Monday, March 27, 2023

As news of Hamas rockets raining down on Israel kept pouring in, Congregation Bnai Yeshurun Youth Directors Rivka and Yehoshua Szafranski felt compelled to do something to help ease the suffering of thousands of Israelis forced to flee to bomb shelters day and night.

Together with the Bnai Yeshurun youth committee, headed by Dr. Doron Katz, Sari Sheinfeld and Henry Orlinsky, the team sprang into action. Dr. Katz  reached out to one of his contacts at Colel Chabad, knowing that the organization already has a well-established infrastructure and abundant network of volunteers to help facilitate this initiative. When he asked the organization what the kids really needed most, he was told they needed things to do while spending their time in shelters.

Armed with the hashtag #toysagainstterror, the group quickly created an emergency care drive that would deliver toy care packages to children in regions hit the hardest, including Ashdod, Sderot, Yavneh, Lod and Rishon Letzion.

After CBY partnered up with Colel Chabad, the Szafranskis were able to reach out to their network of youth directors all across the country and before they knew it, over 30 more organizations and institutions signed on to the cause as well.

Rivka said, “We really felt we wanted to do something that we could inspire the kids in Teaneck and the greater American Jewish community to help and reach out to the kids who are in Israel who are going through a very difficult time.”

On May 14, Yeshivat Noam students from early childhood through eighth grade took to writing letters to the children in Israel who were going to receive packages, telling them how much they love and care for them and urging them to be strong. “This is something easy to do that’s really going to have a direct impact,” Rivka reiterated.

The care packages, which cost just $54 each, contain books, toys and even candy to help ease some of the fear and anxiety as children and their families are forced to spend long hours in bomb shelters. “We figured this would be the best and most efficient use of this money because we are able to give it directly to people who already know Israelis who are in need and give it to the communities directly,” Yehoshua noted. These packages will be distributed to children throughout Ashdod, Lod, Rishon Lezion, Sderot and Yavneh.

Around 300 care packages went out in the first round, and organizers are expecting to send out around at least 600 more the following week. “100% of the money that is raised goes directly towards the packages. There is no overhead and everybody is doing this completely voluntarily,” Rivka stressed.

Yehoshua went on to say: “After speaking to all of our friends and family currently living under rocket fire, what they tell us consistently is that the scariest part is the feeling of being alone, vulnerable … and this is really an opportunity for us to provide comfort and give a little bit of a virtual hug from across the sea to our brothers and sisters who are currently sitting in dank and really depressing bomb shelters, fearing for their lives.”

Each package costs just $54. For more information or to make a donation please visit https://toysforkidsinisrael.com.

For those interested in partnering with the emergency care drive, please email [email protected]


By Ronit Mershon


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