From toys to books, a variety of gifts can be given at Chanukah. Within that broad spectrum, some Northeast Ohio families choose to give a gift that supports Israel.

There are many ways to do so, including several with ties to Greater Cleveland.

Cari M. Immerman, American Friends of Magen David Adom’s Beachwood-based director for Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and western Pennsylvania, said that during operation “Pillar of Defense,” Magen David Adom responded to thousands of calls and treated more than 400 Israelis injured in the rocket attacks as well as the terrorist bus bombing in Tel Aviv, including several critical cases in which their intervention was instrumental in saving lives.

Immerman explained that MDA is Israel’s national ambulance and blood services agency and its affiliate to the International Red Cross. In that capacity, it supplies 97 percent of Israel’s blood supply and 100 percent for the Israel Defense Forces.

However, MDA’s work isn’t government-funded and thus relies on charitable gifts – like those given at Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah and other simchas – to fund its mission, Immerman said.

“I’ve had people (give a gift through AFMDA) not only for Chanukah but also at other times of the year. They feel good about making the donation, and they get great pleasure out of supporting Israel,” she said. “When you make a gift to Magen David Adom, you’re helping fulfill their mission to save lives in Israel. It’s truly a gift with impact for your friends and loved ones and for the citizens and soldiers MDA serves.”

Another way to support Israel is through purchase of Israel Bonds, which is “an investment and not a charitable contribution,” said Thomas A. Lockshin, executive director for Israel Bonds in Ohio and Kentucky.

“When you buy an Israel Bond, you’re lending the government of Israel your money and they’re promising to pay back your principal along with interest,” he said. “We believe it’s the most direct way to support Israel because you write your check directly to the state of Israel. It’s used to help every aspect of Israel’s economy.”

The money sent to Israel via the purchase of Israel Bonds goes into its treasury, and the government distributes it according to where it feels funds are most needed.

“Foreign debt held in Israel Bonds is a valuable service to Israel,” Lockshin said. “For the purchaser, it is a means of acquiring an excellent investment and expressing unity with Israel.

“We have many clients that purchase Israel Bonds as gifts for children and grandchildren,” he said. “They want to give something of substance to their loved ones, and at the same time, support Israel. … Investing in Israel Bonds gives families a personal, meaningful and sustaining relationship with Israel and the Jewish future.”

Yet another way to support Israel is through a donation to the Jewish National Fund, said Debbie Rothschild, Northern Ohio regional office director.

“Our sole mission is to support Israel, its people and its land,” she said. “Whether through planting trees, building new communities, security roads or water resources, there are a number of ways that JNF is making a difference with the people and land of Israel.”

Recent examples of the difference JNF has made include initiatives carried out during operation “Pillar of Defense,” Rothschild said.

“JNF stood up in a tremendous way and opened our Sderot indoor playground – which is also a fortified bomb shelter – to thousands of people and housed them in a safe and fun environment,” she said. “We also took hundreds of kids and families to different parks and destinations around Israel to give them a respite from the stress and exhaustion they experienced due to the threat to their well being.”

Simply stated, “a gift to JNF is a gift to Israel,” Rothschild said.

“A gift to JNF is much more than planting trees in Israel, which is needless to say a beautiful thing, but JNF is an organization that comes to the plate when needed,” she said. “People can be very proud of their support of JNF. … Not only does it set an example of giving for children during Chanukah, but there’s also the legacy of giving (parents) create with generations of giving.”

mbutz@cjn.org

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