April 9, 2024
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BC Lev Echad Honored At ‘Night of Chizuk’

Attendees at the Bergen County Lev Echad Night of Chizuk, Inspiration and Music.

Classic Israeli songs filled the air as close to 1,000 people gathered to honor the efforts of Bergen County Lev Echad. The “Night of Chizuk, Inspiration and Music” was held at Congregation Keter Torah on the evening of February 22. Attendees were greeted by a lavish buffet alongside a display of samples of the military equipment that has been shipped from Bergen County to the front lines since October 9. The event was free of charge, but many attendees donated far in excess of the $54 suggested donation as a show of support to the incredible work of BC Lev Echad.

BC Lev Echad is a grassroots project undertaken by residents of Bergen County immediately after the outbreak of the Gaza War on October 7.

Daily lists of necessary military supplies and gear were compiled in Israel and forwarded to those in charge of the project, who proceeded to procure them from distributors in the U.S. These supplies were then packed by volunteers into duffel bags (often numbering close to 100) in the project’s Teaneck warehouse and shipped to Israel from Newark Airport. At the beginning of the war, soldiers returning to Israel to participate in the military campaign would take several bags as part of their personal luggage. But as the project grew exponentially, and as the number of bags grew to over 100 daily, the procedure was restructured using the connections of Chagit Hadar, who had formed Lev Echad years ago to serve the needs of lone soldiers, and the bags were sent in mass shipments to be distributed in Israel. Among the supplies were crucial military gear such as helmets, ceramic vests, tourniquets, head lamps, fireproof suits, chest seals, Quickclot, ballistic glasses, tactical uniforms and even drones. As the weather turned colder, clothing items such as winter headgear, thermal underwear, gloves, winter jackets, sturdy boots and much more became essential. In addition, clothing and supplies are being shipped to displaced families dispersed throughout Israel.

Presenting robotic dog for search and rescue missions.

In his remarks, Daniel Malka of Englewood credited the community for its unwavering support. “The soldiers didn’t stop, so the community didn’t stop. The community didn’t stop, so we at BC Lev Echad didn’t stop.” With the backing of the community and a group of dedicated volunteers they were able to create a logistics powerhouse.

Two special items that have been donated and financed for the IDF through the efforts of BC Lev Echad and other organizations are being credited with saving hundreds of lives daily on the battlefield. The audience was treated to seeing one of these technological innovations as it was presented on stage. The Robotic Dog for Search and Rescue Missions, dressed in camouflage, is a marvel of technology used as the first line of entry into the hundreds of underground tunnels proliferating in Gaza. One of these robotic dogs can scout out underground booby traps and other dangers three miles ahead of soldiers, thus preventing injuries and possible losses. Donations to BC Lev Echad have enabled Israel to produce a fleet of such canines protecting our chayalim.

A second vital technology has been the installation of 360-degree cameras in some of the older tanks that are still part of the IDF fleet. These new cameras save lives by giving the tank drivers a view of all of their surroundings. Most recently, the cameras are being upgraded with night-vision capabilities. This technology may have saved 20 soldiers who were victims of friendly fire before its implementation at the beginning of the war. For them it was too late, but BC Lev Echad is committed to preventing further loss of Israeli life. Again, donations to BC Lev Echad have been providing this vital, life-saving technology to our chayalim.

The “Night of Chizuk, Inspiration and Music” began with the recitation of Tehillim by Rabbi Daniel Goldberg of Congregation Ahavath Torah. The moderator for the program was Ami Kozak, local comedian and musician.

Noam Buskila leading joyous kumzitz with chevra in the background.

In keeping with the mantra of “Never Forget” passed down through the generations since the Holocaust, Kozak introduced Yona and Roi Asaraf, survivors of the Nova festival. Through Michal, the interpreter, the couple related their harrowing story of escape and survival. They told of the many “small miracles” they experienced on that infamous day—arriving late to the festival because of a faulty alarm clock; parking at the end of the lot and placing a milk carton on their car’s antenna to identify it; returning to the field for a jacket and thus being directed to the safe escape route; driving alongside terrorists dressed as IDF soldiers without being hit; avoiding an explosion in Beer Sheva; and miraculously returning safely to their two young daughters. In recognition of “Chasdei Hashem” the Asarafs have taken upon themselves to keep Shabbat and observe mitzvot. They shared that they have collected 80 similar stories from survivors of Nova, which they will be compiling into a book shortly.

Addressing the assembled was Rav Adiel Mhazri, currently serving as a shaliach and educator at the Moriah School in Englewood. As soon as the war was declared, Mhazri, a major in the Negev Brigade, flew back to join his unit for close to three months in Gaza. Avigdor Ben Ari, brother-in-law of Chagit Hadar, now residing in Brooklyn, spent 62 days in Israel, traveling over 20,000 miles to deliver needed equipment to army bases around the country. He told of receiving a call from the father of a secular soldier who had asked to be supplied with a pair of tefillin. As the soldier was located on a remote base in southern Israel, Ben Ari asked him to send a Google map of his location, and despite warnings about the desolate area he was about to traverse, he connected with the soldier, who now has a new pair of tefillin to protect him.

The evening concluded on a high note with a joyous kumzitz led by Noam Buskila, IDF paratrooper and sergeant major, who has been traveling throughout Israel and the U.S. bringing inspiration and combating darkness through music to large audiences.

The list of Bergen County residents who have been volunteering long and strenuous hours to coordinate, order, pack, load and drive to date over 8,000 duffel bags to Newark Airport is impressive and growing daily. Kudos to Brian Nave, Daniel Malka, Jason Langer, Willie Balk, Aliza Black and many others from Englewood who have been rendering ongoing services to BC Lev Echad. Equally commendable are Ari Wartelsky, Donny Knoll, Elana Koslowe and Naftali Ratzersdorfer, along with many others from Teaneck who have been devoting endless time and effort to this tremendous chesed. Kudos to Elliot Braun of Passaic, serving on the ground in Israel. They have scaled their operation and even have a team member in Miami who volunteers full time for Lev Echad and is spearheading the establishment of offshoots of the organization in Florida and California.

A special shout out to Meir, chief baggage handler at Ben Gurion Airport, who has “officially” reported that the largest number of duffel bag shipments to date coming through the airport from around the world are from the Bergen County community!

To volunteer or donate to BC Lev Echad visit BCLevEchad.org or contact [email protected]

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