Shabbat Shalom from CEO Nora Gorenstein

Dear Friend,

As we continue to move ahead with strength and solidarity in this new year, there are many opportunities for us to join with others, including the Feb. 4 car parade in support of Israel, the Sparkle Havdallah event featured below, and many areas of volunteer work throughout our community!

For me, being a member of the Western Massachusetts Jewish community as well as a Jewish communal professional means that there are unlimited ways to be involved and spend my time every day. Over the past four and a half years of my work at the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, and the past 13 years of my work in this local Jewish community, it has become clear that we hold in our hands the ability to make an incredible difference–but only if we are willing to work together to accomplish our shared goals.

One important professional update I am excited to share with you is that last night I was elected president of the Western MA Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, an honor that enables me to further expand the ability of our Federation and our community to connect and collaborate across Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties.

Because of the culture of philanthropy that we have built together here at the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, every one of us contributes to a strong and sustainable Jewish future, whether with our time, our ideas, our dollars, our connections, or a combination thereof. I look forward to continuing to partner with you on our critical objectives in the year ahead: Am Yisrael Chai!

Click here to register

Shabbat shalom,

Nora Gorenstein
Chief Executive Officer

This week’s suggested actions to support Israel in your local community: 

  • Advocate for aid to Israel and other top communal priorities while strengthening relationships with key decision-makers in Congress at Jewish Federations’ Advocacy Fly-In to Washington DC January 30 and 31
  • Join a virtual communal gathering on January 14 at 10 am ET with UJA-Federation of New York and #BringThemHomeNow marking 100 days of Israeli hostages in Hamas captivity. In addition to wearing #BlueRibbonsForIsrael, participants are requested to put a strip of masking tape over their hearts with the number 100 on it. Please post picture of yourself and tag it with #Bring_Hersh_Home and #BringThemHomeNow. To register, click here. To read about additional actions that you can take to help bring the hostages home, click here.
  • Learn more about the myths of the Israel-Hamas War on a webinar at 1 pm ET on January 24 with Major John Spencer and expert in law of armed conflict Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey S. Corn, who have nearly five decades of combined military experience.
  • Urgently Seeking Mental Health Professionals to Volunteer in Israel:  As part of the Second Line initiative, Jewish Federations are partnering with the Israel Ministry of Health, the Israel Trauma Coalition, and Birthright Israel to recruit qualified volunteers to provide both in-person and remote support to both affected populations and local mental health professionals in Israel. Native Hebrew speakers are particularly in demand, although speakers of French, Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic, Amharic, and Spanish will also be considered. Volunteers must be able to travel to Israel for six weeks. This is a golden opportunity for engagement, particularly for communities that can recruit a small group as a cohort. To apply, click here. For more information, contact Hannah Miller.

National Updates from Jewish Federations of North America:

In a controversial hearing at the International Court of Justice at the Hague, the court’s justices heard accusations by South Africa alleging that Israel is committing genocide in its war against Hamas and is targeting civilians. Claims are dismissive of the overwhelming efforts Israel has made to limit noncombatant casualties and of the operational challenges of fighting a war in dense urban conditions, where Hamas has intentionally embedded itself within civilian infrastructure. South Africa’s case is already being lauded by many pro-Palestinian and antisemitic entities across the globe.


  • Urban warfare expert Major John Spencer explained that combat in urban terrain is the “most complex and difficult type of warfare a military can be directed to conduct because of the unique interaction of challenges – the dense physical terrain, the presence of noncombatants, restraints on the use of force required by laws of war, and the ubiquitous and real-time global attention on the conduct of a battle.”
  • He added that this is the first war in history in which a military has faced an “underground world like this,” referring to the 300-mile-long tunnel system Hamas built for terror purposes under civilian infrastructure, and stated that, “There’s no military in the world that has faced the challenge Israel is facing right now in the war against Hamas.”
  • Due to the operational challenges urban warfare poses and the intricate tunnel system, fighting in these conditions can require four times as much ammunition, or even more, than in other combat environments.
  • Hamas prevents civilian evacuations, often through gunfire. Coalition fighters faced similar challenges when fighting ISIS in the Battle of Mosul. In that battle, it is estimated that 10,000 civilians were killed. Israel is facing atleast six times as many Hamas operatives than ISIS fighters.
  • Colonel Richard Kemp, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan under the British army, explained that the fight against Hamas is likely even more challenging, due to Hamas’s tactics over the past three decades turning a small strip of territory into a terror base.
  • Throughout the war the IDF has applied tactics to minimize civilian casualty in urban warfare setting, which include dropping 6 million leaflets and issuing 14 million pre-recorded phone calls urging civilians to evacuate ahead of attacks, setting up safe corridors and involving legal advisors in tactical decisions. Former Judge Advocate in the U.S. Air Force and international law expert Michael Schmitt explained that, “The IDF has provided unprecedented warnings throughout the conflict,” which have “exceeded what the law required.”

On Thursday, State Department spokesman Matt Miller said, “Israel is operating in an exceptionally challenging environment in Gaza, an urban battlespace where Hamas intentionally embeds itself with and hides behind civilians.” He added that, “Allegations that Israel is committing genocide are unfounded. It is those who are violently attacking Israel who continue to openly call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass murder of Jews.”