Area schools and synagogues are learning about ways to boost Israel awareness and Israeli commerce through the grass-roots organization ACHI, American Communities Helping Israel.
Founded four years ago in Rockland County, N.Y., ACHI (which also means “my brother”) provides lesson plans and party ideas centered on Israeli culture, history, products, and charities. The organization’s leaders – founder Suzanne Weilgus and coordinators Rochelle Zupnik and Gloria Gordon – are intensifying their efforts to get families and groups involved.
They’ve been talking to teachers about their Israel-centered school initiatives – ranging from classroom games to “Israel Snack Day” – which are outlined at www.achi613.org.
“ACHI recommends you begin with ideas – once a week in the classroom, on the snack cart, and in the cafeterias of schools,” said Zupnik.
“We’re really impressed by these women and what they have done in mobilizing awareness and actual deeds on behalf of Israel and Israelis who are less fortunate,” said Rookie Billet, principal of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck.
The school will likely get involved in ACHI’s “Nourish a Child Nourish a Mind” program, which encourages classes or groups of students to raise $75 to donate through ACHI. “This amount of money, an attainable goal, provides a hot nourishing meal to a class of hungry children in impoverished communities in Israel,” said Zupnik.
Billet said students will be able to take part in ACHI projects to fulfill their community-service requirement. “Perhaps some of these projects can become school-wide co-curricular activities as well,” she said.
ACHI also has presented its educational resource materials to Yavneh Academy in Paramus and Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck. The women also want to raise awareness at a family level.
“In your home, make sure that every week your Shabbat table includes products from Israel,” said Zupnik. “And when it comes to shopping for holidays, don’t leave the supermarket without products from Israel. There are so many products to choose from – candles, wine, teas, spices, soups, cakes, latke mix, snacks, condiments, deli, and more. Think Israel – buy Israeli.”
Many Israeli food items may be ordered directly from the organization through its Website. The site also offers a sample letter that patrons can present to supermarket managers, camp directors, or caterers asking them to stock Israeli products, with specific information on where to procure them in bulk.
Zupnik related that a Teaneck family bought Israeli candy bars for their older children to distribute at their new baby brother’s brit milah. A sign on the buffet table let guests know that “Our simcha is enhanced by adding a ‘Sweet Taste from Israel.'”
Also inspired by ACHI, a Bergenfield family used exclusively Israeli treats to fill the goodie bags at their child’s recent birthday party.
The organization sells all-occasion cards, available on the Website or by calling (646) 463-2531, whose proceeds go to feed hungry children in Israel. Cong. Beth Abraham in Bergenfield used hundreds of the cards in its community-wide Purim baskets last year.
To schedule a school or community group presentation, call the above number or e-mail achi613@hotmailcom.