Since the start of Operation Cast Lead, requests have been pouring in to communal leaders for help with a myriad of programs benefiting Israel’s soldiers and Gaza-area citizens.
Many pulpit rabbis are passing along those requests to their congregants.
Members of Englewood’s Cong. Ahavath Torah, for instance, have been receiving a “continual barrage” of e-mails from their rabbi, Shmuel Goldin, since the conflict began.
“We’ve been getting numerous requests from different organizations that are giving emergency help to soldiers or to people in the south,” said Goldin. “I decided that rather than choosing one particular tzedakah and doing a major fund-raiser for it, I would send those [requests] that I feel are bona fide to our community via e-mail. My intent is to get people to give what they feel most comfortable giving to, and to provide information about what is available.”
Among the appeals he’s forwarded was one for Yad Eliezer, an Israeli relief organization that sought to collect thousands of dollars in just 36 hours to provide Sabbath meals for troops massing at the Gaza border on Jan. 1.
Yossi Kaufman, a Yad Eliezer spokesman, said on Monday that $7,500 Fed-Exed from Ahavath Torah also made it possible to buy items for 2,000 packages that he delivered to soldiers at the front that day, plus 29 “care packages” for wounded soldiers in Beer Sheva’s Soroka Hospital.
“Today we are assembling a few thousand more, with undershirts, tehillim [Psalms] booklets, treats – whatever things they may not be getting,” said Kaufman. “Soldiers in armored personnel vehicles were running toward us to receive them. We me with a senior Givati Brigade officer and he told us how appreciated the packages were; they never saw anything like it before.”
Kaufman, who in 2006 raised $25,000 from North Jersey residents to buy essentials for soldiers in Lebanon, estimates that the needs now surpass $100,000. “We also want to help residents who are fleeing the south and are hungry,” he said. “We are doing what we can to make it happen.”
On Monday evening, Ahavath Torah sent out a digest of events and tzedakah opportunities. The alert included information about a solidarity rally scheduled for the following day at the Israeli Consulate; from www.apackagefromhome.org, which delivers personal-care items to Israeli soldiers at the front; from One Israel Fund, which is collecting donations to buy soldiers lightweight gear-packs that hold 3 liters of water (www.oneisraelfund.org/donations.pjp?d=49); Operation Tefillah, Torah & Troops, a project that pairs Israeli soldier with people who commit to pray, learn Torah, and do acts of kindness on behalf of the “adopted” soldier (firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 929-1525, ext. 100); AMIT, a national network of schools that needs to relocate classrooms and entire families from its branches in Beer Sheva, Sderot, and Ashkelon (www.amitchildren.org); and Lema’an Achai, an Israeli relief organization that has been busing nearly 2,000 children from hard-hit southern communities to makeshift schools in Beit Shemesh (www.IsraelWar.org).
Teaneck resident Jesse Nowlin is attending a yeshiva near those makeshift schools and decided to pitch in as well.
“I wanted do something to cheer them up and make it not so bad they have to travel an hour or more each way to school every day,” said Nowlin, 20.
He approached Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, student activities coordinator at Yeshivat Lev Hatorah, who suggested staging a carnival for the kids. Kaplan got Nowlin in touch with Lema’an Achai.
Some quick planning was to result in a Thursday afternoon event for 250 of the younger children, funded by money being raised by Nowlin’s contacts at North Jersey schools such as Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls and Torah Academy of Bergen County.
“We’re raising money through my friends back home at the different schools to pay for the carnival and a pizza lunch,” Nowlin said. “If we have enough, I also want to get popcorn and cotton candy machines.”