From the Desk of Jerry Silverman

Federations of North America CEO


Hurricane Irma's unexpected shift to Florida's west coast appears to have mostly spared our largest Jewish population centers from what could have been a terrible disaster. But long-term power outages in Florida's hot and humid climate are raising serious health concerns, especially for many seniors. According to The New York Times, there have already been a number of deaths in nursing homes. Some areas of the state could be looking at 10 more days without electricity.

Jacob Solomon, president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, spoke to The Jerusalem Post earlier this week and mentioned the community's concern for vulnerable populations like the elderly.

JFNA has checked with every affected community, and preliminary reports show moderate to little institutional damage. The major facilities that support Jewish communal life are intact. However, we are still working to get a handle on the number of individual homes affected by flooding.


To date, the Hurricane Harvey relief effort has raised about $12 million. Later this week, JFNA's Emergency Committee and the Houston Federation's local allocations committee are both meeting to review a comprehensive framework to address recovery and rebuilding needs, now estimated to be in the $26-33 million range.

JFNA's third national team is on the ground in Houston this week, represented by Joy Goldstein, associate vice president of planning at JFNA, and Andi Milens, director of engagement and leadership development at the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City. Local focus remains strong on readying synagogues for the High Holiday season and on maintaining the campaign's momentum.

National Young Leadership Cabinet gathered 20 people from communities around the country last week for a three-day mission to Houston, which was well-received. The group was involved in setting up the JCC's temporary preschool site and in cleaning up homes. Here's a video they produced about the visit.


Jerry Silverman



Hurricane Harvey –Through the combined efforts of JFNA and the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, a total of $14.M has been committed as of September 19, 2017. This includes $5.8M raised in Houston, $5M from Federations across North America, $2.2M from national Jewish foundations, and $1M from the Government of Israel. 

Hurricane Irma – The response across the system has been much more muted – a consequence of the timing right on the heels of Harvey. As of yesterday, we had a total of $205,000 committed, either to the national donation site or allocations from communities.

Specific Responses to Disasters

Hurricane Maria

JFNA’s Emergency Committee and Network staff are closely tracking the trajectory and impact of the storm on the Caribbean Islands. In particular:

St. Thomas – US Virgin Islands – yesterday (9-19-17), JFNA was able to procure 200 generators and is making arrangements to ship them to the Hebrew Congregation in St. Thomas as soon as possible. We are working on additional supplies urgently needed by the community.

Puerto Rico – JFNA staff has been in regular contact with the synagogues in Puerto Rico heading into the storm and will assess and respond to their needs as soon as contact resumes.

Non-US locales – our partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is working to respond to the needs in other Caribbean nations affected by the various hurricanes and is increasing their efforts in the wake of this latest storm. IsraAid is currently positioned in Haiti and prepared to deploy after the storm.

Mexico Earthquakes

IsraAid and the Israel Defense Forces are deploying to Mexico to provide immediate assistance in the wake of yesterday’s devastating earthquake, the second massive earthquake to hit Mexico in two weeks. The IsraAid team is deploying alongside an IDF delegation of 70 soldiers and officers. 

The JDC is working in partnership with Cadena, Mexico, a local NGO, to provide assistance, as well. JDC is opening an emergency fund for the Mexico situation.

Hurricane Jose

This hurricane grazed the northeast coast. While there have been reports of some coastal flooding, we are not yet aware of any specific impacts on Jewish communities. 

Hurricane Harvey

JFNA’s Emergency Committee approved grants this past week to the small communities in Beaumont/Port Arthur and Galveston to assist local families affected by the hurricane. Intensive work continues with Houston to help the community mobilize a comprehensive response to their needs, estimated in the $30M range.

To donate, you can make a tax-deductible donation securely via our "Donate Now" link (Make sure to enter "Hurricane  Relief Fund" in the designation box). You can also mail a check to 400 N. Woodlawn, Suite 8, Wichita, KS 67208 (on memo line, note Hurricane  Relief Fund.)

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of this has impacted and all the humanitarian workers there to help with their needs. Thank you for your generosity and support.

Throughout history, we’ve had to respond to those bent on destruction. When the Second Temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was burning, and the remnant of our people were sent into exile, leading sage Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai responded by building an academy. Known as Yavneh, it became a stark symbol of defiance in the face of withering hatred. This single act by a single individual is responsible for helping preserve the Jewish people and Jewish values over the past 2,000 years.

Evil always fills a void; it thrives on listlessness and chaos. The strongest answer of our people is to be truer to ourselves; to delve deeper into our heritage and values, and create a center of community where these can develop, thrive, and inform future generations. When we adhere to our sacred principles, we succeed in defeating the forces set against us, even those that physically threaten us. We learn to stand up for each other, even when we disagree — from our sages, we learn how to disagree.

We stand firmly with the good people of Charlottesville, as we do in all instances where evil persists. We mourn the tragic deaths of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates, who lost their lives standing up for what is right and good. Our hearts go out to their families and friends, and we pray for a speedy and complete healing for those who were injured. We unequivocally condemn those who embody evil on this earth: white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the KKK, and all who pursue the path of hatred, prejudice, and xenophobia. 

We reach out to ALL Americans from all walks of life who believe in the sanctity of our values of liberty, justice, and compassion. We lock arms with them because we know all too well that freedom is not free; we must be ever vigilant and active in its pursuit. 

Actions speak louder than words. We back up these sentiments by striving even harder to imbue our communities with our values of tzedakah, chesed, and tikkun olam — of restoring balance to society by actively helping the needy, caring with compassion, and advancing the cause of repairing the world. This is the work of our Federations, day in and day out. By continuing to teach and build community through these principles, we play an essential role in creating the kind of future we seek for ourselves, our children, and future generations. 

This must be our response today. Not to tear each other down, but to stand stronger in the face of sinat chinam — baseless hatred. We build community because there is no better guarantor of the future than a populace that sees itself as sharing a common destiny. We devote ourselves to helping those in need because, as a sacred responsibility of our people, this defines who we are in a way that words cannot. 

Many organizations and leaders have different roles to play in this paradigm, and we must work together toward a powerful, unified rejection of hatred and prejudice. We need to be supportive of each other’s efforts because each response is important. No one can be left behind; we must shore each other up and lead with distinction. Now is the time to coalesce — despite our disagreements — for the sake of our future. 

In the enduring words of our sage Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” 

Richard Sandler is chair of the Board of Trustees and Jerry Silverman is president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America



Wednesday September 13           MKJF Café Chevre – 11:45 am

Thursday September 14              MKJF Board Meeting – 7:00 pm – HC

 Sunday October 22                    MKJF 2018 Annual Campaign Kick-Off