April 16, 2024
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‘Grilling for Israel’ Brings Love And a Morale Boost to the IDF

Guests give their rapt attention to Elliot Auerbacher, the engine behind Grilling for Israel.

We don’t ordinarily think of grilling and picnic lunch or dinner during times of war. But the IDF is no ordinary army, and Elliot Auerbacher is no ordinary chef. In fact, he’s not a chef at all, but a business professional and basketball coach. He is also the founder of Grilling for Israel, providing 15 to 20 barbecues across Israel per week, totaling over 100,000 meals since October 7. That’s an astounding record that anyone could be proud of, but it’s not about that for Auerbacher.

Auerbacher is nowhere near the end of this endeavor, as he anticipates Grilling for Israel to move far into the future, ‘serving’ displaced families and chayalim for as long as the need continues. He loves to quote legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something.” Having lots of prior experience in grill-on-the-go logistics, Grilling for Israel post-October 7 already had a solid foundation for the immediate and urgent expansion of their services. Furnishing another classic piece of Wooden’s sage advice, Auerbacher noted, “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

Last week the Heisler family, owners of Butterflake Bakery in Teaneck, graciously hosted a parlor meeting on behalf of Grilling for Israel. Not unexpectedly, the approximately 40 guests and potential donors who came out on a blustery Rosh Chodesh night were greeted by the savory aroma of grilled burgers and hotdogs wafting through the air from the patio and right into Heisler’s dining room. And of course, a beautiful dessert tray featured some of Butterflake’s legendary favorites: custard fruit tarts, cannolis, mini cream puffs, brownies, cookies, and more.

The Heislers, flanked by Elliot Auerbacher, left, graciously hosted a winter barbecue with all the fixings for potential donors.

But the main event was Auerbacher describing how Grilling for Israel moves about the country five or six days a week providing meals and good cheer for soldiers and displaced families. People from all walks of life volunteer to help serve, transport equipment and provisions, and bring smiles to the IDF and the displaced. Starting with 40 volunteers prior to the current war in Gaza, they had already served 11,000 meals.

The chayalim are so appreciative, and not just for the food—which is anything but army field-grade—but also for the love they feel and the boost in morale. “And not just the recipients feel it,” Auerbacher explained. “The volunteers feel it also.”

He also related stories that authenticate the guidance from above in the work he’s doing. In the early days of the Gaza operations, the water supply was cut off. That meant that the soldiers had no water either—for anything. Grilling for Israel already had the logistical ability to attain and deliver pallets of water. In another incident, Auerbacher described that he had ordered cholent from a specialty vendor for some families who had been relocated to Tel Aviv. On pickup day, he learned that there was no cholent due a stoppage in the delivery of the meat. Per force, he found a different vendor and made the alternate arrangements. Then he learned that the recipient families were Chabad, and the second vendor uses only Bais Yosef meat, a Chabad kashrut standard. “Hashem runs the world…”

Recently the Grilling for Israel team visited a rehabilitation center in Kiryat Ono, where soldiers who have been severely injured are recovering from catastrophic injuries or adjusting to limited abilities. Some have lost body parts, or are relearning to use body parts that function minimally or not at all. Auerbacher said that the chayalim express less concern for their injuries and more for their desire to be back serving with their IDF units. “For these soldiers, we didn’t bring hamburgers and hotdogs; we brought steak and lamb chops.”

Auerbacher discusses the joy and appreciation expressed by the chayalim, as well as some of the logistical challenges.

Grilling for Israel started out as a core of volunteers which grew to a couple of hundred, and now totals close to 700. The operating cost is about $18,000 per day. “Grilling for Israel has no overhead,” Auerbacher said. Everything is donated or purchased from donated funds.

To help Grilling for Israel keep the meals coming for displaced families and for the IDF you can donate or find out how to volunteer. Grilling for Israel is a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible entity. Visit: www.grillingforisrael.com

Keep grilling, Elliot!

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