Tuesday, June 06, 2023

In 2003, almost two decades ago, Suzanne Weilgus of Monsey founded “ACHI-American Communities Helping Israel.” Her founding committee consisted of former classmates from her YUHSG (Central) High School, now dispersed in several communities around the country including New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Florida. They include Gloria Gordon, Eliana Mintz Perez, Tova Taragin, Marcia Wagner, Lynda Zentman, Rochelle Zupnik and Avi Rubin in Israel.

Initiated after the Second Intifada, ACHI’s mission is “to boost the economy and morale in Israel. ACHI acts as a counterpunch to the BDS movement and enables people to shop for Israeli products from afar. ACHI’s slogan is ‘Think Israel—Buy Israeli.’ Our goal is to keep Israel in the hearts and minds of this generation and future generations.” To date ACHI has created an online market to help 100-plus Israeli vendors find new customers worldwide through shopping at www.ACHI613.org.

In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, ACHI has designated 2023 as the “Year of the KLEE.” In the words of the creators, “A KLEE is a dedicated container to be filled with products from Israel and displayed prominently in the home, serving as a constant reminder of an easy and practical way to support Israel. The KLEE can also be displayed in shuls, community centers, businesses and schools. The KLEE counters the infamous BDS movement by urging the community to BUY a KLEE or designate one you own; DISPLAY your KLEE in a prominent space; SUPPORT Israel by keeping your KLEE filled with Israeli products.” Once you have created or designated your KLEE, you can share it with others by posting on #myKLEE and tag @ACHI for Israel on instagram and ACHI:American Communities Helping Israel on FB.

Weilgus, who recently relocated to Fort Lee, shared an exciting new partnership for ACHI. On Sunday, June 4, ACHI is invited to “float” up Fifth Avenue at the Celebrate Israel Parade jointly with the IDB Bank. Working together, ACHI and IDB Bank have created a joint “Call to Action” float. Shopping bags adorned with the ACHI motto “Think Israel-Buy Israeli” and containing ACHI information, Israeli cookbooks and more, will be distributed to onlookers along the parade route by students of the Shefa School in Manhattan. This partnership is especially meaningful as it demonstrates cooperation by the banking industry for a grassroots nonprofit—all in support of our beloved Israel. Weilgus is elated to be partnering with IDB Bank through the creative and generous efforts of Karen Lichtenfeld, its senior vice president and head of marketing.

The KLEE project has taken off enthusiastically with many schools across the country creating original KLEE containers as part of their Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations. Teachers and school administrators see the project as engendering great pride and empowerment in their students. The KLEE serves as their way of personally supporting their brothers and sisters in Israel. Locally, the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston prepared their KLEE prior to Pesach. At JEC in Elizabeth, Jessica Bienenfield, coordinator of the KLEE project, praised the beauty of the Israel-themed designs her students created to decorate their containers. In Manhattan, the Ramaz Middle School created videos promoting the KLEE.

Future projected projects by ACHI include bringing KLEE-making to summer day and sleepaway camps throughout the U.S.

ACHI invites the Bergen County community to come out to the Celebrate Israel Parade on Sunday, June 4, to cheer on the Israel Discount Bank/ACHI float and to catch a bag of ACHI goodies.

To learn more about ACHI and the KLEE go to www.achi613.org/the-KLEE.

If you would like to introduce the KLEE to your school, shul or other organization, contact ACHI at [email protected]

By Pearl Markovitz


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