Support for Kibbutz Kissufim – A note from Rabbi London & David Graham

We have an obligation to take care of ourselves and one another during this traumatic time of crisis in Israel.  But as our faith teaches, we must also never forget our obligations to others and commitments to acts of repair.  We have been approached with an opportunity to assist some of those whose lives were shattered by the horrific attacks of October 7 and are announcing the launch of a congregational project to do so.  We hope that you will join us in these efforts.  In that regard, there will be an initial meeting of those interested in assisting in this project on Sunday, November 5, 2023, at 4:00 p.m. on Zoom.

The October 7 attacks not only resulted in more than 1300 Israeli deaths but destroyed several kibbutzim and displaced the surviving families who were living there.  Even amidst their displacement, these families are intent on preserving their communities and rebuilding their lives, both individually and communally. They have countless needs, many of which are immediate.

Last week, Beth Emet was approached by organizers in Israel about the possibility of its “adopting” a kibbutz for the purposes of assisting in relief efforts.  It is our understanding that this approach, which we’ve been told was the first made by this group to a U.S. congregation, was a result of a recommendation stemming from personal familiarity with Rabbi London.

After some discussions and exchange of information, Kibbutz Kissufim has been selected as the initial focal point of our congregational efforts.  The kibbutz, founded in 1951, had 120 families and a total of 318 residents prior to the attacks.  Sixteen of the residents were murdered during the attacks, three were kidnapped, and dozens of others were injured.  This is a kibbutz that Rabbi London is personally familiar with and has friends at.  She and Danny spent time there during her sabbatical in the winter of 2019-20, including in connection with the work of some members of the kibbutz in an organization called “Another Voice” — a group of Jews and Bedouins trying to build a stronger shared society in southern Israel and also dedicated to creating relationships with Gazans through technology. This group was also the subject of a documentary (Aswat Acherim, “Other Voices”) that was shown at Beth Emet.

Following the October 7 attack, the survivors of Kibbutz Kissufim were relocated to a hotel at the Dead Sea.  In mid-November, they are relocating to another hotel, where they are expected to stay for at least six months. We are told that the location is isolated, and there are no other facilities or activities in the area. This is especially hard for the traumatized children of Kibbutz Kissufim, including the 58 children who are of school age, ranging from elementary school to high school.

While the Israeli Ministry of Education has established a temporary school for the 58 students, no provisions have been made by the Ministry for extracurricular activities or support programs outside of school hours for these children who have gone through so much.  The members of the Kibbutz consider the establishment of such programs and activities for their children to be their most pressing need.  While the educational team of the Kibbutz has put together a program for the next 6 months, it requires funding, including payment for supplies, trips, and seven madrichim who have been volunteering their time in the wake of the attacks but cannot continue to go unpaid.  The current estimate is that $200,000 is needed to cover programmatic expenses for the next 6 months – or about $3500 per child. If you wish to make a donation, the information is forthcoming.

We have agreed with our Israeli contacts that Beth Emet will take the lead in addressing the needs of Kibbutz Kissufim.  Part of that will unquestionably consist of fundraising from the congregation.  But we envision much more, including enlisting other area synagogues to assist in addressing Kissufim’s ongoing needs.  And, importantly, we also want to create ongoing relationships between members of our congregation and the families of Kibbutz Kissufim, as well as, potentially, between our children and theirs.  Donors will also be given the opportunity to choose to support one or more children. More than just financial support is needed here, and our contacts in Israel who are behind this project enthusiastically support this vision.

There is obviously time and urgency regarding the launching of this congregational project and addressing Kibbutz Kissufim’s needs.  That is why, with apologies for the short notice, we are holding an initial meeting at the beginning of next week – as mentioned, on Sunday, November 5, 2023, at 4:00 p.m. on Zoom here.