L.A. Jews Send Aid Beyond Green Line

For the past three weeks, the theme of Rabbi Elazar Muskin’s Shabbat sermons at Young Israel of Century City has been the same. Thundering from the podium, he chastises his congregation for not doing enough to support Israel, and he urges them to pray better and give more charity in response to the horrors of the terror attacks.

Like many communities in Los Angeles, Young Israel of Century City has taken upon itself the support of a large number of charities in Israel, specifically those that fall between the lines; causes that are neither affiliated with the large Jewish fundraising bodies such as The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, nor supported by the Israeli government, despite the urgency of the cause.

Across Los Angeles, grass-roots fundraising are raising money organizations to provide Jewish settlements beyond the Green Line with emergency medical equipment and facilities, first-aid kits, bulletproof vests and buses and armored cars and to help different families who have been affected by the terror attacks in one way or another.

"Unfortunately we have had to make appeals for all sorts of things," said Rabbi Yehoshua Berkowitz of Congregation Shaarei Tefilah in Hancock Park. "Security, bulletproof vests, first-aid kits for the shtachim [occupied territories]. In the past year or two we have raised about $100,000 for these causes, and it has been very gratifying, but we are paying a very small price compared to what the Israelis are paying."

"I did try to get some help from the UJC [United Jewish Communities], but I had no success," said Efrat’s Mayor Eitan Golan, who was in town last month to raise money for an emergency medical center in his city. "And from the government, the situation is not better," he said.

Although Efrat is only 9.5 miles from Jerusalem, its location beyond the Green Line means that the main road leading to Jerusalem is often sealed off for security reasons, forcing residents to travel on alternative routes that can take over an hour.

Golan, who was amazed at the deplorable state of the Emergency Medical Center of neighboring community Gush Etzion, which is located in the garage of the fire station, said that a medical center in Efrat was necessary to save lives as the first hour is critical in stabilizing the life of the patient.

The cost of the center is $1.6 million, and together with Los Angeles expatriate Harvey Tannenbaum, Golan has been knocking on doors in Los Angeles, approaching different communities for money. They made appeals at Beth Jacob, Young Israel of North Beverly Hills, Young Israel of Century City, Sinai Temple and Beth Am, among others.

"For me it is very difficult to go and ask for help, it is not my education," Golan said. "But now the situation is too serious to play honor."

"This is not an Orthodox, Conservative or Reform cause," Tannenbaum added. "We all bleed the same blood and we all need the same attention. When they attack or shoot they don’t figure out if he or she is Orthodox, or Reform or atheist, but they know that it’s a Jewish person they injured."

Steve Berger, chairman of Religious Zionists of Los Angeles, senses a similar urgency. Berger raises money for such causes as Zaka, an organization that outfits members of the Chevra Kadisha (burial society) with bulletproof vests so that they can safely enter the territories to clean up after a terror attack, and Hatzalah Judea and Samaria, an emergency medical organization that provides medical volunteers in the settlements with $1,800 and $3,400 first-aid kits.

"L.A. started the ball rolling," Berger said, noting that with the help from the L.A. community, Hatzalah Judea and Samaria’s volunteer staff has grown from seven to 400, all trained and ready to help in an emergency. Berger estimates that the L.A. community has raised at least $1 million to help causes in Israel in the past six months.

"This is nothing to do with politics, but it is simply the protection of fellow Jews," he said. "While the state of Israel continues to support Jews living in settlements beyond the Green Line, we have to go along with that."

Glen Rosencrantz, director of media relations at UJC, would not comment on the UJC’s policy with regard to the various charities mentioned in this article, except to say that , "UJC does not fund projects beyond the Green Line."

John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, a member of UJC, said these groups have not approached the local Federation for help. But, he added, the current dire situation necessitates the Federation be, “creative and thoughtful in an overall communal mobilization." The Federation supported a walk for terrorist victims in which at least some monies raised went over the Green Line, Fishel pointed out. "This Federation believes that Israeli victims of terror on whichever side of the Green Line are deserving" of a communal response, he told The Journal. "We are open to sitting with any group and hearing what they do."

Golan said, "We say in Hebrew, ‘Yeshuat Hashem ceheref ayin’ — God’s salvation will come in the blink of an eye. I believe we will get the help we need."