The Highland Park/Edison Jewish community is gearing up to host their fifth unit of Israeli soldiers participating in the Peace of Mind program run by Metiv, The Israeli Center for the Treatment of Psycho-Trauma, in November. The community has previously hosted units every other year since 2012—until COVID-19 made inter- and intra-national travel impossible. This year’s group, consisting of 19 former soldiers (including two therapists), is the third Givati (Infantry) unit to be hosted. Prior groups included an Israeli Search and Rescue unit as well as some Israeli Navy Seals.
Many of the Israeli combat units experience significant levels of emotional trauma during their active-duty time. Metiv believes that working through those traumas, with those the individual experienced them with, will enable the veterans to develop ways of coping and complete their transition to a full, varied and fruitful civilian life.
The IDF units prepare for the visits to the Diaspora with sessions several months before the trip and have follow-up sessions upon their return to Israel. While out of the country, their days are full with group and individual counseling sessions, local sightseeing trips, time with their host families and interaction with the communities.
Peace of Mind Greater Middlesex County Co-Chair Rosanne Koenigson describes the local activities as a “true community effort,” with members of many local synagogues that span the spectrum of religious observance cooperating to provide a warm and welcoming experience for the IDF guests. The visiting Givati unit members are matched with host families whose religious observance matches theirs, and past precedence indicate that the friendships developed extend well past the actual visit.
The community is invited to welcome and interact with the hosted unit at three public events this year:
A night of bowling and strictly kosher dinner at Bowlero in North Brunswick on Monday, November 7, from 7-9 p.m., hosted by the HPCT-CAE Mens Club, (Bowling and dinner: $40 per person, contact [email protected]);
Friday night davening and dinner at the Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison, on Friday, November 11 (adults: $50; children under 10: $36, reserve with [email protected]);
A night of Comedy and Musical Entertainment featuring the comedian Joel Chasnoff, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 8, at 8 p.m. at the Highland Park Conservative Temple-CAE, $20 per person).
Additional sponsorships are available for the bowling and Friday dinner events. Koenigson added that it cost more than $65,000 to bring the group here. Even with two years of fundraising, it is a very expensive proposition; every dollar raised is much appreciated.
In addition to full days of therapy and counseling, the Givati guests will also have a chance to meet with local school children at RPRY and participate in an informal basketball game, attend “The Lion King” on Broadway, hike in one of the scenic New Jersey state parks, and enjoy an evening on their own in New York.
The visiting unit is composed of men from all over Israel, spanning the entire spectrum of religiosity, and representing many civilian professions. This year’s group consists of married men with families. As with prior groups, it is unlikely that they are aware of how much they are appreciated outside of their home country and it is always gratifying for them to meet people of the host communities who make a point to thank them.
In addition to the many community members who helped plan and organize the dinner, the group that raises needed funds, and the many who have volunteered to help set up/clean up and make everything as smooth as possible, Koenigson acknowledged the group co-chair, Dr. Elissa Rozov, who introduced Koenigson to Peace of Mind in 2012 when kosher, Sabbath-observant hosts were needed. Koenigson and Rozov are extremely grateful for the involvement and help of Linda Tondow, Beth Spurr and Rabbi Eliot Malomet of the Highland Park Conservative Temple-CAE.
Approximately 2,000 former soldiers have been helped over the last 13 years with 120 trips such as this one—but the need is much greater than the availability. A recent Israeli crowdsourced fundraiser amassed funds to provide new communities with financial incentives to get their own Peace of Mind effort started and help another unit of soldiers. A community in Colorado will be hosting a group in December, and there is a Canadian visit planned for early in 2023. The large number of established Jewish communities in the New York/ Jersey area and the proximity to international airports and points of interest make this area very desirable.
For more information about bringing Peace of Mind to your community, contact [email protected].
For additional information about Metiv and the Peace of Mind program, visit https://metiv.org/
For reservations, sponsorships and information regarding the programs scheduled in November in Highland Park/Edison, contact Rosanne Koenigson at [email protected] or visit the Peace of Mind Greater Middlesex County Facebook page.