Jewish Federation hikes funding goal

BY DAVID BAUGHER, EDITOR

In an emergency meeting Friday, the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Louis drastically hiked its fundraising goal for the Israel relief effort to $2.5 million due to pressing needs in the Jewish State.

The Israel Crisis Fund was set up earlier this month in order to assist Israel financially during its ongoing battle against the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah has launched missile strikes on cities in northern Israel causing injuries, loss of life and millions of dollars in damages. The United Jewish Communities renamed the fund the Israel Emergency Campaign late last week.

Barry Rosenberg, executive vice-president of the Federation, said that the Federation had sent $50,000 immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, with larger sums planned after a fundraising effort.

“Currently we were working on raising a quarter million to a half million dollars,” he said. “But as we now get all of the facts and understand the depth of the need both short and long term, its clear that this is a much bigger demand.”

The campaign’s funds are being used to upgrade shelters, care for the vulnerable, help victims of terrorism and transport children away from at-risk areas. Rosenberg said that funding runs through two agencies, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee.

“We work with them day in and day out, year in and year out to provide for the needs of Jews in Israel and around the world,” he said. “They are our operators on the ground. They are the ones who are equipping shelters. They are the ones who are moving children.”

Jay Sarver, a St. Louisan who is also budget and finance chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel said the agency and its partners have helped to move 12,000-13,000 children out of danger and begun retrofitting shelters in the north with televisions and air conditioning. He also noted that the organization’s staff have been working overtime to help those in need, sometimes immigrants who have been in the country only a few days. Four of the agency’s absorbtion centers have been hit in rocket attacks affecting 3,000 new immigrants, mostly from Ethiopia.

“Can you imagine coming from Ethiopia into this?” he asked.

Sarver said the scale of the need is immense. The damage to the absorbtion centers alone is expected to total $4 million.

“What’s important to understand here is that the numbers of people involved are enormous that are affected by this situation and the amount of response required by the American Jewish community is going to be correlated to that,” he said.

Rosenberg said that Federation would be working hard over the next two-to-three weeks to meet its revised goal using everything from telemarketing to direct mail to appeals through the Federation’s website.

“We will be reaching out to all of our community members and all of our Jewish organizations asking them to donate,” he said. “We’ll be asking every Jewish organization in St. Louis to promote and publicize and find a way to bring this message to their constituents.”

Rosenberg noted that, like other federations across the country, the St. Louis Federation is experienced at dealing with emergency appeals to raise money during trying circumstances, having brought in more than $2 million in a campaign several years ago to help victims of terror.

“This is unfortunately a well-worn pattern,” he said. “We know how to do this. We’re very confident the community will respond.”

Expressing the seriousness of the situation is key, he said.

“I think today that the critical message that the Jewish community needs to understand is that Israel is in very dire straits and what we can do more than anything is provide major financial support to keep the children safe, to take care of the vulnerable to help Israel get through this terrible period,” Rosenberg said.

For more information, call the Federation at 314-432-0020 or log on to www.jewishinstlouis.org.

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