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Elie & Esther Katz Dedicate MDA Ambulance With Help From Schools

The community-wide fundraiser efforts that Elie and Esther Katz began last fall in memory of Rabbi Joseph Feinstein, Esther’s father, on the occasion of his 25th yahrzeit, finally came to fruition last week. The two worked tirelessly to solicit funds from community members and involved local shuls and Jewish day schools in the purchase of a Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance, Israel’s official ambulance service and national emergency medical response organization. They saw the fruits of their labor on Monday when the ambulance visited four of the day schools that helped raise money—the Moriah School, Yeshivat He’Atid, Yavneh Academy and Yeshivat Noam.

Students heard from Karen Stein, development executive of American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA). “We want to congratulate you and thank you for your tzedakah,” she said. “Your money went to building this ambulance.”

Stein explained that the ambulance cost $100,000, which all had been raised by the Bergen County Jewish day schools and the Bergen County Jewish community. She told the students that the ambulance had been build in Elkhart, Indiana, and it was driven to Bergen County so the students could see it. It would then continue on to the port in Baltimore, where it will set sail to Israel and be filled with medical equipment.

The students were invited to climb inside the ambulance and take a tour. They were also able to see the following inscription on one side of the ambulance: “Presented to the People of Israel with Love From the Children and Community of Bergen County, New Jersey, USA 2015.”

The other side of the ambulance is inscribed with the words, “Presented to the People of Israel in Memory of Rabbi Joseph Feinstein, Los Angeles and in Honor of Doris Feinstein, Pesh and Steven Katz by Elie Y., Esther, Tani, Ari and Kayla Katz Teaneck, NJ, USA 2015.”

Esther Katz first began thinking of an appropriate tzedakah in memory of her father’s yahrzeit almost a year ago during Operation Protective Edge. Feinstein had served as a rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills and chaplain for Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Katz said that her father was inspirational to many people in L.A. He dealt with people from the whole spectrum of Judaism and was able to mekarev a lot of people.

Katz wanted to memorialize her father by helping Israel because that is what her father would have wanted to do. Feinstein was a big supporter of Israel and had even wanted to make aliyah, but was not able to.

Katz specifically chose AFMDA because her father had also been an advocate of donating blood. He donated blood to Cedars Sinai Medical Center four to five times a year. Katz connected his blood donating to AFMDA because MDA provides 99% of the blood needed in Israel, 97% of the blood needed by hospitals, and 100% of blood used for the IDF. In addition, many MDA ambulances needed to be replaced this year due to wear and tear during Operation Protective Edge.

MDA was founded in 1930 to work in cooperation with other emergency and security authorities such as Israeli police, firefighters and the Israel Defense Forces. MDA has a fleet of more than 1,000 ambulances and nearly 200 medical emergency Medicycles as well as Mobile Intensive Care Unit Ambulances and other specialized vehicles. There are more than 125 MDA emergency medical stations and 11 dispatch stations located throughout Israel, enabling paramedics to respond quickly to emergencies all over the country. MDA ambulances respond to over 650,000 calls per year.

The organization’s work is mandated by the Israeli government, but is not government-funded. MDA relies on donors to ensure dispatch centers are equipped with the latest communications technology, ambulances are stocked with cutting-edge lifesaving equipment, and paramedics have the most up-to-date training.

Seventeen of MDA’s emergency medical stations have been either built or renovated by Americans. Of the 1,052 ambulances on the road in Israel, 578 are sponsored by American groups.

“There was really a helpless feeling over the summer of being here and not being able to do something to help,” said Esther.

Therefore, the Katz family kicked off this fundraising campaign last September, with a lecture by Rabbi Steven Weil of Teaneck, senior managing director of the Orthodox Union, at Teaneck’s Young Israel synagogue. They then approached other local shuls and Jewish day schools to commit to this fundraising project as well, which they named the Bergen County Magen David Adom Fund Drive.

Yavneh Academy, Yeshivat Noam, The Moriah School, Solomon Schechter, and Ben Porat Yosef committed to the Fund Drive for the months of January, February, and March. Stein helped the Katz’s with this campaign by visiting the day schools in February to teach the students how AFMDA helps MDA.

Teaneck restaurant Shalom Bombay was also a partner in the initiative, donating 50% of its sales from Friday orders in the month of January.

Esther credited her husband Elie with accomplishing the goals of this community fundraising. “I married a dream maker,” she said. “I had the dream and he made it happen.”

A lifelong Teaneck resident, Elie Y. Katz is a strong advocate for Israel and a local businessman who continually spearheads efforts to raise awareness about and funding for Israel’s most pressing needs. He is the Teaneck deputy mayor and is a former mayor.

By Tova Domnitch

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