Andres Spokoiny
President & CEO, Jewish Funders Network

Mobilizing to help southern Israel on ‘The Day After’

How funders can make sure to deliver aid swiftly, effectively and with lasting impact

Israel never had a victory parade.

Even when military triumphs were outstanding and even miraculous, Israelis knew wars are not something to be celebrated. They can feel proud about how its soldiers and civilian sector dealt with the threats and challenges to its security and very existence. Yet, pride is not joy.

The thrill of victory is inseparable from the pain of being forced to inflict so much damage on another people, which the justness of our case does not mitigate. To paraphrase Golda Meir, we may forgive you for killing our children, but we can never forgive you for forcing us to kill yours.

With a cease fire now more real than imagined, it is time to start asking questions relative to “the day after.” As president of the Jewish Funders Network, I want to look at the reaction by the philanthropic community to the crisis and extract lessons for future conflicts. For nonprofits and philanthropists, when CNN leaves the real work begins.

1 – Coordination works: during this crisis the mechanism established by the government and the philanthropic sectors to validate and prioritize needs worked very effectively. The National Emergency Authority was a valuable source of information and coordination. Funders are sometimes reluctant to underwrite mechanisms for coordination and cooperation, but those demonstrate their true value in times of crisis.

2 – Building Capacity and Long-Term Resilience: After Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, many NPOs and funders invested in contingency plans and created systems to respond to a crisis. As funders, we are not always ready to back this type of capacity building and we tend to include it under the dirty word of “overhead.” Yet, such investments are essential for an organization to withstand a crisis.

3 – Information is Key: our inboxes are full of pleas from seemingly every Jewish organization asking for support. It is extremely hard to sift through the noise. That’s why it’s vital to have access to quality information about where the needs are greatest.

4 – Networking: JFN, for example, was ready to help by activating a network of funders in which connections between members provided valuable, real-time information about needs on the ground. Naturally, the network needs to be built before the crisis.

Now, the end of hostilities will bring on a new set of specific needs. I’d like to offer some examples of efforts by the funding community to address “the day after.”

  • Virtually all NPOs working in southern Israel have been running “off-budget,” with higher labor costs, more volunteers than intended (with attendant costs of transportation, food, etc.), along with more money than anticipated spent on materials and food. It is probably safe to say that all will be running terrible deficits and will mostly require non-discretionary funding to recover.
  • Trauma counseling – for civilians and military – will be critical. Those around Gaza are shell-shocked from the discovery of the tunnels. At the same time, some IDF soldiers will almost certainly show signs of PTSD.
  • Within that issue, the problem of care providers is generally overlooked. Many worked non-stop under enormous stress and often while their own families were at risk. Helping the helpers is equally important.
  • Small business: while big companies have ‘broad shoulders’ to withstand a crisis, small businesses in the south do not. Free loans will likely be on the table.
  • Capacity building. Specifically, provide funding to let NPOs learn from the work they did during the crisis to improve their operations; this includes funding for documentation, review, and analysis.
  • Finally, the war made painfully evident some rifts inside Israeli society. The riots and demonstrations in Arab towns evidence a need for better dialogue between Jewish and Arab Israelis. As an example, it’s critical for Jewish and Arab social workers to address together the aftermath of the crisis.

One thing is sure: the work continues and the learning does too.

About the Author
Andrés Spokoiny is President and CEO of Jewish Funders Network and a long-time Jewish communal leader with a history of leading successful organizational transformations. He served as the CEO of Federation CJA in Montreal and, prior to that, Andrés worked for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Community (JDC) in Paris. As Regional Director for Northeast Europe, he was responsible for a number of pan-European projects. While at JDC, Andrés also served as the Director of Leatid Europe, a leadership training institute for Jewish lay and professional leaders, and directed the International Center for Community Development, a partnership of JDC and Oxford University to produce applied research and knowledge management for community development practitioners. Before his Jewish communal work, Andres worked for IBM and was responsible for training, development, hiring, and recruitment for IBM's Latin America Southern Region during a period of major restructuring. Originally from Argentina, Andres has a multidisciplinary academic background including business, education and rabbinical studies in different institutions around the world. He is fluent in Hebrew, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Yiddish, and is proficient in Russian and German.