I thought a lot about my friend Danny while I was in Israel during Operation Protective Edge. Danny lives in a small town in New Jersey but his heart is in Israel. He remembers what it was like when there was no Israel, and he always becomes tearful when he thinks of how Jewish history has changed because we now have our own country.

Danny loves to share his favourite joke:

“How do you build the Jewish State?” he asks.

He can’t contain his laughter when he shares the punchline: “Yidl by Yidl.”

Being in Israel at this time has vividly demonstrated the truth of Danny’s old joke. This country has been built, and continues to be built, by the contribution of each and every Jew. Everyone plays a part.

Of course, the brave soldiers of Zahal play the biggest part, and are making the biggest sacrifice. The entire country supports them. Egged buses have signs that tell the soldiers that “We are with you. Come home safely”. The flag of the Israel Defence Forces flies from the lamp posts. Sixty four soldiers have died in battle. The newspapers carry a story about the life of each and every one of them. Each loss is a tragedy beyond description.

The country is unified in its support of the soldiers. Support is coming from outside Israel as well, as we have heard many stories of Torontonians who have dropped everything to come to Israel with bags full of items for the soldiers. Israelis have also heard about the generosity of the Toronto community to UJA’s Israel Emergency Relief Fund. There will be much to do when the guns go silent to help get this country back to normal. Special attention will be needed for the citizens of the south who have experienced a month of the trauma of thousands of missiles from above and attack tunnels being dug beneath their homes. The amount raised in this Fund will be of tremendous benefit to our brothers and sisters in Israel.

As Canadians and Torontonians, I can report that we have much to be proud of when it comes to Israel. The people of Israel are very aware of the tremendous support for Israel by our Prime Minister and Government. Moreover, everyone in Israel knows how much the Jewish community of Toronto cares about Israel always, and especially during its difficult times. I have heard many times that Israel really finds out who its friends are when the going gets tough. I am proud to be a member of the Toronto community that stands with Israel during these tough times.

As the co-chair of Toronto’s 2015 UJA Campaign together with Andrea Cohen, I have had an opportunity to consider what impact being in Israel at this time will have on the work we do in North America for our local Federation annual campaigns. It is this.

It is essential that Israel remain strong. Our lives in North America would be very different if this were not the case. One important element to maintaining Israel’s strength is the strength of the Jewish communities around the world. The way to keep the Jewish communities in North America strong is to support the local United Jewish Appeal.

Donations to UJA in Toronto support our partner communities of Sderot, Eilat and Bat Yam in Israel. UJA dollars also support important advocacy initiatives on behalf of Israel, experiences such as Birthright and March of the Living that ensure a continuing connection between our young adults and the Jewish state, and formal and informal Jewish education that instills in our children an understanding of the importance of Israel to our lives and to our future. Supporting UJA also ensures that every Jewish person has a place to turn in a time of personal difficulty. Thousands of people are helped every day by your contributions to UJA. This creates a community.

During the difficult times that we are experiencing now, it is our hope that everyone will participate in their local campaigns to the best of his or her ability. Together we will be helping to keep our communities strong which will in turn help Israel stay strong.

This brings to mind a variation of Danny’s joke:

“How do you build a Jewish community. Yidl by yidl.”

Shalom from Toronto. I have left my homeland and am now home.

David Matlow is a partner of Goodmans LLP in Toronto. Together with Andrea Cohen, he is co-chairing Toronto’s 2015 Campaign for the United Jewish Appeal.