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Local Philanthropist Giving Back to Israelis in Need

Ruth Brandt, a Los Angeles-based philanthropist, started an urgent appeal in partnership with the Giving Group Community to raise emergency funds for families in Arad, Ashkelon and Dimona.
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December 21, 2020
Photo courtesy of Family Nest Ashkelon

Right now, many Israelis are suffering due to COVID-19. More than 980,370 Israelis were unemployed as of this past October, which is almost one quarter of the workforce.

Families are going without food and are unable to pay for basic necessities like their rent, utilities and cars. That’s why Ruth Brandt, a Los Angeles-based philanthropist, started an urgent appeal in partnership with the Giving Group Community to raise emergency funds for families in Arad, Ashkelon and Dimona. All the fundraising is being done through the Israel Giving Bread website.

In a phone interview with the Journal, Brandt said she got involved because she’s a longtime Zionist. “I call [the funds] a breath. It’s for your washing machine or your refrigerator that breaks, or if you need to pay the dentist or the rent or a bill that’s strangling you. It lets you breathe.”

Brandt, along with other philanthropists, launched the campaign with a matching fund of $80,000. Now, they’re asking for a $360 donation per family to support over 500 families in need.

When someone logs onto the website, they can see a recipient’s first name, location, how the support will help them and how many people are in the family. They can also view information on why the family is in need. For example, Yonit’s family in Dimona needs help buying food. There are six people in the family, and the mother was temporarily laid off from a car wash facility during COVID-19.

The situation in Israel is dire, Brandt said, which is why people should consider giving. “Nobody is working. People are going through garbage cans. I don’t think Americans understand.”

“Nobody is working. People are going through garbage cans. I don’t think Americans understand.”  — Ruth Brandt

One recipient in Israel, Tova, received a donation to help her pay rent and prevent eviction. She was laid off during COVID-19 from her job at a local hotel, and she’s a single mother with two children. She said, “I never expected this kind of support. It was like an angel suddenly appeared. I am so grateful. It saved us from becoming homeless, and since [then] I found a part time job cleaning homes, which keeps us afloat. It was very heartwarming to learn it came from good people in the U.S.A. who are thinking about us here in Ashkelon.”

Miri, who also got an emergency grant, used it to fix her refrigerator. She said that when a local social worker told her she got the donation, she “was so happy. I felt like finally some unexpected, good news was received. I don’t know if I was more excited from getting the fridge [getting] repaired or knowing that people are willing to help others when things get so tough.”

The mayor of Dimona, Benny Biton, said that COVID-19 is negatively affecting the economy, health and resilience of his town. However, he also noted that, “it truly warms our hearts to know that Jews in the Diaspora see Israel as a home, and choose to provide emergency grants to families, to help them float above water. Our community is touched deeply to know that people embrace them from all over the world.”

Ruth Brandt

Brandt said that she has always supported Israel, and continues to do so now, because of her family history. “My parents were in the Shoah. My dad was 1 of 11, and he was the only survivor. On my mother’s side, she and her father were the only ones that came out of the war alive. If Israel was there we wouldn’t have had these numbers. I’m always aware it could happen again. Israel is our safety net. It keeps us safe.”

The philanthropist was a Hadassah president when she was younger, and she’s consistently given money to single working mothers to help them pay for university as well as Israel Guide Dog Center, which trains guide dogs for people in need.

“My passion is Israel,” said Brandt. ”It has to be. Who else is going to step up? If we aren’t going to do it, who is?”

For anyone interested in sponsoring a family, visit Israel Giving Bread.

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