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Helping Israel

An extraordinary outpouring of initiatives has sprung up to help Israel.
[additional-authors]
November 2, 2023
American Friends of Magen David Adom raises funds for Israel’s official representative to the International Red Cross

“We have to find something we can do!” Dr. Ofir Koren said during a recent phone call with the Israeli consul general in Los Angeles. “‘Everyone’s in a bad place, a terrible position, and we must figure a way out of this.”

His native country, Israel, was facing an unprecedented moment of adversity, perhaps the worst crisis in its 75-year history, and Dr. Koren, an interventional cardiology fellow at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, knew he had to help.

His way to help, it turned out, was drawing on his extensive experience and contacts in the medical field. Koren is the founder of Re’im, an ambitious yet lean, newly launched nonprofit that’s seeking U.S.-based certified physicians to immediately volunteer working in Israeli hospitals. Many current doctors in Israeli are IDF reservists who are being called to the front lines for the expected ground invasion of Gaza, therefore creating short-staffed hospitals. 

Meanwhile, the possibility of a multifront war, one with Hamas in Gaza, in the north with Hezbollah in Lebanon and with Palestinians in the West Bank could lead to an unprecedented demand for emergency care services. 

Enter Re’im (Hebrew for “friends” and the name of one of the kibbutzim in southern Israel brutally attacked by Hamas last month). The organization is urgently seeking orthopedic and general surgeons, burn experts, trauma doctors and emergency room physicians to work in two-week shifts in Israel. Re’im is also seeking forensic pathologists who can aid Israel’s effort in examining the deceased and determining their causes of death. Along with the recruitment of physicians, Re’im is collecting medical supplies to send to Israel, including gauzes, ultrasound tablets, tactical gear, paramedic bags and advanced trauma life support equipment.

Since the group’s launch, nearly 150 physicians have expressed a desire to go to Israel, Koren told the Journal. On the East Coast, there’s been a similar level of interest. 

Koren — who served as a major in one of Israeli Air Force’s elite forces — said he was heartened by the response but not all that surprised.

“I was born in Israel. My parents fought for Israel. My brothers, all of them are in special forces. This is what we do – what we’re raised to do and trained to do,” Koren told the Journal. “Every time there’s a situation in Israel, everybody is coming to do what they do best.”

Re’im is just one example of the ways people in the Los Angeles community have been stepping up and supporting Israel over the past several weeks since Hamas’ deadly massacre of Israeli civilians on Oct. 7.

American Friends of Magen David Adom, which raises funds for Israel’s official representative to the International Red Cross, saw more than 435 families and individuals from Wilshire Boulevard Temple respond to its call for support and sponsor seven life support ambulances along with additional funding for ambulance maintenance. 

For its part, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center donated $250,000 to four hospitals in Israel responding to the current crisis. The Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles provided guidance to the L.A.-based hospital about where its funds would be most useful. Cedars-Sinai was drawn to those medical centers treating both Jewish and Arab patients.

Solidarity march in Santa Monica

Likewise, synagogues across the city have risen to the occasion. Sinai Temple has launched “Mobilizing for Israel,” a community-wide effort connecting congregants with opportunities to help Israel in areas including advocacy, education, supplies, mental health and more. Valley Beth Shalom recently held an event for both adults and children, where the older crowd heard from informed speakers about the situation and kids penned letters of support for Israeli friends overseas.

“People from all ages and ranges are asking [how they can help] — yes, from monetary giving to getting their hands dirty to coming up with their own ideas, there’s local, national and international efforts,” Sinai Temple Co-Senior Rabbi Erez Sherman told the Journal. “As time goes by, the needs are also changing each day.”

Moishe House LA RSJ recently hosted a “Letter Writing to Israeli Children” workshop. Courtesy of Moishe House

Becky Sobelman-Stern, executive vice president and chief program officer at Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, spoke to the Journal one day after returning from a Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)-organized mission to Israel. The trip was a flurry of activity. From the empty terminals of Ben Gurion Airport to playgrounds of Ashkelon missing the typical hum of happy children, Israel was not its usual self, but something else had taken hold of the country, the Federation leader said. There was a spirit of volunteerism, with Israelis giving back to one another and holding up one another.

 As of Oct. 27, less than three weeks since Hamas’ attack, Federations under the umbrella of the JFNA have collectively raised $122 million for Israel. This includes $24 million raised by the L.A. Federation, Sobelman-Stern said, explaining this moment facing Israel was unique from all other past challenges.

 “I’ve traveled to Israel many times and I’ve been involved in many emergency scenarios, but this is different,” she said. “This impacts every single person in the country and will take generations for the psycho-trauma of this to dissipate. There’s been a lot of comparisons to the Holocaust. During the attack, families were in hiding, having to keep their children quiet. You can understand why the comparisons to the Holocaust are being made. It’s deeply traumatic. Everybody has a need to talk. Everyone, when you talk to them, starts with the morning of Oct. 7.”

For some, supporting Israel has been less about how much they can give and more about finding ways to feel helpful at such a difficult time. 

For some, supporting Israel has been less about how much they can give and more about finding ways to feel helpful at such a difficult time. This has been true for Adi Matalon, team leader of the medical supply coordination at Re’im. She said volunteering is a way to feel useful when it’s easy to feel helpless.

“We won’t be the same after Oct. 7, it changed everything,” she told the Journal. “I feel like I can contribute from here by doing this. It’s hard to be far away, and we’re all doing our best to help.”

Maman Nonprofit

Sara Raoof Jacobs, founder of the L.A.-based Maman Nonprofit, runs a group that has coordinated gatherings in San Fernando Valley backyards for people to pack boxes of medical supplies, children’s clothes, baby items, outdoor equipment and more. At one gathering, there were enough supplies for 29 pallets. A kabbalah teacher from the local Persian community, Raoof Jacobs said she begins each packing event with remarks about mystical Jewish teachings and has been warmed by the giving spirit of the volunteers.

“The consciousness and mindset of everyone comes from abundance and love,” she said.

Indeed, from letter-writing campaigns to assembling essential items ordered on Amazon; from walking in Israel solidarity rallies to contacting local elected officials about the hostages held by Hamas, the Los Angeles Jewish community has jumped into action to support those in Israel.

Indeed, from letter-writing campaigns to assembling essential items ordered on Amazon; from walking in Israel solidarity rallies to contacting local elected officials about the hostages held by Hamas, the Los Angeles Jewish community has jumped into action to support those in Israel.

“They do want our support,” Sobelman-Stern said. “People on the front lines need to be taken care of. They need a break. People who are doing heroic things, whether it’s volunteering, feeding other people, working double shifts—they need us.”


For those who want to help, we offer a Mitzvah Roundup. By no means exhaustive, this list will continue to be updated at jewishjournal.com. Please email any suggestions to editor@jewishjournal.com. We also encourage you to contact your local synagogue about ways to help Israel.

Re’im, a recently launched nonprofit, is enlisting U.S. physicians to dispatch to Israeli hospitals, where they’ll serve short-term shifts. The organization’s also accepting donations of medical supplies and financial contributions. For additional information, visit reim.life.

American Friends of Magen David Adom, Israel’s official representative to the International Red Cross, raises funds to ensure the 33,000 paramedics, EMTs, first responders and first-aid providers have what they need to treat the injured and ill in Israel. For additional information, visit afmda.org.

Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has launched an Israel emergency fund, where all donations go directly to supporting Israel. The funds support victims of terror, provide food, financial assistance and bereavement support, trauma relief and mental health care and emergency evacuation needs. For more details, visit jewishla.org.

Maman Nonprofit has compiled an “IDF Shopping List” of approved items for purchase for IDF soldiers, including towels, thermal underwear and sleeping bags. To learn more, visit maman4israel.com.

Lev Echad (One Heart), an Israel-based volunteer force convened in times of crisis, is leading a national response to provide immediate support to families and communities from the kibbutzim in the Gaza border region, Sderot, and throughout Israel’s south. To contribute, visit levechad.org.

#BlueRibbonsforIsrael, a Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) social media and public awareness campaign, encourages individuals, organizations and companies to wear blue ribbons and share pictures of themselves sporting the ribbons to show their solidarity with Israel. For information about the campaign, including how to order the ribbons, visit https://www.blueribbonsforisrael.org.

Shalva National Crisis Response Center, an Israel-based group, provides an all-encompassing range of services for thousands of people with disabilities. It is currently caring for hundreds of evacuees from Israel’s southern region. To support Shalva, visit shalva.org/home.

United Hatzalah of Israel, an independent, non-profit, fully volunteer emergency medical service (EMS) organization, responds to crises across Israel. To support their work, visit israelrescue.org.

Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), the designated partner of the Israel Defense Forces in the U.S., is seeking support for its Hamas-Israel War Emergency Campaign. Details at fidf.org.

The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin supports the IDF’s “lone soldiers”—those in Israel’s armed forces without the support of family. A lone soldier can be a new immigrant, a volunteer from abroad, an orphan or an individual from a broken home. Several lone soldiers have been killed in the current war. For more information, visit lonesoldiercenter.com.

For a list of additional places to support, visit our Mitzvah Roundup.

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