Israel needs all the help it can get.
And, according to Barbara Irwin — who is co-chairing Congregation Shomrei Torah’s mishloach manot project this year with fellow volunteer Debbie Friedman — there is a timely, and easy, way to offer that help.
Ms. Irwin, who sent only Israeli-made products in her Purim gift baskets last year, said her Fair Lawn shul has adopted the same policy for itself this year. “And since they knew I had done it, they made me co-chair.”
Shomrei Torah has been sending out mishloach manot “as long as it has been around, usually with some theme,” Ms. Irwin continued. “We were talking this year about how important it was to do something for Israel. Now we have done it.” Not only the food in the synagogue’s baskets will come from Israel — even the bags were made there.
The effort is one way to oppose the BDS movement, which encourages boycotting, divesting from, and leveling sanctions against the state of Israel. Indeed, the synagogue’s program alludes to BDS in its three-line theme: Buy Israel Products to/Distribute on Purim to/Support the State of Israel.
Describing the cooperation she has received from organizations and stores she has contacted for help, Ms. Irwin said, “It’s amazing. Food Showcase has been wonderful. They’re behind us 100 percent, giving us ideas of what to include and then giving it to us at cost.” She will meet with El Al representatives to pick up some additional items and is also reaching out to Stand With Us. “We got bags from Yair Emanuel in Israel,” she added.
“We want other shuls to know how important this is,” she said, adding that other than one synagogue in Queens, she doesn’t know of other local shuls that have made this commitment. “Our feeling is that if we don’t support Israel, how can we expect others to support it? We need to be better at PR. Israel is a wonderful country, offering so much to the world. We should do everything we can.”
Using Israeli-made products when sending mishloach manot is a no-brainer, she added. “It’s just a good opportunity when you’re giving things; you have a country with so many great things to offer, you should include them.”
The baskets also will hold printed materials about the BDS movement and how to counter it. “We have one thing from federation and we’re hoping to get something from Stand With Us, which has a good booklet on anti-BDS” efforts, she said. “We even tried contacting the Jerusalem Post.”
She noted also that on March 5, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey will offer the iCAN Answer Now Teen Conference to prepare Jewish high school students to discuss Israel and Jewish issues when they reach college. Among the topics to be covered are the impact of the BDS movement and rising anti-Semitism.
Ms. Irwin, two of whose children have made aliyah, said that an unusually high number of Shomrei Torah members move to Israel. Zionism, she said, “is infused in everything we do. We should be doing whatever we can. This is such an easy way to do it.”
She hopes that people who receive the baskets will decide to do the same thing next year. “Because so much of the world seems to be against Israel, all of us who can do something to support her should do it,” Ms. Irwin said. “This is so simple. We should make Israel a part of everything.”