Zahal Shalom of Bergen County is an organization known for bringing 10 wounded IDF veterans to northern New Jersey for two weeks a year.
Since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, Zahal Shalom has been raising money to buy equipment and supplies for soldiers who are fighting to defend Israel.
In just one week, the organization raised $117,000 for everything from combat boots to tents to thermal wear and medical supplies. One hundred percent of the donations go toward that mission.
Co-president Tali Blum made aliyah from Fort Lee a year and a half ago. Now she lives in Kfar Saba, in central Israel, and teaches at a high school in nearby Petach Tikva.
She was visiting New Jersey on a family trip and delayed her return to Israel to coordinate volunteer efforts in northern New Jersey, since changing her flight four times because of the many shipments she is organizing.
“As soon as the war hit, within a day, I decided that we’re going to switch gears for this period of time to raise funds for IDF soldiers that are on the front lines,” Ms. Blum said.
News of the fundraising appeal on the website has spread through social media, WhatsApp, and word of mouth. “I’m the one who is making all the purchases, and we know where every dollar is being spent, and it’s all going straight to the soldiers,” Ms. Blum added.
In Israel, she is coordinating more than 70 volunteers who are finding suppliers, buying the goods, and packing and delivering them to IDF soldiers in both northern and southern Israel.
She is hearing from parents of soldiers and from soldiers themselves, asking for supplies.
“I received a message from a soldier who was up north,” she said. “The unit needed boots. We immediately went out and bought 40 pairs of hiking boots and sent them out.”
A fellow teacher at her school, a reservist, was called up to serve. “His commanding officer called the principal of the school asking for undershirts, boxers and socks,” she said.
“I got in touch with my contact at the command center, and within an hour we had a package ready to send out. There is such camaraderie and a willingness to work together, especially here. And in Israel, I’m meeting suppliers that I’ve never met before who are getting the supplies that we need immediately, not even waiting to get paid.”
Zahal Shalom of Bergen County has 19 executive board members and 100 families who host the wounded soldiers during their two-week visits. The organization has been in existence for 30 years.
Of the new fundraising appeal, Ms. Blum said, “I’m blown away by it, so grateful that people have just generously given. I’m getting so many phone calls asking: How can I help? What can I do? What can I bring? It’s been an overwhelmingly heartwarming experience.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to do it, but I’m very lucky and honored that I get to be at the head of this organization and that I have the opportunity to do this.”
Tammy Ween of Closter, Ms. Blum’s high school friend, described the volunteer experience as rewarding, “especially when you make a connection, whether it’s a shipping guy or a packing guy or people donating funds and supplies.
“I’m donating my time because this is where my heart is. It feels like I’m part of this family.”
Ms. Ween, who belongs to Temple Emanu-El of Closter, works on getting contracts and agreements in securing donations. “It’s just overwhelming in a good way, because we have gone from such a low when we first heard the news and going to such a high in seeing the amount of people who want to help this organization,” she said.
To give to the fundraising campaign, go to zahalshalom.org/emergencyaid.