Saturday, March 25, 2023

A large crowd gathered for a great cause and a healthy dose of humor at the Seventh Annual Wine and Food Tasting Experience last week at the Young Israel of East Brunswick (YIEB). Co-sponsored by the East Brunswick Jewish Center (EBJC) Mitzvah Corps and the YIEB, the event was held to raise funds in support of the Yashar LaChayal Ari & Sari Horowitz, z”l, Fund that will provide Passover food packages for needy Israeli soldiers.

Approximately 125 people joined together in person for a sumptuous buffet dinner and fine wine tasting before the evening’s entertainment by comedian Ashley Blaker, with others participating via Zoom.

Stanley Boro of East Brunswick came out for the evening with members of his family to support the “good cause of Yashar LaChayal.” Elise Merkel, also of East Brunswick, came to support the organization for the first time. She noted her husband, Ira, had attended several of the group’s prior events.

Jack Silverman, event chair, started the evening by welcoming the local rabbis in attendance, as well as East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen, and he thanked members of the audience who have served in the Israel Defense Forces and/or have children who have served or currently serve.

Rabbi Yehoshua Hess of YIEB told a brief d’var Torah related to the Torah portion and the evening’s event. Why does the Torah list the names of all the tribes in Parshat Vayigash and repeats the counting in Parshat Shmot? Did the numbers or people change? The answer is that while the people did not change, their circumstances did. In the same way, we see that the Jews in Israel are the same, but the circumstances are different. No longer are the Jews subservient and persecuted by others; the state of Israel has Jews shaping their own destiny and running their own country. Adding that it is our duty to support the soldiers of Israel and support them as we do the country of Israel. Appropriately, EBJC Cantor Larry Brandspiegel, then led the room in the singing of Hatikvah.

Mayor Cohen then spoke about the importance of the recent agreement naming East Brunswick and Yavne as sister cities. It is important not just to share technology and exchange ideas, but to show the world,particularly the non-Jewish world, that Israel is not just about conflict, but about working together to increase the economic success of the entire country and region.

Attendees were then shown a video narrated by Moshe Hirt, Program Director of Yashar LaChayal, about the various projects and campaigns the group is involved in to assist soldiers socially, emotionally and financially. Hirt, a native of Edison, NJ, and graduate of Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva, served as a lone soldier before joining Yashar LaChayal in his present position. Noting that while communities around the world support the organization’s various projects and campaigns, East Brunswick supports an incredible seven of the 33 “Warm Corners” for soldiers taking a break from their patrols. The facilities feature food, recreation materialsand places to relax all across Israel. With nearly 30,000 soldiers coming from distressed homes, the need for toiletries and seasonal clothing and accessories is filled by the group.

The beneficiary of the evening’s event, the Ari & Sari Horowitz z”l fund, will provide funds to relieve some of the financial burden of Passover food for needy soldiers. Other areas of support include assistance for chareidi lone soldiers who become estranged from their families after enlistment in the IDF, rehabilitative assistance for injured soldiers, base enhancement programs, help for bereaved families and more. The soldiers greatly appreciate all that Yashar LaChayal does, but cannot begin to understand the support of communities around the world, let alone the incredible support of the East Brunswick area.

Comedian Ashley Blaker rounded out the evening with a hilarious performance. Laughter filled the room as Blaker entertained with funny comments and Jewish humor such as, “What if Judaism came with recommendations like Netflix? We see you observed Yom Kippur, perhaps you would also like 17 Tammuz?”

Norma Teicher of East Brunswick was thrilled to be at the fundraiser. “It is a wonderful, wonderful event. Jack and his team have been doing this for a long time, resulting in many benefits for the soldiers.”

Silverman praised the teamwork between YIEB and EBJC that made the evening such a success. Concerned about omitting someone, he noted that core team members P.J. Smith, Martin Genee and Andy Gross were instrumental in preparing and planning for the event.

The group also will be conducting a pre-Passover wine sale to benefit Yashar LaChayal. The wine list, along with background and contact information, can be found at: https://www.ebjc.org/mitzvah-corps

To donate or find out more about Yashar LaChayal visit: https://yasharlachayal.org/

By Deborah Melman

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