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Family and greater community

The Yudins’ binational support network helps their son’s kibbutz

The Kibbutz Megiddo security squad guards the kibbutz, using equipment donated in part by the Yudins, their friends, and their wider network.
The Kibbutz Megiddo security squad guards the kibbutz, using equipment donated in part by the Yudins, their friends, and their wider network.

Ever since Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon was killed in the February 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster, Bob and Susan Yudin have flown an Israeli flag underneath the American flag at their Wyckoff store, Yudin’s Appliances.

In a symbolic way, the flags also represent the binational lives their children live. Bob and Susan Yudin have two daughters, Vivian King and Judy Friedman, in the United States, and a son, Joe Yudin, who lives in Israel. Their 10 grandchildren are evenly split between the two countries — Joe’s three sabra children and two of Judy’s four children.

“Judy’s oldest son got married in Israel at the end of August,” Susan Yudin said. “Our trip to Israel for the wedding was wonderful. And then, about five weeks later…” She doesn’t have to finish the sentence. We all know what happened on October 7.

Three generations of Yudins sprang into action soon after the war began, raising funds for various needs — flying IDF soldiers and reservists back to Israel, procuring and shipping equipment that IDF reservists were lacking in the chaotic early days of the war, providing fresh meals for the base where Kayla Friedman was serving in the reserves, and sending security gear to Joe Yudin’s kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley.

The entrance to Kibbutz Megiddo.

What struck Susan Yudin most poignantly, she said, was “the outpouring of support from the gentile community, including a Catholic gentleman we know from Franklin Lakes who gave us a check for $5,000.” She also expressed her gratitude to Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5th Dist.) for getting clearance for military equipment that allowed it to be shipped within 24 hours.

“The next morning, we got pictures of soldiers using the equipment we sent,” she said. “We did this a few times. Friends and relatives donated, and whatever we didn’t raise we gave.”

After a few weeks, the Yudins saw that other organizations were filling the IDF needs more efficiently, “so we’ve taken a step back,” she said. Now they are focusing on the needs of Kibbutz Megiddo.

This kibbutz, where Joe Yudin and his wife raised their three children, borders the Megiddo Forest on one side and several Israeli Arab villages on the other side. It is a mile from the West Bank.

Joe Yudin on guard duty at Kibbutz Megiddo.

“This is a very left-wing, liberal kibbutz that has always tried to work together with these villagers, and we employ many of them, we educate many of their kids with special needs, and we try to foster a good relationship,” Dr. Yudin, who holds a Ph.D. in Jewish history, said.

Nevertheless, the kibbutz experiences break-ins and various forms of harassment daily and especially on weekends. “More than two years ago, the Border Patrol took away the weapons from our armories,” Dr. Yudin said. “So we found ourselves on October 7 with one guard — a man from a neighboring Arab village, without a weapon, who only worked at night.”

The harassment worsened as the war began with the kibbutz forming a security squad comprised of about 30 ex-combat soldiers too old for reserve duty but licensed to carry sidearms. Dr. Yudin, a veteran of the 55th Paratroop Brigade, aged out of the reserves in 2010, when he was 42.

The police agreed to supply the squad with eight M4 semiautomatic weapons and training in how to use them. “I was among the first to get one, being that I am a tour guide without any work right now, so I’m always on the kibbutz,” Dr. Yudin said.

Geffen Yudin volunteers at a grapefruit orchard in Israel.

“I posted a picture of myself on Facebook with my M4, doing guard duty at midnight, and one of my former clients in New York asked why I wasn’t wearing a ceramic vest and helmet. I replied, ‘I don’t have one.’ And he asked how he could help.

“I got a list from our security head, and our kibbutz secretary made a flyer listing what we needed. I sent it to him, and all of a sudden people just started sending us money and equipment.

“Another former client in New York contacted friends in the NYPD who donated a dozen security cameras and military-grade flashlights and walkie-talkies. An El Al pilot he knew brought them to me personally in two shipments,” he continued.

“My mother approached her community as well, including her synagogue, Temple Emanuel of North Jersey in Franklin Lakes, and my sister Judy approached her community in Riverdale, New York. Her son, a former medic in the IDF tank corps, was able to get us the first shipment of bulletproof vests. A donor from Teaneck sent us ceramic plates to put inside the vests.”

Yudin’s Appliances in Wyckoff displays both American and Israeli flags.

After Dr. Yudin thanked all the donors on Facebook, another wave of people started asking how they could help.

“At this point, over $100,000 was donated, and we have the equipment we need; we have security cameras all over the fence,” he said. “We still need a jeep, which costs about 200,000 shekels,” or about $54,000.

Dr. Yudin emphasized that the kibbutz has been begging for security equipment from the government for decades.

“I never asked anyone for anything because I was too embarrassed that our kibbutz feels abandoned by this government,” he said. “After October 7 we were told to organize ourselves and were given eight weapons. I felt let down.

“But I didn’t have to ask, because the Jewish community in New York and New Jersey stepped up and got us what we needed, and for that I am very grateful,” he said.

To learn more, including how to help, email Joe Yudin at joe@touring
israel.com.

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