‘The work doesn’t end here’

With the lull in terrorist attacks, many people have forgotten that the OneFamily Fund is still striving to maintain its commitments.

OneFamily Fund 521 (photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
OneFamily Fund 521
(photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
On March 23 at 3:27 p.m. I typed a quick text message to my girlfriend saying that I was not near the location of the terrorist attack opposite Binyenei Ha’uma. Just down the street from where I typed that message is the headquarters of the OneFamily Fund, a nonprofit organization that devotes itself to helping Israel’s victims of terrorism.
In recent years, with the lull in suicide bombings and other attacks, many tend to forget that the OneFamily Fund is still striving to maintain its commitments.
“It is difficult when it is quiet. We live in a world of sound-bite media, but the wounds from terrorism, the long-term traumas, don’t fade away with the news,” says Yehuda Poch, the communications director of OneFamily. A native of Montreal who immigrated to Israel 14 years ago, Poch has a calming demeanor that well suits his working with people suffering from trauma.
Poch emphasizes that the organization is dedicated to helping people in the long term.
“OneFamily doesn’t limit itself to time, location or amount given; we provide assistance based on the idea that the victim is a part of our family, and towards that end we give complete assistance.”
For instance, after a December 2001 bombing in Jerusalem that killed 11 and wounded 85, when the organization had been established for only a few months, one wounded man was approached by OneFamily. “We helped him with a bar mitzva for his son, and we have provided help to this individual up to this day. Then after the attack on March 23, we found out he had been wounded again and was in the hospital for 24 hours. We sent a case worker to see him, and she saw that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress, and his wife is also suffering. But for the victim, just hearing the name OneFamily made him feel better because he remembered that we had been there since 2001.”
Poch provides other examples of the work the organization does. OneFamily is currently working with 58 people who were orphaned by terrorism over the last decade. In one case, there were four children of one family orphaned in an attack, and several years later OneFamily arranged to have them come to their office with their children and share stories about their parents. In another case, they arranged for a group of people in their 20s, who had been orphaned as teenagers, to go to a hotel together for Pessah. OneFamily covered the cost of that hotel stay, which was NIS 150,000.
The organization goes to work right after a terror attack. “Our case workers are working in hospitals in Jerusalem, Ashkelon and Beersheba, helping victims of the recent attack,” says Poch.
OneFamily employs 37 people, including five full-time case workers, each of whom manages a different region in Israel. Each case worker works with between 500 and 800 families. To handle such a large workload, there are volunteers in each region. In addition, OneFamily has registered with the government to receive women who are doing National Service (in lieu of army service).
OneFamily cultivates a good relationship with the National Insurance Institute, the local municipalities and the hospitals. In Ashkelon, they ran a program, funded by the municipality, in which they trained volunteers to treat people for trauma.
In the case of the latest attack in Jerusalem, Poch notes that “the municipality will be involved later because no one knows what the emerging needs of the victims will be. However, we are able to have case workers in the hospital immediately addressing needs. For one victim of this attack, we have provided a babysitter in Beit Shemesh so that the mother can be with her son who was wounded.”
Talya, who works for OneFamily in southern Israel, relates that a pressing issue is helping the victims receive their rights. A victim of terror must register to receive benefits from the NII. And to receive the benefits, they must provide documentation and evidence that they were harmed. Navigating the bureaucracy and making an appeal if assistance is denied can be daunting. It is especially hard for newer immigrants, such as Russians or Ethiopians.
“There are small children who are traumatized by the rockets. These families need reports from the police and the ambulances to provide to the NII. And that is only the beginning. We go into the hospitals, we talk to the victims and their families and get to know them and to help them fill out these initial forms. What they need most sometimes is the simplest things, like a toothbrush. But our commitment doesn’t end there,” says Talya.
OneFamily, like many organizations, has faced a decrease in donations since 2008. Poch believes it is due partly to the economic downturn but also to the lack of media attention regarding terrorism.
The media doesn’t focus on the long-term effects, and the donors don’t understand that OneFamily’s work doesn’t end when the terrorism ends.
“We are still managing. We have cut back on some programs but have not cut any entirely,” says Poch.