Learn how Colorado generosity is helping Israel

Within two months after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on October 7, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) had raised more than $762 million for humanitarian aid to Israel. JFNA’s “fair share” ask of JEWISHcolorado was $3.1 million. Thanks to generous donors, JEWISHcolorado has far exceeded that amount, raising $6.5 million.

“Supporters of JEWISHcolorado have sent a clear and definitive message that they support Israel,” says JEWISHcolorado President & CEO Renée Rockford. “Starting within hours after the attack on October 7 and in the ensuing weeks, we have seen an outpouring of generosity. Now, it is our time to allocate the gifts we have received to those in need.”

JEWISHcolorado takes no percentage from the Israel Emergency Fund gifts. Eighty percent of the funds JEWISHcolorado collects are sent to JFNA which distributes the dollars to organizations working on the ground in Israel, including The Jewish Agency, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and hundreds of partner organizations and non-governmental organizations operating on the frontlines in Israel.

JEWISHcolorado reserves 20% of its Israel Emergency Fund for direct allocations to Ramat HaNegev, its partnership region in Israel. On October 12, only five days after the attack, the first allocation of $25,000 was sent to the diverse educational community of Nitzana, located in Ramat HaNegev. It was used to support efforts to house evacuees from the Gaza envelope, providing household items, food, toiletries, and funding for staff.

Community members in Nitzana

Community members in Nitzana

Itai Divinsky, who served as JEWISHcolorado’s Shaliach (Israeli emissary) for four years and returned to Israel with his family last summer, is Director of Partnerships and Resource Development at Nitzana.

“The number of people being evacuated from their homes in the Gaza area and Northern Israel is unprecedented,” Divinsky says. “With all these arrivals, we need mattresses, pillows, towels, blankets, and enough food to feed everyone three meals a day. We are also providing the children with educational programming. We know that these people who have come to Nitzana have nowhere else to turn. The fact that we can say, ‘Yes, we will help regardless of your religion or ethnicity,’ is largely due to JEWISHcolorado watching out for us.”

“When crises happen, you don’t start building relationships,” adds Dr. Julie Lieber, JEWISHcolorado Chief Jewish Life and Engagement Officer. “You lean into the ongoing relationships that have been sustained through the years. We were ready and poised to help our partners in a moment of crisis, and we are so grateful that our community donated so generously and enabled us to respond quickly.”

Additional allocations

JEWISHcolorado’s second allocation of $25,000 was sent directly to Ramat HaNegev 12 days after the Oct. 7 attack in response to the region’s request for help providing accommodations for evacuees which, at that time, numbered 2,000. The funds were used to purchase equipment, including mattresses, first aid kits, and refrigerators and to provide emotional and social assistance to families of those who were wounded on Oct. 7.

JEWISHcolorado followed up with another allocation of $100,000 directly to Ramat HaNegev on November 6.

“We realized that this is not a sprint, it is a marathon,” says Lieber. “There is the need for additional funding to build infrastructure for communities longer term.”

At the end of November, JEWISHcolorado made two additional allocations. The first, $10,000, went to Ben Gurion University’s Sde Boker Campus in Ramat HaNegev which is serving as a logistical hub for volunteers who are assisting students, families, the IDF, and the entire Ramat Negev community through this crisis.

Nitzana during the war

Nitzana Shinshinim return to Nitzana and lead activities for children

The second allocation, $300,000, was directed to Ramat HaNegev, where it is being used for three initiatives: $120,000 is being used to renovate school buildings and equipment to help educate evacuees; $100,000 is being used to help people who have lost their livelihood in the war; $80,000 will help relocate the Kerem Shalom kibbutz to Ashalim in the Negev desert for up to two years.

“Kerem Shalom is one of 29 communities that was partially or entirely destroyed,” Lieber says. “These funds will help keep the people in this community together. It’s not a permanent solution. The hope is they will move back to their original location after they rebuild it.”

In this marathon of support, Lieber is already handling more requests from Nitzana and Kerem Shalom. She expects to also receive more from the Regional Council in Ramat HaNegev. All the requests are reviewed by a JEWISHcolorado committee, composed of Renée Rockford, Dr. Julie Lieber, Chair of the Board Ben Lusher, and Board Members Gil Selinger and Alan Brandt.

“We are far away from Israel, but we care so much about family and friends who are there living through this nightmare,” Lieber says. “Sometimes, people feel at a loss for how to help. What we are doing—passing along the generosity of Colorado’s community—feels appropriate and meaningful because we are helping people who are living through this crisis.”