Guidelines for the Philanthropic Response of World Jewry to a Crisis in Israel

This document offers guidelines for individuals, foundations, or organizations that aim, through their philanthropy, to increase Israel's resilience or help Israel respond better to crisis. This document is an annex to the conceptual framework Civil Resilience Network.


1. This document is an annex to the conceptual framework Civil Resilience Network – National and Local Resilience in Israel, which was a product of the partnership between the Reut Institute and the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), initiated and sponsored by the United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York City in 2008.

2. It offers guidelines for those individuals, foundations, or organizations that aim, through their philanthropy, to either increase Israel's resilience or help Israel respond better to crisis (hereinafter ‘philanthropists’). This group includes individual philanthropists, foundations, Jewish community institutions such as local federations and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) in the USA, UJIA in Britain, Keren HaYaseod and other organizations such as Hillel, the Jewish Agency’s Partnership 2000 Program, and Taglit-Birthright.

3. The context for this paper is that, while philanthropists can and should play a significant role in enhancing the preparedness of Israel’s civil society, during future crises it may be harder for them to raise funds within their communities and spend them effectively in Israel. Hence the need to prepare.

Resilience of the Israeli Home Front (2006-2010)

4. The Second Lebanon War (7/06) exposed several key weaknesses in Israel’s society and its security and foreign policy approach. One of them was the gross unpreparedness of Israel's home front, which affected a significant area and a large population in Northern Israel, whose plight mobilized numerous NGO's, volunteers and philanthropists, many from the Jewish world.

5. Since that episode, Israel's preparedness to crises has been overhauled. The Ministry of Defense has been assigned overall responsibility for the home front and has established the National Emergency Authority (NEMA) (2007) as its civilian arm to work together with the IDF Home Front Command. At the same time, other ministries, mainly the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, increased their preparedness efforts. This significant investment in resources and routine exercises has led to a remarkable transformation in the preparedness of Israel's emergency authorities, ministries, and local governments.

6. Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (1/09) demonstrated evident and significant improvement in the capabilities of the government to respond to a crisis, which is of a limited geographic and demographic scope. However, in Operation Cast Lead and since, there has not been a systematic effort to tap into the resources and commitment of civil society i.e. non-governmental organizations, philanthropy and the business sector.

7. Hence, despite these efforts and successes, Israel remains vulnerable to a national crisis, in which a large area and population will be affected by a natural disaster or war. Such a crisis can generate a significant gap between the needs and expectations of the population, on the one hand, and the capabilities and resources of the emergency authorities, on the other hand. Such a gap can lead to local collapses, in the form of breakdown of social norms, mass disobedience and loss of trust among citizens and authorities, similar to what occurred during the Katrina disaster in New Orleans (2005).

8. The conceptual framework Civil Resilience Network – National and Local Resilience in Israel views the vision of resilience as the foundation for success on the home front. Resilience means the ability to transcend a crisis by adapting to dramatically changed conditions, by saving and protecting lives, by securing basic quality of life for individuals and communities, by protecting the social fabric and by maintaining functioning community.

Realizing the vision of resilience and addressing the aforementioned gap mandates mobilizing the untapped resources in Israel's civil society based on the following two ideas:

  • Developing a civil resilience network of individuals, communities, businesses, nonprofits, and philanthropists that are committed to local and national resilience and have the capacities and resources to act both independently and together during crises;
  • Instilling a culture of preparedness, i.e. a set of values and habits that emphasize crisis preparedness, across all sectors of society including the government, businesses, nonprofits, and philanthropists.

9. The resilience of the civil network stems from its flat and nonhierarchical structure, as well as from the independence of its units and inherent duplications and overlaps.

10. Its most important units are ‘hubs’, which are nodes that have an exceptional number of connections to other units, and therefore have the greatest influence on its overall performance. Examples include national corporations, community centers, large non-profits, academic institutions or youth movements.

Changes in Jewish Philanthropy and its Ability to Respond to Crisis in Israel

11. The mobilization of the Jewish world to support Israel in times of crises has been the result of a strong sense of solidarity. Many Israelis take this support for granted, and rely on it during emergencies.

12. The platform for the philanthropic response of world Jewry to Israeli crises has been the ‘Emergency Campaigns’, led by United Jewish Communities in the USA (now named JFNA) and similar organizations around the world, such as Keren HaYesod, who would issue a call to raise funds to support the state and people of Israel. The subsequent resources are usually allocated through the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Since its establishment in 2002, the ITC has also served in this capacity.

13. In 1967 and 1973, significant resources were raised and allocated through these campaigns. And over the past decade, four such campaigns were organized in response to the Second Intifada (4/02), The Second Lebanon War (7/06), the escalation in the Gaza Region (5/08), and Operation Cast Lead (1/09).

14. Yet powerful trends are undermining the capability of world Jewry to respond to a crisis in Israel in an equally effective manner. These include but are not limited to: the change in Israel’s image abroad; the changing relationship between Israel and the Jewish World; Israel’s prosperity; the shift from charity to high-impact philanthropy; economic difficulties in Jewish institutions due to the economic crisis; and the generational transition to the third generation to those did lived through the period of the Holocaust and the rebirth of the state of Israel. Furthermore, in 2006, the judgment, transparency and accountability of the allocation of the emergency funds were questioned.

15. Furthermore, three additional gaps are emerging:

  • One address vs. multiple addresses – While the philanthropic activities of world Jewry in Israel are increasingly decentralized, Israel has consolidated its home front under NEMA and the IDF Home Front Command;
  • Narrative of resilience vs. weakness – While the Israeli mindset is now anchored in the idea of resilience, Emergency Campaigns were based on a narrative of weakness and vulnerability;
  • Preparedness vs. lack thereof – Israel invested heavily in crisis preparedness, while many philanthropists that will mobilize to stand by in in times of crisis are yet to improve their own preparedness for effective intervention in Israel.

16. Hence, the ability of philanthropists to respond to a crisis in Israel and to contribute effectively to its resilience may be compromised in the absence of concrete measures of preparedness.

Guidelines for effective philanthropic preparedness:

17. The following strategic decisions should be taken in advance with regard to the allocation of funds in times of crisis in Israel, noting that long-standing relationships with nonprofits, philanthropists, and government institutions in Israel offer the most effective foundation for crisis-intervention, if prepared properly (see below):
  • Whether to primarily support already existing grantees and partnerships, or work through JAFI, JDC or ITC according to their set of priorities;
  • Whether to underwrite government needs and priorities such as equipping shelters or military units , and/or to support independent non-profit activities by civil society such as food banks or community centers;
  • Whether to support all Israelis including non-Jews or just Jews (this is a moral decision that should not be left to staff);
  • Whether to spend all funds in Israel or also on PR around the world.

18. Embracing a culture of preparedness for crisis in Israel through:

  • Establishing a forum dedicated to such preparedness (naturally, it may be relevant to other crises as well);
  • Holding annual events to increase awareness to preparedness and to maintain appropriate response mechanisms. Main activities should take place in parallel to the Israel's National Emergency Exercise.

19. JFNA and Keren HaYesod, with their main partners in Israel, should have a mechanism for deliberation with the Ministry of Defense, IDF and other relevant government ministries/ branches and experts to discuss preparedness and develop a model of operation during crises. Meetings should be held periodically, such as during the JAFI Board of Governors gathering in Israel.

20. Spending through the JAFI / JDC/ ITC tracks, which are coordinated with GOI priorities, requires establishing a common code for allocations in order to ensure rapid, effective and efficient response with minimal red-tape.

21. Philanthropists should develop their independent understanding of the needs that will arise in Israel in times of crisis through their activities and partners in Israel, as well as through engagement with the GOI.

22. Spending through already existing grantees and partners in Israel requires:

  • Grantee’s should be categorized into three groups based on the role they are expected to play during a national crisis:

(a) 'Essential service providers', e.g. in the areas of food security, healthcare, welfare or trauma, that MUST continue to and even expand operations;

(b) 'Dual-use organizations', who have assets and capabilities that can be relevant in crisis such as youth movements, sports groups, community centers, rotary clubs or academic institutions, that SHOULD adapt in times of crisis and mobilize to enhance local and national resilience; or

(c) 'Non-essential organizations' such as twinning programs among schools or museums that will have to SCALE BACK during crises.

  • Establishing clear expectations for preparedness by grantees that are ‘essential service providers’ or ‘dual-use organizations’ based on agreed guidelines, that should be developed by government in collaboration with civil society (see example in annex);
  • Pre-planning and pre-pledging – All essential and dual-use organizations should present their plan of action in times of crisis every other year. Philanthropists should pre-pledge such that:

(a) Essential organizations will have a standing emergency pledge for six months of operation that can be activated immediately to allow them to focus on and expand their operations by 20% (and NOT fundraise during the crisis);

(b) All dual-use organizations will have a standing emergency pledge for three months of operation to implement their crisis plan (and will pledge NOT to fundraise as well during the crisis);

(c) Allocation to non-essential organizations will be reduced by 25%-50% during crisis.

23. Partnerships with Israeli philanthropists prior to a crisis, and agreement on priorities and strategies in order to match their NIS, are effective ways to spend money in Israel during crisis.

24. Leveraging platform-to-platform partnerships such as among JAFI's Partnership 2000, JCCA and MATNASIM (Israeli community cetners), or Hillels to directly support local Israeli partners – every such organization or platform should have its own contingency plan using its already existing Israeli partners and outposts based on the above guidelines (categorizing of activities, pre-planning, etc.). In addition, there could be collaboration between partnerships in different regions to increase the effectiveness of any given intervention.

25. Giving representatives in Israel petty cash to address small and vital needs such as reading glasses, medication, transportation or clothing. This could make a big difference in times of crisis for many people. The chairperson of the local Partnership could be a candidate to be such a trustee.

26. Spending large sums of money through third-parties in times crisis is a trust-based activity that requires transparency and accountability. Hence, such partners must have a record of diligence, accountability and transparency, and there should be clear distinction among regulators, grantees, and grantors.

27. Establishing a fund toward nurturing a culture of preparedness in Israel. The fund will grow through annual allocations, while its fruits could serve to increase preparedness.

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