attacks currently living in temporary housing.
Finally, they will also provide trauma and medical support to Israelis in need.. In the video they mention children specifically need trauma counseling, especially having seen so much death and devastation. To quote the chairman, Joe Sitt, “We have the responsibility to support them [in Israel] in any single way we can. Whether it’s supplies, relocations, or whether it’s financial. We will survive this war and will succeed, like we always have, for thousands of years.”
Other organizations are contributing to the overall community effort, as well. iTorah, for example, has put out an urgent appeal spearheaded by Rabbi Eli Mansour. iTorah has partnered with five high-quality Jerusalem restaurants (Luciana, Station 9, Joy Bistro, Jacko Street, and Berlin Burger) to shut their doors and exclusively prepare food for delivery to the IDF. The Sephardic Heritage Museum is also raising/distributing funds that will go towards tzitzit and siddurim for soldiers, protective battle gear, food, supplies, and financial aid to families whose wage earners went to fight. This was all headlined with the quote, “Kol Yisrael Arebim Zeh La’zeh – All Jews are responsible for one another.”
While, of course, the primary focus of the different community organizations was raising funds and sending supplies, there were other important ways that the different organizations made their impact.
On Oct. 10th, DSN held a Night of Unity with the goal of bringing the entire community together in solidarity with Israel. The evening included inspirational songs, speeches, and prayers for the wellbeing of the State of Israel and its soldiers. A candle lighting ceremony commemorated those we lost. Rabbis spoke eloquently, urging the community to give Israel our all.
Outside of moral support, DSN is also the focal point for many of the supply shipments that went out to sea. They held 36-hour drives for supplies as varied as paramedic trauma kits to thermal undershirts. They organized challah bake sales with all proceeds going to Israel relief efforts, and they sold sweatshirts to help raise funds, too. DSN truly lives up to its name of Deal Sephardic Network – it is through the network theycreated that provides an avenue for many different parts of our community to participate in helping Israel.
SBH played a pivotal role in aiding in one of the most overlooked aspects of the conflict – the emotional trauma. Given the sheer volume of distressing content flooding all over social media, including horrifying messages, images, and videos, many in our community found themselves in need of counseling regarding how to process and navigate this critical time.
The first move by SBH was to spread awareness about everything that we know, how to deal with it, and how we can help Israel in the fight to come. Providing information, they briefed us on the situation in Israel. Giving advice on dealing with the news, they advised us to not spend too much time looking on social media, and to ensure that our children stay away from it, too. Finally, they directed us towards different organizations who can help, both within the community and outside of it.
Their next move was to open up virtual support groups for many different groups of people, from young people to seniors. They organized clinic counseling in a one-on-one format if requested. These were meant to help people properly process what happened and remind them that they are not alone. Support to make people feel they are not isolated is especially important during times like this. Their main focus is to ensure that people do not get mentally overwhelmed by the bad, and to help orient them towards the good that they can do.
Our community is an important force for good in this world. Our quick response to help when we heard the news about Israel is a testament to that. If we come together, if we are unified, we can do anything we set our minds to. It has been inspiring for all of us to see the way our organizations immediately oriented themselves in support of our brothers in Israel.
From Sephardic Heritage Museum’s comprehensive aid strategy in directing funds to key areas, to iTorah and their focus on getting the soldiers food, tzitzit, and siddurim, and, of course, DSN and SBH’s goals of promoting unity and mental well-being, all of them played an important part in our community’s support of Israel.
Many more organizations came together to continually provide avenues of support, directing our community members towards giving Israel everything we can.
B’ezrat Hashem, Israel will be successful in this war and we can continue to hold Israel near and dear to our hearts for a very long time to come.