East Brunswick Jewish community members recently combined three heartfelt passions—gathering as a community, sampling fine foods and wines, and supporting Israeli soldiers.
The fifth annual Jewish Community of East Brunswick Wine Tasting and Dinner was held to support Yashar LaChayal (Straight to the Soldier), with net proceeds benefiting the Ari and Sari Horowitz Fund for Soldiers in Need to purchase Passover supplies for needy soldiers.
The event, held virtually this year, allowed event sponsors to choose from various levels of sponsorship that ranged from a dessert sampling to dinner selection from Giddy’s Pizzeria. Higher level sponsorships including an array of appetizer, dinner and dessert wines. Participants arranged to pick up their freshly prepared meal packages ahead of the event.
The event began with a Zoom conference at noon with Sasson ben Aharon, chief winemaker of Mony Vineyards, for Gold and Silver level supporters. Viewers learned about the best grape harvest methodology, how new and old wood affects the taste of wine stored in barrels, and specifics regarding the wines that would be provided with the dinner. Mony is based in the Judean Mountains, close to where the story of Samson and Delilah took place, so the winery has named some of their wines after biblical figures. (A wine shop in Brooklyn discovered that sales of the Samson wine far outpaced the Delilah label and wondered why. It seems that some families in Brooklyn were hesitant about putting the Delilah bottle on the table and having to explain to the smaller children who the biblical character was.)
The event continued with the virtual dinner, where all sponsors joined in a Zoom conference, opened by dinner chair Jack Silverman, who noted that “it is safe to say none of us has a farm, but we can fulfill the mitzvah by helping Israeli soldiers with food for Passover.”
The virtual dinner included a fact-filled video from Yashar LaChayal. Founded in 2006 during the second Lebanon War, Yashar LaChayal was an outgrowth of the citizens of Israel helping soldiers who were called up to the front lines without personal essentials. Private citizens drove to the front lines to give soldiers toiletries, clothes, and food. The effort continues today with Yashar LaChayal recognized as a nonprofit organization in Israel and the United States, dedicated to helping Israeli soldiers and making their service more comfortable while they are protecting the Jewish homeland.
Yashar LaChayal has created and maintained a range of projects which provide various forms of support to soldiers from impoverished families, those injured in the line of duty, and bereaved family members of those who fell in Israel’s defense. The charity is unique in that as a result of annual support from a donor family that funds operational costs, regular donations can be devoted in their entirety to the soldiers’ needs.
What dinner is complete without entertainment? Sponsored by Cheryl and Aaron Shmulewitz, Rav Shlomo Katz entertained with a musical performance featuring niggunim and stories about soldiers’ everyday life in Israel.
The program was an outgrowth of an annual event run by the EBJC Mitzvah Corps. The group, founded by Jack Silverman, Martin Genee and P.J. Smith, organizes shiva minyanim, runs the Shaimos geniza and prepares the annual Yizkor Memorial Book that includes the names of Israelis killed by terrorists. An annual Passover wine sale was added to provide fine kosher wines to the community and serve as a fundraiser for the group’s charitable activities. The wine tasting was added to introduce a greater variety of wines and induce additional sales. In time, the event evolved to become a program of the larger East Brunswick Jewish community, with the Young Israel, Torah Links and Temple Beth Shalom joining as co-sponsors.
As Silverman noted, “The more we do, the more we are able to help the soldiers.” The more help given the soldiers, the more help there is for the Jewish communities as well. For example, Yashar LaChayal has opened 21 “Warm Corners” in different communities throughout Israel. The ones in Einav and Halamish are sponsored by the East Brunswick community. Each Warm Corner is a small space at the entrance to a community that is stocked with food and drinks for the benefit of IDF patrol soldiers in the area. The Warm Corners show support for the brave men and women defending Jewish communities in far-flung areas and draw soldiers to the area, giving residents a greater feeling of security.
By Deborah Melman