Shalom Austin CEO and Jewish Community Leader Visit Israel | Shalom Austin

Shalom Austin CEO and Jewish Community Leader Visit Israel

The Jewish Outlook

Dec 2, 2023

Dr. Matthew Schocket and Rabbi Daniel A. Septimus visit Israel on a Solidarity Mission to Israel with Jewish Federations of North America. Courtesy: Rabbi Daniel A. Septimus

In late October, Shalom Austin CEO Rabbi Daniel A. Septimus and Austin Jewish community leader Dr. Matthew Schocket traveled to Israel with others for Jewish Federations of North America Solidarity Mission.

Septimus and Schocket visited the war-torn sites in Israel including two kibbutzim that were attacked by Hamas. Additionally, they visited with families whose friends, family members and loved ones were taken hostage by Hamas and they spoke with evacuees across the region. 

“As I expected, today was an extremely heavy and challenging day. We began our time traveling to Netanya where we met with Ethiopian olim (new immigrants) who were evacuated from Ashkelon to Netanya due to ongoing rocket fire from Gaza,” Septimus said. “The facilities that house all new immigrants was built decades ago and does not have safe rooms readily available.” 

When rockets are fired from Gaza to Ashkelon, people there generally have no more than 30 seconds to seek cover. Therefore, the Jewish Agency for Israel almost immediately evacuated all new immigrants in harm’s way both in the south and north to safer areas in Israel.

They then departed for Kibbutz Shefayim to meet with survivors of Kibbutz Kfar Aza who had been displaced there. They courageously shared such horrific stories of their survival. Many of the residents also have family members who are held hostage. They also heard from Shalom Austin’s partners at the American Joint Distribution Committee about their work with coordinating efforts with the coalition of youth movements to support teens and their counselors who work with teens. “They are true second responders to this crisis,” Septimus said.

Septimus and Schocket also met with people from the Israel Trauma Coalition, a member of Knesset (Israeli Parliament) for the National Unity Party, Sharren Haskel, whose sister is an Austin community member; Doron Krakow and Leah Garber, president and CEO of the JCC Association of North America and senior vice president of Israel Engagement; and Shalom Austin’s partners at the American Joint Distribution Committee.

Following the community center, they visited the new state of the art Magen David Adom’s Marcus National Blood Services Center. Created to ensure supply is sufficient and not cut off from war by building an underground lab, Magen David Adom is playing a critical role providing blood to the IDF and Israeli people.  They also stockpile breast milk.  This has been particularly important as of late as several mothers were killed or seriously injured and therefore babies still need breast milk.

Their final stop on the Mission was in Tel Aviv to see the Kaplan Street vigil for all hostages. It was followed by a meeting with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a brand-new volunteer organization to ensure a collective voice and response to the hostage situation. “The survivors of this horrific attack and family members of hostages were unequivocal in their disbelief of how the world has responded, not giving them airtime on social media and TV to share their stories,” Septimus said. “While there is tremendous shock over what happened on October 7, the country has also unified in ways that could not have been imagined before October 7.” 

As the Mission ended, Schocket stayed in Israel for another day to see the devastation of  Kibbutz Kfar Aza and Kibbutz Be’eri which were both horrifically attacked by Hamas on October 7. 

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