It has become customary that tweens approaching the age of bar or bat mitzvah do a chesed project to mark the occasion. Some volunteer with nonprofits, while others choose to run their own projects to raise money for charity. For a pair of Israeli twin sisters, they decided to do a Chanukah toy drive for Yad L’Olim, a nonprofit founded by former MK Dov Lipman, that advocates for, and supports, olim, their families and world Jewry.
Leba and Eliana Hindin were both originally from Teaneck before their family moved to Israel and settled in Efrat. With their bat mitzvahs approaching, like many of their classmates they wanted to do a chesed project. With some help from their mother they learned about Yad L’Olim and its mission and decided to get involved.
“Starting our lives as b’not mitzvah with chesed was very important,” Eliana shared with The Jewish Link. “Our mother spoke with many organizations and we felt that this specific organization made the most sense. Yad L’Olim would help us actually interact with the people we were helping—although most of them spoke Ukrainian, so we tried our best to talk to them.” The reason many of them spoke Ukrainian is because Israel has seen a recent surge of immigrants from Ukraine due to the war. Yad L’Olim has been stepping up their efforts to help them get situated in their new homes. With their toy drive, the girls would be helping the children of these immigrants.
“It was very powerful to be able to actually meet the Ukrainian olim and hear their stories,” Eliana continued. “It was especially meaningful that we would be able to do something that would directly help children.”
For their project, the girls put collection boxes outside their home and at a toy store in a mall in Efrat. They also packed menorahs and candles at their bat mitzvah earlier this year, which were then given out at a Chanukah party along with the gifts for the children.
“At the Chanukah party, the children were able to choose the toys they wanted,” Leba shared. “The organizers told us that many of the families didn’t have a single toy and that the families left their homes in Ukraine with nothing, either because they planned to return a short while later or because they were only able to take very basic things. Now in Israel, the families had to choose between buying food, clothes or a toy.”
Thanks to their efforts, the girls and Yad L’Olim were able to donate over a hundred toys, a fact the girls are extremely proud of.
“My favorite part of the project was being there at the party and seeing how happy they were to be there and receive the gifts,” Leba continued. “There was a mother that said her kids moved here and go to school—they don’t know anyone or their language there—yet at the party they recognized some of their friends from Ukraine and were able to speak to them in their language: Ukrainian.”
Ayala Laub is Yad L’Olim’s director of programming and organizational development. She was the girls’ point of contact for their toy drive, and is now hard at work on the organization’s various other programs.
“Yad L’Olim is focused on advocating for olim and world Jewry, offering education and assistance for olim throughout the world,” Laub shared. “We also offer workshops and personal assistance for everything that goes into moving to Israel. Whether it be visa trouble or issues with the healthcare situation, we are here to help.”
One of the programs Yad L’Olim runs is a shop full of basic supplies that immigrants can visit—everything is free and provided through donations. The shop is open daily, was created in response to the influx of Ukrainian refugees by Kelly Brin and Melissa Sussman and now services olim in need.
“We have clothes of every size and if we don’t have what you need, we’ll do what we can to get it,” Laub continued. “It’s heartbreaking, because many people are coming from war-torn countries. They had their whole lives there and are now waiting on line because they don’t have silverware for their kitchen.”
Yad L’Olim is able to help people through donations. Toy drives like the one the girls did helps, but Laub reports there is still plenty of work to be done.
“With so much instability in the world, people are really struggling,” Laub went on to say. “Israel is seeing more immigrants than it has in years, and many of them are falling on tough times. Every distribution day at the shop there are lines out the door. Some people even come three hours before the shop had opened. We can use any support anyone is willing to offer.”
Yad L’Olim is actively accepting donations to fund their various programs. If you would like to donate or learn more, you can visit their website, yadlolim.org. Additionally, you can email Laub at [email protected]
Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com.