July 18, 2024
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July 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The flyer was circulating in WhatsApp chats, another small-fonted image to pause and inspect, or simply scroll past. But due to the recent happenings in Israel, there was more pausing, more moments to reflect and less glossing over. I fully tried to be present in the constant onslaught of my messages, in an effort to be connected to our brethren abroad, to limit my feelings of helplessness.

The concept was simple. It was different from the challah bakes, the Tehillim groups, the packing duffles of supplies that I had already tried. And that piqued my interest. Donate your jewelry to the displaced women, as they lost everything. The flyer went on to say that when the Jews were instructed to build the Mishkan 3,000 years ago, it was the women who came with donations first, with their jewelry. We, too, could move the world with our jewelry donations. And I love repurposing things I no longer use.

I had my old bat mitzvah jewelry in a safe, and other items I had been gifted over the years—juvenile gold, double-hoop earrings with multi-colored jewel hearts; a necklace; a handful of gold and silver rings that mostly had my birthstone, the amethyst, from my unusually strict days of exclusively wearing all things that represented the month of February. Three watches from the past few years that I no longer wore but was too lazy to sell. These were things whose purpose in my life was only in the shadows of their memories, but could definitely have a greater impact elsewhere, as opposed to taking up silent, muted space in the recesses of the closet safe.

I polished and packaged the jewelry, had the watch batteries replaced and followed the instructions to write down the value of each piece, and my name and number. I usually prefer to give anonymously, but I felt this opportunity was more than an exchange of a gift, but also a gesture of sisterhood, and I didn’t want to lose out on that.

“It’s probably a lie,” my child whispered to me that afternoon, wide-eyed and hesitant, when I told him about that day’s activities, about the handful of packages I had just dropped off. “Like someone just wants to steal everyone’s jewelry.” But the skepticism was birthed and crushed in that same moment, as it felt safer to view our fellow Jews as positive, yearning to help, to create and unify.

A few months later, outside of Trader Joe’s, I received a call from an Israeli number. And though I thought it was someone I was supposed to be interviewing, it was actually a woman who introduced herself as Yochi Alon, from Be’eri, the woman who spent 30 hours in a bomb shelter with six other family members, subsisting on Jachnun. She had been in the news.

She told me she received my jewelry and distributed it out to the other women and girls in their Dead Sea hotel, and they were so touched. I thought of them, sparkling and radiant in my old amethysts, maybe fellow Aquarians, but likely not, and catching rays of sun in the speckled diamonds of the watch faces, shooting streams of reflected rainbows onto the sterile hotel walls, painting the ceilings with moving bits of refracted light, in abundance. Each stone, each gem and diamond, like dancers, once frozen, closeted in the dark recesses of my safe, were now liberated with these women, who also sprang free from their safe rooms, and would once again dance.

I felt like I had met a celebrity, stumbling over my words, because I was both in awe of getting to converse with a hero, and also because my Hebrew is underwhelming. Yochi’s warmth and gratitude rang true in her tone, her lilting voice, even if I didn’t understand every word. Her enthusiasm shook me, reinforcing the possibilities that lie in the silent, hidden things that surround us, awaiting a rebirth. There is beauty in letting go of things, of giving them a new life, and here it was.

Her phone call bridged our worlds, creating a web of connection that was like an outstretched arm, encircling me and inviting me in. She hugged me with her words, a warmth that melted the cold helplessness of my exiled perch. This was her act of kindness. And perhaps that’s the message of the women who donated their jewelry all those years ago. It takes a single act of enthusiastic giving to inspire others to do the same. Through the constant motions of sharing, we weave bonds and friendships in places where none had existed, a reinvented and renewed community, the hidden possibility, finally, realized.

That, too, is the purpose of this column. To see, read and absorb the experiences of others who gave and give, and to continue the chain of events. One good deed, igniting and inspiring another, the dancing bits of liberated light.

Sarah Abenaim is a writer, life coach and journaling workshop curator, who lives with her husband and kids. To be featured in one of her “Out There, In Here” stories, please reach out to her at [email protected] or to David Siegel at [email protected]. To learn more about how you can make an impact in the war effort, check out https://tinyurl.com/Rinat-VolunteeringinIsrael.

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