Children learn through example. When their parents volunteer time or money to charities, they are acting as role models for the next generation. When their time or money benefit Israel, that’s a whole other, even higher level.
Elie Y. Katz of Teaneck and his sister-in-law, Jessica Katz of Passaic, will host the first “Breakfast for Israel.” (See the box for more information.) The breakfast will bring attention to two important organizations — Magen David Adom and Yad Leah. In addition, the breakfast also will recognize the Frisch School, the Moriah School, Yeshivat He’Atid, Yeshivat Noam, and Yavneh Academy. Volunteering is an integral part of the curriculum at those schools. Students learn what they can accomplish as volunteers, even when they are young.
Magen David Adom is Israel’s national ambulance, blood services, and disaster-relief organization. Its mission is to provide lifesaving services to all Israelis. It also is Israel’s official affiliate of the International Red Cross, which means that it responds to crises all over the world.
Yad Leah makes sure that people who cannot afford clothing easily still can dress with modesty and dignity.
“We’re thrilled to be partners with Yad Leah at this breakfast because it’s important to highlight the daily, real-world issues Israelis face that you don’t usually see in the headlines — whether it’s a crisis like a car accident, or daily challenges like finding clothing,” Erik Levis, Magen David Adom’s communications director, said. “We hope that, with this breakfast and thanks to Elie Katz’s leadership, we can raise awareness and help improve people’s lives in a country we care so deeply about.”
“Contrary to a lot of assumptions, MDA does not receive Israeli government funding for its operations,” Mr. Levis continued. “So support from Americans — including critical and consistent support from New Jersey residents — really makes an impact, because it allows MDA to function daily as the world-class lifesaving organization it is today. To that end, most of our supporters love the fact that they’re directly helping save someone’s life in Israel — or in some cases helping deliver new life, as many babies are delivered on MDA ambulances.”
Mr. Katz has been involved with MDA since his gap year in Israel in 1993, when he began volunteering for the organization. But Ms. Katz, his sister-in-law, who is Yad Leah’s director, was an integral part of Yad Leah’s creation in 2003. Ms. Katz and her friend Karen Thaler began Yad Leah by seeing a need and working to alleviate it in one town in Israel. Now it has spread throughout the country, serving more than 30 communities.
Ms. Thaler lives in Israel and saw the need for Yad Leah firsthand. She began collecting clothing for donation. Ms. Katz’s work in the organization, however, began in her kitchen, when she sorted through clothing that she received from donations from Americans. When she ran out of space for those donations in her house, Yad Leah sought a bigger space. For the last two years, it has been housed in a 6,000 square foot warehouse in Passaic. “We modeled the Yad Leah program after Pantry Packers in Israel,” Ms. Katz said. “It is a 90-minute experience, where volunteers learn about the organization and how it benefits the community. Then, they are hands-on participants in sorting through the clothing and packaging it so it can be sent to Israel and distributed.”
It’s important, Ms. Katz said, because “when someone is dressed nicely, it gives them confidence, whether it is to be successful at a job interview, or to help a teenager feel better about themselves.”
Each school being honored has played different parts in the two organizations. For example, Yeshivat Noam raised money for an MDA ambulance. Simone Tassler, a Frisch senior from Paramus, worked in a more hands-on way. She reached out to Yad Leah because, she said, “I had a ton of free time because I just finished senior year, so my friends and I wanted to spend our time doing something productive. Frisch usually sends groups of kids to Yad Leah on Chesed Day and I had always heard about it, but had never gone myself, so I was so happy to go.”
“The breakfast is celebrating the kids’ success and encouraging future acts of chesed,” Ms. Katz said. “We also hope this event will bring more recognition to the worthy organizations that need the support of the community.”