MJF Announces $10 Million Israel Emergency Campaign

Minneapolis Jewish Federation announced Tikvatenu: From Heartbreak to Hope, its $10 million campaign to raise money for Israel assistance Friday afternoon, part of a $500 million effort that the leadership of Jewish Federations of North America announced last week. 

MJF has raised more than $3.5 million from more than 900 donors since Israel was attacked by Hamas, the Iran-backed terrorist organization that controls Gaza, on Oct. 7. There have been two $1 million donations to the campaign, as well as a $100,000 initial contribution from the MJF board in the hours after the attack started, and a $200,000 matching donation from Allan Stillerman, which took less than 36 hours to complete. 

“Most of the donors have been through our grassroots campaign,” said Steven Baker, MJF’s chief philanthropy officer. “This is the fastest I’ve seen this much grassroots fundraising done.” 

St. Paul Jewish Federation is also embarking on its own emergency relief campaign.

System-wide, JFNA has already raised more than $388 million and distributed $70 million of it to 45 non-profit organizations and other groups providing immediate responses. 

“It’s hard not to be surprised that the system could generate that much that fast,” said MJF CEO Jim Cohen. “I knew we would to get to $500 million fairly quickly and we’re going to surpass it. There’s no question.”

The $10 million goal is the second-highest in the country for Federations of comparable size – second only to Dallas’ $12 million. 

The fundraising efforts benefit a wide swath of organizations, beyond Jewish Agency for Israel, JDC, World ORT – the usual three overseas partners that JFNA supports. The funding is going to 20 organizations that are providing emergency relief and support in Israel, including the Israel Trauma Coalition, United Hatzalah, Magen David Adom, ZAKA, Barzilai Medical Center, and the Soroka Medical Center.

“I’m very proud that the system recognizes that the landscape is such that in an emergency like this, we really need to make sure that all the good work that’s being done is funded,” Cohen said. “It’s a lesson learned from our work in Ukraine.”

David Kaplan, the St. Paul Jewish Federation’s chief development officer, said that the beneficiary organizations are NGOs that are known quantities.

“These are not, pop-up, overnight, type organizations; we have been working with them for decades,” he said. “We have been helping them build up their capacity over these over those over that time. So that when something like this, God forbid, happens, they’re there to respond.”

JFNA’s work in Ukraine is what attracted Stillerman to make his gift which kickstarted the Minneapolis effort. He accompanied Cohen and other JFNA officials to Poland to see the work that was done on the Ukraine border in response to Russia’s invasion. 

“Federation rose to helping anybody and everybody who wanted help and facilitating those who specifically wanted to go to Israel to start their processing right there,” Stillerman said. “I saw how the Jewish Federation interacted and brought relevant care to those exiting from Ukraine and Poland. I have to believe they are doing the same for those in crisis in Israel.”

Stillerman’s sister made aliyah to Israel at the beginning of the year, and her children did the year before; they are all safe north of Tel Aviv.

“We’re doing this for our family, which for me is my sister, her husband, and their children, and my cousins and their children, but also every Israeli and every Jew is part of our family,” Stillerman said. “That’s what motivates me.”

<id=”stpaul”>The St. Paul Jewish Federation also has a matching gift to help give a boost to its Israel emergency fundraising efforts. Kaplan said there was a $50,000 match, which has helped the St. Paul effort raise more than $250,000, and has a goal of $500,000.

“We are seeing incredible generosity and … that is across the river as well,” Kaplan said. “No one’s thinking of (Federation territories) right now. This is one of those times when we are all together. We’re all one family. We’re coordinating in all the ways that we can across not just Minneapolis and St. Paul, but around the country.”