The Sandler Family Campus resembled an Israeli Shuk on Monday, Oct. 16. Tables were filled with everyday items, from toiletries to thermal underwear – but, different from a market, nothing was for sale.
More than 300 people, partnering organizations, and area Jewish schools showed up to donate and assemble these supplies for soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces and families in Israel who have been displaced from their homes.
Nofar Trem, Israel engagement manager at the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, organized the event after getting calls from Israeli military bases asking for essential items. In partnership with United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Strelitz International Academy, and Chabad of Tidewater, Trem and Naty Horev, an Israeli living in Tidewater, emailed the list to the Jewish community with first-aid kits, toothpaste, gray and black socks, baby wipes, and sunscreen among the requested, urgent supplies. Just a few days later, the tables were stacked high.
Horev says that even “the first bag exceeded my expectations!”
The eagerness of people to assist was inspiring and comforting. For example, a Simon Family JCC fitness member handed a $20 bill to Horev, as others also made financial contributions to the emergency campaign. Additional funds from the sale of t-shirts are being used to offset shipping expenses. ZIM, the Israeli shipping company, generously offered free shipping for this purpose, but supplies would not have arrived in Israel for three weeks; instead, the packed boxes were sent by plane.
“The Jewish Tidewater community, friends of other faiths, and elected officials have shown tremendous support for Israel, and I am very lucky to be part of such a great community,” says Trem.
Hallie Friedman, a recent graduate of Hobart William Smith College, says she volunteered so she could be around people who support Israel. She says that everything she sees on social media is pro-Palestinian and uses aggressive language. When she was in college, her interests were elsewhere; now, she says, all she wants to do is to help Israel.
Jordan Familant joined the effort while home on fall break from College of Charleston. While he has no family in Israel, College of Charleston has a large Jewish community, and Jordan knows fellow students with direct connections.
With friends, family, and employees in Israel, Karen Ashkenazi says her support is unquestionable.
Hans Freitag, who is not Jewish, noticed that his Jewish friends were stressed from the news coming from Israel, so he came to help. Ellen Wagner came for her family, her children, her grandchildren, and for her family in Israel.
“I came to help support the soldiers on the front lines,” she says.
Mid-way through the morning, Rabbi Aron Margolin of Chabad of Tidewater asked for silence while he read a prayer for the soldiers of Israel. He noted that he had to change the prayer, since the original only referred to male soldiers.
In addition to assembling boxes, a table of volunteers wrote thank you notes to members of Congress who are supporting Israel during this difficult time. Children drew pictures at a neighboring table to include in the parcels.
“We have over 100 boxes filled with donations from the community that are being sent to Israel. Our mission now is to collect medical supplies from local physicians and organizations to send to Magen David Adom and the IDF,” says Trem.
Leigh Ellard, member experience director at the Simon Family JCC, says that she has received dozens of checks in increments of $100. “And, today, one more check for $1,000.”
For the list of requested medical supplies, contact Nofar Trem at email@example.com.