Coming to Franklin Lakes next month: A chance to dance for Israeli veterans.
Zahal Shalom, a local grass-roots organization that brings disabled Israeli soldiers to America for two weeks for rest, recreation, and recognition, will be hosting a fundraiser on Dec. 10 featuring a D.J. and live music, both Israeli and American.
“Every dollar we raise can bring more soldiers,” says Sigal Ron, organizer of the event.
Ron has been involved with the organization for several years. She heard about it through friends at her congregation, Temple Israel JCC in Ridgewood. As a native Israeli – although her parents came to America before it was time for her army service – she helps translate for the Israelis Zahal Shalom brings over every May. This coming year will be the 20th cohort.
Hebrew is not a requirement to serve as a host family for the Israeli visitors, although some need first-floor accommodations, depending on the severity of their injuries.
“It’s a very great experience” for the visiting veterans, says Ron. “It’s very emotional.
“For a lot of them, it’s their first time in the United States. The program is so intense. They take them to the city, they tour, they see a Broadway show. For a couple of days, they go to Washington. They visit the Holocaust Museum. It’s a very intense and enjoyable experience for them.
“A lot become very attached. We stay in touch on Facebook,” she says.
Both the band and the D.J. are donating their services for the event. Ron will be baking desserts. It is estimated that it costs $3,500-$4,000 to bring over a soldier.
Yossi Mizrahi of Foster Village Kosher Delicatessen has contributed food to other Zahal Shalom events, although he is not directly involved with the December event, which features finger food, wine and beer, and dessert.
Mizrahi’s commitment to helping Israeli soldiers is visceral. He spent three and a half years in the Israeli Defense Forces, six months in the Yom Kippur War, serving in the elite Golani brigade.
“I have brothers who were in the army, a brother who was in a fighting group that got injured. Luck and God saved him. I’m really a believer and also very grateful that he’s alive. They got a direct hit on their armored vehicle, a direct RPG. Three people got killed. He was lucky to be alive.
“I lost friends in the army.”
So when he found out that he could help injured Israeli veterans through Zahal Shalom, he became a “passionate” supporter of the group.
He has hosted five soldiers over the years. Last year, he accompanied the group to Washington.
“In the big picture, you need funds to bring them here. After the funds are in, we need host families and buddy families,” he says.