I heard in school about the fire; teachers showed me pictures of it,” said Yair Berger, 13. “Although I’m only in eighth grade, I’m still a Jew and I have a passion for Israel. I knew I couldn’t sit around and do nothing even though I’m 6,000 miles away.”
Yair, an eighth-grader at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, conceived the idea for a fund-raising project to benefit Israel’s firefighting efforts in the wake of December’s deadly Carmel forest fire in northern Israel, just south of Haifa.
With the help of his mother, Annette Berger, the Teaneck boy reached out to Jewish National Fund and turned his concern into action.
“I told my mom I wanted to do the project and we called the JNF and they sent us a list of immediate needs and one of the supplies they needed was hoses,” said Yair.
JNF enables parties to set up tribute pages to raise money for its environmental protection work in Israel. With the help of Steven Penn, principal of Judaic studies in grades one to five and also supervisor of chesed projects at Yavneh, Yair set up a JNF tribute page. Not only the idea, but also the name – Hoses for the Holy Land – was the boy’s inspiration, according to Penn.
“Yair is very caring regarding the Jewish people,” said Penn. “It’s something we try to inculcate, and not all the time do you see the fruit of your labor. But this is a kid who gets it from home also that Eretz Yisrael is important, and we have to do what we can from here in America.”
Berger set a fund-raising goal of $3,000 for fire hoses. So far, between the tribute page where people can make pledges online and other fund-raising avenues including an e-mail sent out to all the familes at Yavneh, Yair has raised $2,600. He and his parents also arranged via JNF for an Israeli firefighter to come and speak to students at Yavneh Academy today as part of the project.
To contribute, visit www.tinyurl.comhosesfortheholy
This effort is not Yair’s first good deed; when he was bar mitzvahed, he conducted a sock drive for children at Bet Elasraki, a home for children separated from their parents, either because of loss or abuse, located in Netanya, Israel.
“It is common for kids to do chesed projects but this came out of a real desire to help; he was self-motivated,” his mother said.
Yair says a lot of his classmates respect his efforts.
“A lot of people came and told me what a good job I’m doing and how it’s helping,” he said.
Yair also enjoys basketball and tae kwon do. But he says that, to the extent he likes doing good deeds, it’s the influence of his parents, both his mother, a psychologist, and his father, Addam Berger, a media director.
His contributions will have a real effect and are essential, according to Talia Tzour, JNF Israel emissary to New York and New Jersey. Tzour explained that one of the factors that enabled the Carmel fire, which claimed 44 lives, to spread so quickly was that much of Israel’s firefighting equipment is out of date.
“In such a fire that lasts more than four days, all the equipment was needing replacement,” Tzour said. “Sometimes it fell apart, [which] helped the fire to spread.”
In addition to sending a firefighter to speak at the school, Tzour says JNF is hosting an Israeli firefighter tomorrow night at a private home at 7:30 in Fair Lawn. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.