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Israelis get local help with war’s impact
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Israelis get local help with war’s impact

Two merging Jewish federations are already of one mind when it comes to helping Israelis cope with the lingering aftereffects of this summer’s Operation Protective Edge.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County has allotted an additional $194,818 for five critical programs while the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County has allocated almost $45,000 to six entities. 

The federations will merge Jan. 1.

The programs represent a range of responses to needs following last summer’s war in Gaza, especially mental health programs for soldiers and civilians, and recreation and respite for Israeli youth (see box, below).

“Committee members feel passionately about supporting Israel in times of peace and crisis,” said Tony Winston, chair of the Middlesex federation’s Overseas Allocations Committee. “We’re thrilled to support the good work of the selected programs.”

According to Susan Antman, executive director of the Middlesex federation, the community previously raised and sent $88,012 during and immediately after the military action in Gaza to provide emergency supplies, evacuate children in strike zones, and for trauma counseling, financial assistance, and portable bomb shelters.

“There are not enough words of thanks for the strength of our Jewish community and its willingness to support Israel whenever there is a need,” she said.

As the needs in Israel continued to grow, the Allocations Committee was asked to reconvene to research and recommend additional sources for assisting Israelis.

The Monmouth federation previously contributed $60,000 and an additional $10,000 to Camp Shutaf in Jerusalem for camp sessions for youngsters living in the southern war zone, said federation executive director Keith Krivitzky.

Monmouth’s recommendations were made by its Israel Grants Committee and are awaiting executive board approval, he said, adding the funds were donated during federation’s Israel emergency campaign. 

Camp Shutaf received an additional $6,725 this time around. Cofounder and executive director Beth Steinberg praised the Monmouth federation for its funding for camp programs for the last three years, calling it “an active relationship” that included a visit from residents on a 2013 mission. The most recent gift helped with expenses incurred to ensure campers’ safety and security. 

“With rockets falling and the war intensifying, we expanded our numbers greatly as Shutaf families from Jerusalem reached out to us in need because of the war’s impact,” wrote Steinberg in an e-mail. “Initial plans called for 84 children and teens at camp, but we opened our first week with 97 campers and by August we were serving more than 110.”

Laura Safran, Middlesex federation’s planning and allocations director, said during its meetings the Middlesex committee chose to focus on “bigger impact” programs affecting large numbers of soldiers, children, and youth living in close proximity to Gaza because they have a greater need for services.

The committee found that 10,000 youngsters in nursery through middle school lived less than five miles from Gaza and some were exhibiting signs of trauma, including nightmares and difficulty in relationships with parents, peers, and teachers. 

Middlesex’s allocations include $45,660 for a bomb shelter in Ashkelon, which will be refurbished as a center for weekly youth activities and will also provide a more welcoming environment in times of crisis. 

The Youth Futures program of the Jewish Agency for Israel received $28,000 from Middlesex to provide both academic and social integration community-based mentoring for pre-teens and adolescents. It also helps connect families and communities with services and local resources.

The Middlesex committee awarded the lion’s share of its funding to help soldiers through two programs: the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, which is housed at the Herzog Hospital Temmy and Albert Latner Institute for the Study of Social Psychiatry and Psychotherapy. Eighty percent of those serving in the Israel Defense Forces are reservists, and many of them experience difficulty reentering the workforce or normal daily life because of their service trauma and suffer financially because of lost wages and business.

A $73,500 allocation to the Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma will help provide direct intensive counseling and workshops to 21 reserve units severely affected by their service. The $10,000 for the center’s Peace of Mind program is earmarked to bring over a contingent of reservists for a week of respite next year in Middlesex.

Seventeen combat veterans came to Middlesex last month after $55,000 was raised locally, including $5,000 from the federation. The cost for next year has risen to $65,000.

Danny Brom, executive director and founder of the psychotrauma center, said there are many former IDF members in need of the Peace of Mind program who are not receiving help because, as he put it, his “hands are tied” due to lack of funding.

Brom said he “feels personally responsible for the psychological well-being of these reservists. This funding from Middlesex federation will allow more than 370 reservists and their families to build the skills to move on with their lives.”

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