Today is June 15, 2024 /

Updates from who you’ve been helping with the Israel Assistance Fund

Katamonim Neighborhood

I would like to thank the Westchester Jewish Center for allowing us to strengthen and support our communal efforts in the following ways so far:

  • A mother and 2 young children who have been evacuated to the neighborhood from Kibbutz Sa’ad on the border with Gaza, received a gift-card yesterday for groceries, pharmacy needs and food. Unfortunately the mother suffers from leukemia and is in a particularly difficult situation.
  • Our youth are volunteering babysitting services with toys and craft goods from the Westchester fund, as well as the gift-card. We will continue to support her over the coming weeks and are looking into kindergarten activities nearby who might look after her children.
  • Eleven local families who were evacuated from the south are now receiving weekly food packages.
  • Care boxes with food, children’s activities and home school supplies were distributed to 13 families in the neighborhood.
  • Yesterday we delivered a large collection of goods to an evacuated group of families from the town of Sderot, who are being housed in a hotel in Jerusalem. There are 200 families there, and they have a basic breakfast provided and basic lunch and supper.
  • We have worked with the local Jerusalem organizers (chemel) to begin to set up a play-center and learning center there on-site. Yesterday we took bags of new clothes which they had asked for: pyjamas, socks, warm underwear, shoes. We also took activities for the children to play with. The children were overjoyed to receive these items yesterday, as were the parents. They seem quite isolated there – it was a difficult experience. But we will continue collecting and return next week.
  • Families whose partner is serving in the army: we are arranging a mid-week meal for each family to be brought to their home, according to their needs.

 

Kehillat Moreshet Avraham – Talpiyot – Rabbi Amirit Rosen and Rabbi David Goodman

Dear Friends and Members of KMA,

For the past three weeks Israel has been living through its most tragic and challenging crisis since October 1973. Here at Kehillat Moreshet Avraham in Jerusalem, our neighborhood Matnas (community center) was converted into an army base, so KMA has stepped into the vacuum. Our building has become a hub of community activity for the East Talpiot-Arnona neighborhoods. We will continue to serve local needs as necessary throughout the crisis.

  • Activities for Children Starting the day after the Hamas attack, KMA organized afternoon activities in our large basement shelter for children ages 3-12. KMA Teenagers and adult volunteers from the community lead games, arts and crafts, drama workshops, yoga, letter writing to soldiers and gifts to their families every day from 2PM-5:30PM. Daycare from 8AM-1PM reopened in the shelter this past week. Last Friday afternoon KMA hosted a Children’s Theatre and Kabbalat Shabbat sponsored by the neighborhood parents’ council and Jerusalem Municipality.
  • Collecting Necessities for Refugees  Tens of thousands of evacuees from the communities around Gaza are staying in Jerusalem hotels. KMA has become the central neighborhood collection point for food, clothing, toiletries, games, and toys for the families and individuals who in many cases left their homes with no time to pack, not knowing when they would return home.
  • Other updates Two weeks ago, Shabbat Breishit, the KMA community celebrated Amichai’s Tana mi’s Bar Mitzvah. Amichai’s father David, is an infantry medic in the IDF reserves and couldn’t get home for the Bar Mitzvah. Friends and neighbors (it seemed like the whole neighborhood) came out and joined us for services on Shabbat Morning, giving an uplifting boost to Amichai, his mom Molly and the whole community. Mazal Tov!

KMA members were among more than 1,000 people attending the funeral of Matan Leor z’I, grandson of our members Yehoshua Leor and Rahel Leor z’I, who was murdered by Hamas at the festival near Kibbutz Re’im. Matan’s heroism is recounted in the attached Drasha. KMA sends sincerest condolences to Saba Yehoshua, parents Ofer and Saraleh and the Leor family.

Because of the emergency situation, the KMA 50th anniversary Gala, scheduled for December 14, has been postponed until June 16, 2024. At this time, we invite all our friends to support KMA, and help us in our effort to serve emergency needs in the larger community:

Online credit card or Pay Pal donations to Kehilat Moreshet Avraham through the Masorti Foundation in the US (US 501c3 tax receipt): https://masorti.org/moreshet-avraham/
Donations by bank transfer in Israel: (Israel Para. 46 receipt):
Name of Acct: Kehilat Moreshet Avraham, Bank Hapoalim: 12, Branch: 748, Acct: 81676

Shabbat Shalom,
Eitan Cooper, Chair KMA
David Goodman and Amirit Rosen, Rabbis, KMA

 

Keshet Emergency Fund, Update #6 – October 26, 2023

Dear Friends,

For the last few days I’ve been serving with a reserve IDF unit charged with protecting the communities in proximity to Gaza and the few residents who haven’t left.  I just returned from a patrol along the security fence of a small moshav where we are stationed, and since my energy levels are still high and I’ve received many requests from family and friends, I thought to channel them into a summary of my experiences during the last two weeks. Currently, I’m sitting on my mattress balancing my iPad in a room full of sleeping soldiers. They were all called up on October 7th. In the background there are constant explosions coming from Gaza and the lawnmower like sound of an Israeli drone searching for targets overhead.

Simchat Torah found me in Yerucham with my wife, our daughters, and five of our grandchildren. We had just begun hakafot on Shabbat morning when the siren went off.  The fact that it sounded during the middle of services immediately brought me back to the Yom Kippur War when I was in Jerusalem. Sadly, as it turned out there were good reasons for that.  Like then, a day of prayer was interrupted by a surprise attack and like then we had no idea at first of the scope of the disaster. It reminded me of the Yom Kippur War in another way as well- within an hour of the siren dozens of men of military age departed for their army units.  Seeing them race away, I felt a strong sense of déjà vu.  In 1973 I was of military age but had not yet made Aliyah or served in the army. Now, in 2023 time I’ve been out of the reserves for well over twenty years.  In both instances I felt an enormous sense of frustration, which I tried to channel into being as helpful as possible.  During the Yom Kippur War, I filled sandbags and volunteered at Shaarei Tzedek hospital.  This time, I started writing to raise and distribute funds and now I find myself back in the army.

Israel is a tiny country and the news that poured in during the first few days struck us very personally.  One of the Israeli teen participants on our Dor L’Dor Program, Hersh Goldberg-Polin was taken hostage even though he was severely wounded.  So was Vivian Silver, a 74 year old member of Kibbutz Be’eri who has met many of our groups, speaking to them about her many activities on behalf of the Palestinians in Gaza.  Amir Sekuri, the husband of a close friend of my daughter Avigail, fell in action trying to protect Be’eri from the onslaught of Hamas, which took the lives of at least 111 residents and soldiers.

Meanwhile, my own family has been called up in one way or another.  Our son-in-law Itamar is the Rabbi of a front-line paratroop unit. Our daughter Einat is back in the Air Force, our daughter-in-law Keren is now a captain in the Home Front Command, our son Chai is helping to coordinate the government’s efforts on behalf of the families of the missing and the kidnapped. Ruti and Avigail have been “drafted” into helping with our own grandchildren while working with their patients and their friends in need of support. I mention all this for the benefit of those of you who have met my family, but also because one could easily change the names and get a picture of the life of the vast majority of Israeli families. We all have children, parents, siblings, and friends in the IDF.  Even the Haredi community is taking part.  Thousands of Haredim are currently playing the most difficult and demanding role imaginable-trying to at least give dignity to the dead and some level of certainty to the survivors. In addition, over two thousand Haredi men have begun to join the IDF, breaking a taboo that is incredibly strong in their community. Israeli society after this war will be something else entirely.

On the first night of the war I somehow managed to write an article for the Times of Israel to explain as well as I could how this could have happened (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-price-israelis-are-willing-to-pay/).  However, publishing an article rarely changes reality.  Therefore, with the help of the incredible Keshet staff and Rabbi Arnie Gluck at Temple Beth El in New Jersey, I quickly re-established the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund, which had been dormant since 2006. Our goal was and is to assist where a cash intervention makes an immediate difference. We wrote to the Keshet client list and almost immediately raised and distributed over $100,000 to the direct victims of the attacks for immediate necessities, to evacuees from the communities close to Gaza and to reserve army units lacking the necessary ancillary equipment to fight a war- from tactical boots to bullet-proof ceramic vests. We’ve spent the money as fast as it comes in and are continuing our efforts with the help of hundreds of friends.  Here is a link to those activities:  www.keshetisrael.co.il/kierf

After the first week, I read that the Home Front Command was looking for Jeep drivers with military experience, but without mentioning an age limit. Within a few hours, I was back in uniform, and my Subaru Crossover had been converted into a military vehicle by the neat trick of attaching magnets to its doors with the IDF insignia. Even though it’s been 20 years of more since my last stint in the reserves, it seems like old times. The main difference is that a good number of the combat soldiers are female.

It’s not all that heroic- our unit is tasked with protecting the home front rather than with going into Gaza, but the false alarms and the dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket launches that go over our heads towards Tel Aviv and occasionally in our direction have kept my adrenaline going.  Seeing and hearing the “face of the enemy” keeps us focused on what we are doing here.  We also have a mission of combing the homes and fields of the kibbutzim that were attacked by Hamas, which has enabled me to see the extent of the destruction close up and to meet many of the front-line soldiers preparing for the ground invasion.

After speaking with dozens of soldiers of a wide range of ages from different units, my impression is that their morale is infinitely better than that of the country at large.  It’s good to be doing something of service of any sort, and even those of us tasked with defensive missions feel that we are part of the force that will be unleashed on the Hamas.

Among the soldiers I have not heard a single word about the political strife of the last year. There seems to be total consensus on the goal of defeating and eliminating Hamas.  I also hear a good deal of talk on the dilemmas posed by the presence of our hostages and Palestinian non-combatants in Gaza. Often, I’ve heard versions of the sentence “Because we are a Jewish state we cannot purposely target innocent people.”  Given that the Hamas uses its own people as human shields, perhaps the best way to formulate this is that “We should kill as few civilians as possible and as many as necessary in order to defeat Hamas.”  Tragically, there are few illusions about the likely cost for our own hostages in the hands of Hamas.

The words “victory” and “the surrender of the enemy” have not been part of the Western lexicon since 1945, but Israel is under an existential threat that is clearly very hard for Americans and even Europeans to truly grasp. Simply put, France, Poland and Germany survived defeat. Israel would not.  That, rather than revenge, is the underlying force motivation us.

Every day this week new revelations have emerged about the tragedies that took place but also the heroic efforts on Simchat Torah. Some are almost impossible to digest.  But here, among the soldiers of the IDF, no one uses the word “Holocaust”.  We have awakened from our illusions in a horrible fashion, but the Jewish people are no longer the helpless victims of history. Perhaps that is why returning to the IDF and serving in close proximity to Gaza has been such a privilege and even a relief.  I can hear the Israeli Air Force overhead, see the army concentrating its forces and most of all, sense the resolve and courage of those of us who will be called upon to fight this war to its end.  The grief, the recriminations, the re-evaluation of so many cherished assumptions, the inevitable political crises-all these must be put on hold until the guns go silent.  Then we will begin to get back to the business of fulfilling our dreams for Israel.

So, I end with a personal plea to you as Jewish community leaders:  Now is the time to demonstrate your support for Israel and the Israeli people and show your faith in our shared future.  Announce to your community that “We’re going to Israel” in 2024-5.  Bashanah B’Yerushalayim has never been so important.

All the best,
Yitzhak
To donate to the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund, please click here

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