A rally outside the United Nations, a national Super Sunday fundraising drive for Israel, a Solidarity Shabbat and missions to Israel are among the events planned for next month to generate support for the Jewish state as it recovers from the war in Lebanon.
These events, organized in part by the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella organization of 155 Jewish federations in North America, are to be part of what is being billed as the “Ten Days of Solidarity,” which will begin Sept. 10 and end two days before Rosh HaShanah. “We recognize that the days preceding the holidays are critical for maintaining people’s focus on Israel and the issues that arose in light of the crisis,” said Doron Krakow, UJC’s senior vice president for Israel and overseas. “This is a period of reflection and introspection, and we want to be sure that the centrality of Israel is foremost in people’s minds as they head into the High Holidays.”
The UJC is striving to raise at least $300 million in an Israel Emergency Campaign that began while the war was raging. To date it has raised more than $232 million. The money will be used in part to rebuild the infrastructure of the north that was damaged by the war, including community centers, libraries and homes for the elderly; offer training for the newly unemployed; provide temporary housing while homes damaged during the fighting are rebuilt; upgrade bomb shelters; and provide trauma services. About 35 percent of Israeli school children who remained in the north during the 34-day war are now suffering from anxiety, nightmares and other problems, according to a survey released this week by the Tel Chai Academic College. It said the 16,000 children in the north had difficulty concentrating and cried more often. And it found that 7 percent of the youngsters suffered severe anxiety, refusing to leave their homes.
The Ten Days of Solidarity will begin with the start of the International Lion of Judah conference in Washington, D.C. This is a national women’s philanthropic group whose members each commit to contributing at least $5,000 annually ($6,000 in New York and Baltimore). The Shabbat of Sept. 15-16 will be designated Solidarity Shabbat and rabbis in synagogues across the country will be asked to make appeals from the bima for the Israel Emergency Campaign.
The next day, Sept. 17, has been designated Super Sunday by UJC, which is asking federations across the country to make phone calls in an effort to raise money for the campaign.
“Super Sunday is a tool commonly used by federations to raise money for their own campaigns and we are asking them to use it for this one,” Krakow said. “We are aware that there are competing local events that day, including a solidarity rally for Darfur at the U.N., and some communities will therefore select a different date. But we want federations to take advantage of the material we are creating for this event. We have a whole kit to assist people in raising money.”
In addition, Krakow said Karnit Goldwasser, whose husband, Ehud, is one of the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers, is expected to be in the United States again to join other Israeli government officials on behalf of the fundraising effort.
On Wednesday, Sept. 20, a rally will be held in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations from noon until 2 p.m., according to Michael Miller, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. The rally is designed to correspond with the 61st U.N. General Assembly. President George W. Bush is scheduled to address that body the previous day. The U.N. took a lead role in calling for the cease-fire that ended the war in Lebanon. The role of the 15,000 peacekeepers it has committed to providing in southern Lebanon has been the subject of continued debate, and the rally is designed to show support for Israel.
“It will build on rallies we held in July when we called for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit [kidnapped June 25 by Palestinian terrorists from Gaza] and another July 17 after Hezbollah attacked Israel,” Miller said. “We’re hoping to communicate a message to world leaders that we stand with Israel and want an end to global terrorism.”
Miller said the rally is co-sponsored by his group and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in conjunction with UJC and UJA-Federation of New York. He said invitations are now being extended to political and communal leaders to address the rally.
There is also a plan to take another solidarity mission to Israel Sept. 17-21. This would be the fifth organized by the UJC for its leaders and the leaders of federations since the war began on July 12. “Sixty lay leaders have gone to Israel, going as far north as Haifa, on 72-hour” solidarity missions, Krakow said. He noted that in September and October there are a total of 30 community missions slated to go to Israel. None have canceled and Krakow said he doesn’t expect any cancellations.
“As we get further and further from the war, I expect that the need for special solidarity trips will diminish,” Krakow said. “But because communities are asking for it and because we believe it is so important, we are building into mission itineraries opportunities to visit the north and engage with the people who were directly affected by the war.”
He said that although tour groups do not typically go to these areas in the north, “my guess is that for the foreseeable future it will be important” to make such trips.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents’ Conference, said tourism was hurt by the war and that special incentives and amenities are being arranged to encourage people to visit Israel — particularly northern Israel — within the next year. “We are going to focus on the theme of visiting Israel for the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967,” he said. “We are building up to Jerusalem Day on May 9.”
There is even talk of a mega-mission to celebrate Jerusalem’s reunification, Hoenlein added.