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It is hard not to be moved by the images coming from Israel and Gaza.  The nearly 1,000 recent Hamas rocket attacks on Israel have terrorized the Jewish state and caused nearly 5 million Israelis to live in constant fear of violent Hamas attacks.  Whether we know anyone in Israel or not our collective hearts go out to everyone whose survival depends on being 15 – 60 seconds from a bomb shelter when the almost constant blare of Red Alert Sirens start to wail.

Understandably, we Americans want to do what we can to help.  And help usually takes the form of Tzedakah and Tefilah – charitable contributions and prayer.  We should be generous with both.

So it should not be surprising to see organizations with an historical mission of supporting Israel directly or otherwise, all or in part, turn to the community for support.  Organizations like Jewish National Fund (JNF), Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) are among those who are asking for a few shekels to help.

I am struck by the different ways in which two local organizations have reached out to their support base.  Here are the explanations of why emergency donations to Israel are urgently needed now by Deb Mobell-Rochford, the Arizona Regional Executive Director of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and by Stuart Wachs, the absolutely ineffective CEO of the ineffective Jewish Community Association (JCA).

Here are excerpts of the clear and passionate explanation from Ms. Mobell-Rochford of JNF which she posted on Facebook to explain how emergency donations to JNF can be put to immediate use to help save Israeli lives and what JNF is doing:

Help us purchase mobile bomb shelters. We need 50 more.

This is the recreational center/bomb shelter that I posted yesterday. We are keeping the center open 24/7 at a cost of $20,000 per day.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/07/10/israel-gaza-rockets-sderot/12486413

The Jewish National Fund is taking swift & decisive action on the ground in Israel. No other organization is equipped to act as quickly. We are resupplying firefighters, our first responders to rocket attacks. We have opened the 21,000 sf Sderot Indoor Recreation Center http://www.jnf.org/work-we-do/our-projects/security/sderot-indoor-playground.html  24/7 to house seniors & children who cannot move to shelters within 15 seconds. We are moving large numbers of children from the south to the north and we are assisting with Israeli’s disabled in Aleh Negev, http://www.jnf.org/work-we-do/blueprint-negev/aleh-negev.html  which is under rocket fire. In Halutzah, http://www.jnf.org/work-we-do/our-projects/community-building/a-new-chapter-for-gaza.html we are shipping and installing temporary bomb shelters where there are none.

It costs $20,000 per day to keep Sderot open 24/7 to feed and house.  It costs $30,000 per temporary bomb shelter to purchase, ship and install

If you have already contributed to our campaign please note monies raised CANNOT go to the emergency fund. They are already designated to other projects. Are you able to contribute to the emergency campaign? If you have not contributed and are waiting until the end of the year, we need these funds today. We are not waiting to see what we will raise. We are taking action today. Our community will be judged on what we do to help when Israel is in need. I ask you to consider an emergency gift. Please call me at 480.447.8100 x980. Please share this message. Am Israel Chai.

Who could ask for a more cogent and compelling appeal?  And who would not want to help the JNF in their important work to keep Israelis safe from rockets and missiles.

And then there is the 1,200 word message from Mr. Wachs titled:  Day 3: Update on Operation Protective Edge & Federation Response which is hardly a journalistic tour de force and way too long and self-serving to be published in its entirety here.  If you would like to read it click this link https://tinyurl.com/m47momd.  And midway through Mr. Wachs’ message and seemingly totally out of context is this nonspecific reference to a further communication yet to be distributed which apparently will tell us how our donations to the JCA will help Israel:

Due to the physical infrastructure damage, economic impact and incredible emotional toll these constant attacks are having, there is a need for an emergency campaign to assist Israel. It is our time to step up for Israel. We will be sending out information tomorrow about how you can help.

Apparently the billion dollar Jewish Federations of North America organization is on the ground in Israel but incapable of helping the JCA explain to its donors exactly why their contributions are needed and, if made, how their donations will be used.  I guess we’ll have to stay tuned for more urgent communication from Mr. Wachs and then see exactly how he frames the need for support.

And let’s also remember that it was the JCA, (in its last incarnation as the Jewish Federation) which told its donors that part of their annual campaign donations would support Israel but then failed to make good on its own commitment to Israel for a couple of years.  A fraudulent raising of money from donors whose gifts never made it to the State of Israel for several years and then the local Federation sent only cents on the dollar.

And lastly, let’s remember that the JCA’s cost of fundraising and its extraordinarily high overhead raises the question about how much of each dollar contributed to their Israel Emergency Campaign will ever see the light of day in Eretz Yisroel.

I don’t know about you, but no matter what message comes next from the JCA it won’t take a team of analysts from Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, Guidestar or any other charity watchdog organization to convince me that when it comes to supporting Israel the smart money is best put in the hands of the Jewish National Fund and kept far away from the JCA.

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