April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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‘Breakfast for Israel’ Benefits MDA and Yad Leah

Teaneck—Two of our region’s most active supporters of Israeli charities are working together to thank their partners who work with them to support Israel with the first annual “Breakfast for Israel.”

Elie Katz, Teaneck’s deputy mayor and a life member of the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps, has been, since his teens, a loyal supporter of American Friends of Magen David Adom (MDA), which provides critical ambulance care and blood services throughout Israel. He even volunteered as a paramedic for MDA in Israel when he was in his late teens. Katz has led New Jersey partners in funding multiple ambulances and in helping students in our region to both understand the services it provides and raise money for American Friends of MDA. Elie’s sister-in-law, Jessica Katz, is the founder and executive director of Yad Leah, a popular Passaic and Bergen County chesed organization that sends gently used, excellent-quality clothing items to over 30 communities in Israel. Yad Leah, which was founded in 2003, today offers a 90-minute (with a 15-minute blitz training) work session where student groups and a wide array of volunteers help process the vast amounts of clothing that are brought to their Passaic warehouse.

Jessica shared that through the Breakfast for Israel, they have created an opportunity to thank the community and bring together and highlight two very important realities. “There are a lot of day-to-day challenges that we face in Israel as a community. There are problems that are faced on a daily basis, and also there are the types of the challenges that are crisis moments. We need to help people in both these ways, and be there for our brothers and sisters,” she said.

The breakfast is designed to honor schools, showing the students that this is who, and what, we stand for. “Many of our students have volunteered, collected clothing and raised funds for either Yad Leah or MDA, or both. We can and should celebrate the success of our endeavors, and we want to express hakarat hatov (gratitude) to those who have helped,” said Elie.

Therefore, the Breakfast for Israel is seen as highlighting a unique portion of our region’s multi-fold assistance to Israel: These are “the MDA lifesaving measures that are taken during roadside accidents or terror attacks, combined with the challenges that some Israelis face every day, waking up in the morning, finding a job, going to school and needing the appropriate clothing for those moments,” Jessica said.

“Whether it’s to provide clothing—clothing gives us the confidence to face our daily lives—allows you to be self-confident and to do well in school. You are successful at your job because you look good and you feel good. That’s important, but it’s not enough. We must also raise funds for those crisis moments,” added Jessica.

“As a community in New Jersey, we can address the entire community, the entire person, the whole Israel,” said Elie.

The breakfast, which will be held Sunday, June 25, at 9:45 a.m. at the Teaneck Jewish Center, will feature Ambassador Danny Dayan, consul-general of Israel, as guest speaker. The event will be hosted by radio host Zev Brenner of Talkline Communications, with a special awards presentations given by Assemblyman Gary Schaer, Teaneck Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin and Teaneck Councilman (and Jewish Link co-publisher) Mendy Schwartz. A welcome message will be provided by Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno.

Yeshiva Shel Chessed Awards will be given to Yeshivat Noam (and Rabbi Chaim Hagler), The Moriah School (and Rabbi Daniel Alter), Yeshivat He’Atid (Ora Kornbluth and Rabbi Tomer Ronen), Yavneh Academy (Rabbi Jonathan Knapp and the student council) and The Frisch School (Rabbi Eli Ciner). A business award will be given to IDT Corporation (Shmuel Jonas, CEO).

Just to provide an example of why schools, in particular, are being honored (and all the schools being honored have put in incredible amounts of work for one or both organizations), Jessica shared the following: Frisch students have come to Yad Leah seven separate times over the past year. The parents association has also come to pack. “To top it off, I got a call from a Frisch senior, who has the month off from school. Class is done and they’re all hanging around waiting for graduation. On their own initiative, 15 Frisch kids just showed up and worked straight through, processing probably 1,000 pieces of clothing. This is amazing, fantastic and really something to celebrate,” she said.

Regarding American Friends of MDA, for which Elie has spearheaded fundraising campaigns and helped the community purchase ambulances for Israel, representative Erik Levis told The Jewish Link that American support—which constitutes more than 80 percent of the charitable dollars MDA receives annually—means everything to MDA. “That’s because, while MDA is Israel’s nationally mandated emergency medical response, ambulance and blood services organization, it does not receive Israeli government funding for its operations.”

“Support from Americans—including critical and consistent support from New Jersey residents—really makes an impact because it allows MDA to function daily as the world-class lifesaving organization it is today. To that end, most of our donors love the fact that they’re directly helping save someone’s life in Israel…or in some cases, helping deliver new life, as many babies are delivered on MDA ambulances. The impact is palpable to these supporters—they can see and touch the ambulance they’ve sponsored before it heads to Israel. And they stay connected to Israel via their ambulances and learn about the patients they’ve saved when MDA provides them with status reports.”

Levis said that in any given year, and pending MDA’s needs, AFMDA needs to raise funds to replace approximately 10 percent of its 1,000-ambulance fleet, meaning that it needs approximately 100 new ambulances (a combination of the white Life Support Ambulance and yellow Mobile Intensive Care Units) annually, as the units wear out and need to leave service.

The Breakfast for Israel, therefore, has multi-pronged goals. “I wanted Bergen County to see what was happening. Everyone has their own thing, their own tzedakah projects, but sometimes people have a misunderstanding of who supports these organizations and how they survive. If not for volunteers and donations from Israel, Europe and the US, MDA would not be able to offer this amazing service,” said Elie. The overwhelming majority of MDA ambulances come from American sponsors, he added. Conversely, if not for “community participation and the participation of a wide swath of volunteers,” Yad Leah would need vastly more resources to do its important work.

The cost to attend the breakfast is $20 in advance, and $28 at the door. Please RSVP and provide sponsorship greetings at IsraelBreakfast.org. A $150 gift certificate to NoBo will be raffled off to those who RSVP in advance. For additional questions please email [email protected] or call 201-715-5179.

By Elizabeth Kratz


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