January 29, 2019
Dear Friend of Israel,
World governments and media choose so often to focus on Israel’s faults – real or imagined – to the exclusion of all else. And yet, when a dam recently collapsed in Brazil, killing dozens of people and leaving hundreds missing, Israel quickly dispatched a 130-person Israel Defense Forces team to provide search-and-rescue and medical assistance.
This should come as no surprise. As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu put it eloquently in 2010 after sending a relief team to assist survivors of a devastating earthquake in Haiti: "This is the true heritage of the state of Israel and the Jewish people … We may be a small country, but we are a country with a big heart. This is the expression of Jewish ethics and heritage – to help others."
The quickness of Israel’s response is rooted in the sobering fact that the threat of terrorism has forced Israel to find new and creative ways to save lives. Israel gladly shares its knowledge in Brazil, as it has in years past when other humanitarian needs have surfaced throughout the world.
This effort comes at a time of both hope and crisis for Jews in South America. Relations between Israel and Brazil are flourishing, and Brazil is poised to follow the lead of other nations, including the U.S., by moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
On the other hand, the situation for Jews in Venezuela is troubling. Tens of thousands have left the country in the past decade to escape crippling poverty and rising anti-Semitism, which has been fueled by a deeply unstable and volatile political climate.
The Fellowship cannot “fix” the chaos. But I pray that our outreach in this part of the world will give the Jewish population new hope. In the past several years, we have helped nearly 200 Venezuelan Jews make aliyah (immigrate to Israel) – and we will continue to help those who want to rebuild their lives come to the Holy Land, so that they can live freely as Jews in a free country.
My friends, please pray for the people affected by the devastating dam collapse in Brazil, and for the success of the humanitarian efforts there. Pray too for the safety of Venezuela’s Jewish community, and for The Fellowship’s outreach in South America. And pray for the day when “the true heritage of the state of Israel and the Jewish people” – a heritage of peace, promoting freedom, and helping those in need – becomes known to the entire world.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President