The Impact of Our Work in Israel

The Federation has been an engaged and generous supporter of Israeli society for decades, with funding for dozens of different organizations and programs each year. An early and strong proponent of many of the key social issues spurred following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Federation continues to be a on the vanguard of philanthropy focused on social change.

Our global funding approach is built around providing humanitarian relief to Jews worldwide; revitalizing Jewish life in Eastern Europe; and, strengthening Israel as a pluralistic, democratic and just society with equality of opportunity for all its citizens. We do this by leveraging resources and partnerships with foundations, Federations, philanthropists, and the Israeli Government. The Federation brings philanthropic expertise and knowhow to Israeli NGOs and social ventures. Helping non-profit organizations become self-sufficient is important in grant making, but in Israel – where the nonprofit field is less developed – it is critical. Our hands-on approach to building capacity is helping change the nonprofit sector while ensuring that existing programs can continue their work toward social change.

The following story from the field illustrates the impact one individual can make through the Federation’s work in Israel:

When Yitzchak Lerner left full-time Torah study for a job inside the Haredi community to support his growing family better, he was shocked to discover an IDF draft notice in the mail. Although he was prepared to go to work to support his family, he never anticipated that leaving Torah study would lead to mandatory army service. Although he knew that serving in the army could help him advance his career, he was nonetheless very hesitant to enter the army. “I am the only member of my family to enter the army and I didn’t want to cause my parents embarrassment,” he recalled, referring to the common practice of exempting from army service the Haredi community in order to remain within the norms of the religious lifestyle. “I told my father that I would only willingly enter the army if he fully approved. He was afraid that the army would have a negative effect on the level of my religious observance. However, the program staff assured him that thanks to Project Shachar he had nothing to worry about—glatt kashrut, time for prayer and Torah study, and gender separation–my father gave me his full blessing.”

Yitzchak was trained in software quality assurance and quickly excelled. He stayed in the army for the next two and a half years, during which time he participated in an advanced communications systems training program sponsored by JDC and the Federation. Within one week of completing his service, Yitzchak was hired by Matrix—one of the leading information technology and software solutions companies in Israel. “My career advancement was extraordinary. Every place I applied accepted me. Before my army service I didn’t have much of a future career-wise, but the army opened up so many possibilities for me. I would never have been eligible for this type of job before. Shachar gave me the opportunity to work in a great, high-paying field without any degrees.”

Today, Yitzchak is making over 11,000 shekels a month – almost six times what he was making in kollel. Yitzchak is also very happy on the job. “Even though there are very few religious people, I am very well accepted by my coworkers. Religion isn’t an issue. They judge me according to the quality of my work. They see that I’m a person and they aren’t anti-Haredi—they don’t hate us and they know that I’m not the address for conflict.”

~Story courtesy of Amos Levi, at the JDC

Learn more about the work we are doing in Israel. For more information, contact Siggy Rubinson at 415.512.6429.



December 19, 2013


Nora Smith