Last year, the student-driven "America Eats for Israel" project garnered nearly $’8,000 for victims of terror in Israel. This year, organizers hope the figure will be even higher.
Started by a handful of students from Yeshivat Rambam high school in Baltimore, the project capitalizes on two "givens": first, that people like to eat out; second, that Jews want to support the State of Israel. But it also benefits from a third ingredient the enthusiasm and passion of Jewish high school students all over the country.
Heading the project for Ma’ayanot are, from left, Racheli Freud, Elyssa Dobrinsky, Ayelet Kahane, and Tamar Leben.
Following the template created three years ago by the Rambam contingent, students ask local kosher restaurants to donate to the project 10 percent of the money they receive for meals sold on a particular day (generally, a Monday). The students then commit to drum up business for the restaurants on what otherwise would be a slow business day, creating a "win-win" situation.
The first year, monies were directed to a family that had lost its breadwinner to terrorism. Last year’s proceeds went to Israel’s Terror Victims Association, Almagor. This year, the money collected will be distributed among three organizations: Almagor, the One Family Fund, and the Koby Mandell Foundation.
So far, 115 restaurants have agreed to participate in this year’s event, which will take place on Monday, March ‘7. According to the group’s Website, AmericaEatsForIsrael.org, which contains detailed information for coordinating schools, participating restaurants, and interested individuals schools in 13 states and in Canada are taking an active role in the project.
Spearheading the effort locally are The Frisch School in Paramus and Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls and Torah Academy of Bergen County, both in Teaneck. To date, six restaurants in Teaneck have signed on: E.J.’s Place, the Lazy Bean Caf?, The Pasta Factory, Poppy Bagels, Noah’s Ark, and Shelly’s.
Seth Epstein, vice president for corporate development and marketing for the Noah’s Ark family of restaurants including Noah’s Ark Restaurant and Deli and Shelly’s Vegetarian Caf?, both on Cedar Lane in Teaneck, and the original Noah’s Ark on Grand Street on the Lower East Side told the Standard that he is looking forward to this year’s event.
"The response was terrific last year," he said. "We’re thrilled to be able to support such a worthy cause once again."
Epstein says Noam Sokolow, owner of the three restaurants, was told by the project organizers last year that his eateries had made the largest single financial contribution to the project.
Seventeen-year-old Raquel Verschleisser of Frisch, who together with Frisch junior Ariella Cohain is working to publicize the program, says she is "very excited about the opportunity to help Israel" by participating in the program.
Besides the standard student functions posting flyers at schools and visiting restaurants to enlist their support Raquel is working with friends from her B’nai Akiva youth group to organize an America Eats for Israel day in Washington Heights, to coincide with the annual Red Sarachek High School Basketball Tournament held at Yeshiva University.
Teaneck resident Elyssa Dobrinsky a 17-year-old senior at Ma’ayanot who worked on the project last year as well, representing the school’s Israel awareness committee says this year four Ma’ayanot students are participating in the project. Armed with contracts, students visit local kosher restaurants to solicit their support.
Kevin Beckoff and Ephraim Tauber, sophomores at Torah Academy, are heading the school’s involvement in the program this year.
"After all," he adds, "if there’s one thing Jewish teenage boys love to do, it’s eat. By simply eating lunch or dinner at the right places, we’re fulfilling a great mitzvah it’s a two for one deal."
For further information about the project, visit the Website or send an e-mail to americaeatsforisrael.@yahoo.com.