June 8, 2024
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June 8, 2024
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Building Up Israel $1 Million at a Time

Rabbi Daniel Fridman (center) on stage with Eli Ben-Dor, Elad Kaufman, Dudi Rabi and Yair Wizner.

This past Monday evening, the Jewish community of Bergen County gathered for a powerful fundraising and unity event at the Jewish Center of Teaneck.

The event honored the brave men and women of Kerem Shalom and further strengthened the partnership we in Bergen County have forged with them since October 7 and was sponsored by Beis Knesses of New Milford, Beis Medrash of Bergenfield, Beth Aaron, Beth Tefillah of Paramus, Bnai Yeshurun, Netivot Shalom, Jewish Center of Teaneck, Ohr Saadya, Rinat Yisrael, Young Israel of Fort Lee, Young Israel of Teaneck, Shomrei Torah, Shaarei Tefillah, Zichron Mordechai, Robert and Sarah Blum, Manny and Pessie Klein, Meir and Shiran Rosen, Nomi and Yechiel Rotblat, and Dr. Mark and Susan Weisen.

As Rabbi Daniel Fridman eloquently stated, it was a night to recognize the incredible sacrifices made by the heroes of Kerem Shalom and show our support for those who stand strong for all of Am Yisrael. In partnership with Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Sulamot and Atufim, the shuls of Bergen County have pledged to raise $1 million to rebuild Kerem Shalom—a pledge we are committed to fulfilling.

Mordechai Shapiro (center) with Eli Ben-Dor, Elad Kaufman, Dudi Rabi and Yair Wizner.

Kerem Shalom means “vineyard of peace.” It embodies the profound wish for peace that all Jews share. It is a town where Jews of all backgrounds live side by side in harmony. Three times a day, we conclude our Shemoneh Esrei with Sim Shalom, a prayer for peace asking God to bestow peace upon us. True peace, as we know, can only exist when it is universally shared.

On October 7, our relative peace was shattered. The impact was felt deeply, especially in Kerem Shalom, a town situated on the border of Gaza, Israel and Egypt. The night was dedicated to understanding what it means to be there for one another and to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our safety.

In a room filled with emotion and solidarity, we stood alongside true heroes—Eli Ben-Dor, Elad Kaufman, Dudi Rabi and Yair Wizner, four of the nine members of the Kerem Shalom security force who confronted death head-on and saved countless lives on October 7. We also remembered Yedidya Raziel and Avichai Weitzen, two heroic members of the security force who tragically lost their lives saving others on that day.

The evening was enriched by the soulful music of Mordechai Shapiro, whose powerful renditions of “Am Yisrael Chai” and “Ani Yehudi” resonated deeply with everyone present. These songs remind us and show our children the pride in our Jewish identity and our commitment to sanctifying life. They also reinforce our belief in the promise that no matter what, just like Hashem promised, we will survive.

(l-r) Sophie Sebrow and Eden Reiss Yavneh Academy fourth graders.

The event highlighted the tremendous opportunity we have to support our brothers and sisters in Kerem Shalom. Their resilience and strength in the face of adversity serve as an inspiration to all Jews worldwide. The $1 million we are donating will be used for desperately needed security equipment, medical and emergency equipment, direct assistance to families who were victims of terror on October 7, mental health treatment, and a new children’s playground. By helping them rebuild their homes, schools, community centers and gardens, and providing direct support to families, we can show those who seek to harm us that not only do we survive, but we thrive—and their attempts to bring us down will only make us stronger.

The residents of Kerem Shalom stand on the front lines, living on the border of life and death. Their sacrifices ensure that we can live in peace and security. Our support can help them continue to uphold this vital role. We have the chance to help them obtain the means to ensure their safety and security, making sure a day like October 7 can never happen again.

As Tehillim reminds us: “Yehi shalom b’chailech shalva b’armenotayich, Let there be peace within your walls and tranquility within your palaces.”

Standing in the same room as these four heroes, who have literally saved hundreds of Jewish lives, was a humbling experience. It is not that often you get to be in a room with someone who truly saved a life, let alone a town. As the four went up on stage you couldn’t help but be moved by Elad Kaufman’s words: “After October 7 we didn’t know if we could go back. It is your support that enables us to return to our duty of protecting our country and our people.”

Unfortunately, at this time, the Israeli government does not have the means to provide financial support to rebuild Kerem Shalom and so many of the other towns that were affected on October 7. B’makom shein anashim, tishtadel le’hiyot ish, In a place where there is no one, be someone.

Eden Reiss and Mordechai Shapiro.

It is our turn to help, each one of us. If everyone reading this could contribute just $50 we would be well on our way to raising the $1 million needed to rebuild Kerem Shalom. This funding will ensure their safety and security, but more importantly, it will demonstrate how we care and send the message that “we stand with you.” We stand united with our brothers and sisters and do our part so they can continue to do theirs.

By helping rebuild Kerem Shalom, we are not only ensuring their future but our future and the future of the Jewish people. Supporting them and creating a safe, thriving community means that we are investing in our collective strength and continuity. Wherever we ultimately settle, we will carry the knowledge that, just like Kerem Shalom, we will grow, flourish, persevere and never be wiped off the map.

The concert crowd.

Let us bring peace and security to Kerem Shalom, and by extension, to all of Israel. Your support can make a significant difference. Visit jgive.com, search for Bergen County Unites For and donate today. Every contribution counts. For other ways of donating please contact Rabbi Daniel Fridman at [email protected]. Together, we will ensure a brighter, more secure future for our brothers and sisters in Kerem Shalom, Bergen County and Jews everywhere. Am Yisrael Chai!

Dr. Josh Schwarzbaum is an author, transformative coach and a triple board certified physician in emergency medicine, addiction medicine and emergency medical services. You can learn more about him at www.healthyinside.net.

Mordechai Shapiro with some excited fans.
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