February 24, 2024
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February 24, 2024
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JLIC’s Heartfelt Thanksgiving Gesture: Bringing a Taste of Home to Lone Soldiers

(Courtesy of JLIC) In times of uncertainty, an oleh from the heart of Highland Park, 23-year-old Yvette Teitelbaum, found solace in a grassroots movement that took place this past week in Jerusalem, driven by a simple yet powerful notion: to bring a taste of home to lone soldiers and reservists stationed far from their families during Thanksgiving. Spearheaded by JLIC of Jerusalem’s Co-Directors Emily and Rabbi Jeremy Tibbetts along with community member Noah Abramowitz, a 28-year-old student on hiatus from his master’s studies, the initiative aimed to bridge the gap for soldiers experiencing the absence of this cherished American tradition.

Embracing the opportunity to contribute and support those at the forefront of safeguarding the nation, Yvette said, “I’ve personally always associated Thanksgiving with family and home, and I thought it would be really nice to help out by giving that piece of home and sending love to our soldiers.”

She also discovered an unintended consequence of her communal involvement. Amidst the disruptions of academic pursuits put on hold indefinitely due to the conflict, “it’s been a little bit of a struggle to find things to do that fill the time,” Yvette said. “JLIC has been a lifeline for us during this war-induced pause. It’s offered a sense of connection and purpose.

“For me, volunteering options can seem very random,” continued Yvette, who previously served in Sheirut Leumi (National Service). She is grateful that JLIC provides a consistent avenue for her to engage in meaningful activities, as well as the opportunity to connect with new social networks of like-minded young Jewish professionals.

As for Noah, his inspiration to take the lead on the Thanksgiving initiative came from none other than a Friends episode, “The One With Ross’s Sandwich.” Noah empathized when the TV character becomes enraged at work when someone swipes his turkey sandwich.

“Every single year my friends and I cook a ton of food for Thanksgiving and share it with a lot of people. And this year I thought, What can we do to bring that holiday spirit to lone soldiers? I said, ‘What if we pack up ‘Moist Maker’ sandwiches like what Ross had in ‘Friends?’”

After collaborating with JLIC’s Rav Jeremy and Emily to compile a list of soldiers, and a Herculean grocery shopping trip to Supersol, Noah welcomed 15 volunteers into his Baka apartment to begin the cooking odyssey.

The culinary session was a labor of love. Volunteers prepared an array of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, including turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, pumpkin pie, green beans, cranberry sauce, and more. We put our hearts and souls into cooking all the traditional Thanksgiving foods,” said Emily.

On the day of delivery, Rav Jeremy led volunteers on a six-hour journey across seven or eight different bases, reaching 40 lone soldiers. They traversed a gamut of locations—from established army bases to improvised camps housing chayalim, witnessing firsthand the diverse environments where soldiers diligently work to protect the country.

The impact of this gesture was profound. “Delivering the food to the soldiers, seeing their reactions—it was beautiful. It made them feel remembered and appreciated,” Noah expressed.

Yvette explained that her dedication to the cause wasn’t about providing meals; it was about offering comfort and a “warm hug.”

Other volunteers shared stories of friends, some newly married, separated due to their military commitments, emphasizing the powerful effect of these gestures of solidarity.

The Thanksgiving initiative highlighted the resilience and unity of a community rallying to offer comfort and a sense of home to soldiers during a time when connection to familiar traditions was distant. Soldiers not only received food but also felt the warmth and support the JLIC community invested in their well-being.

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