April 20, 2024
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Michael Levin Lone Soldier Foundation to Hold East Brunswick Fundraiser

For the young men and women who mostly come from abroad to serve in the Israel Defense Forces who are now in the line of fire following the horrific invasion by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, the comforts and support provided by the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Foundation are needed more than ever.

There are about 7,000 such soldiers currently facing the kind of danger that cost Michael Levin his life in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War, the only American to die in that conflict. Raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, he had immigrated to Israel at age 19 and was a member of an elite paratrooper unit.

The foundation will hold a fundraising event, which is taking on even more urgency, Oct. 16 at the Young Israel of East Brunswick.

Established by Michael’s parents, Harriet and Mark, its purpose is to fill a void for those soldiers with no family in Israel. “We did it because it was Michael’s dream,” said Harriet during a Zoom call with Foundation Executive Director Stacie Stufflebeam and Steven Talmud, a foundation board member from East Brunswick.

“When he was in service there was no service to help lone soldiers,” she noted.

The foundation helps lone soldiers before, during and after their service providing such essentials as Hebrew classes, clean laundry, hot meals and counseling. Other programs and services include Shabbat and holiday meals, housing, one-on-one mental health counseling, resources for pre- and post-army service and visits to bases. Additionally, the foundation serves as a resource and support to parents of lone soldiers all over the world.

The 7:15 p.m. program will also show the documentary, “A Hero in Heaven,” about Michael’s life story and love of Israel.

Harriet, who will speak at the event, called her son “a typical boy who got in trouble in school.”

“But as a very young kid he knew what he wanted to do with his life,” she added. “Since he was 9 or 10 years old he had his eye on going to Israel and joining the IDF. I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors and my son would listen to my father’s stories and knew how important it is at a young age to have a homeland and defend it.”

Although accepted at college, Michael elected instead to go to Israel where Harriet said they later found out that with no one to help him he had slept a couple of nights on a park bench.

“This is how this all came to fruition,” she said, adding her son loved serving and wanted to take a commander’s course before his life was cut short.

Harriet said she has been told by the keepers of Mount Herzl Cemetery, where Michael is buried, that his is one of the most visited graves there with hundreds coming to pay their respects to the fallen American each week. “Michael is never really alone,” she said.

Talmud will also speak about the experiences of his two lone soldier sons. One of those sons, Adam, has lived in Israel for 10 years and reported to an army base on Sunday morning. As of Tuesday he was there awaiting deployment. His other son, Jesse, has returned to the United States since serving from 2014-2017 and will appear at the program to share firsthand experiences.

“ By all accounts, this war will take time and therefore our soldiers’ needs will evolve,” said Talmud. “Along with the active duty soldiers there are over 300,000 veterans that have reported for reserve duty, among them thousands of lone soldier veterans, some of whom have flown in from around the world. Their challenges will necessarily change over time and will include logistics, housing, PTSD treatments, and many others.”

For him it has been uplifting to see how the Jewish community has united in its support. Even before the Hamas attack, every synagogue—regardless of denomination—and Jewish organization he contacted to publicize the lone soldier event quickly agreed to let members know through emails and newsletters.

Stufflebeam said the foundation also operates a committee that assists soldiers in receiving prompt medical care “because the IDF doesn’t respond as quickly as a mother would.”

“We help them get medical appointments quickly,” she said. “For instance If they are hospitalized they have people who visit them. When they leave and go back home they have food in the refrigerator. Anything they need.”

Much of its work is done through the Michael Levin Base in Jerusalem. It also works with some local organizations to provide a helping hand. The foundation is dedicated to serving them before, during, and after their service for as long as it takes and for as long as they need,” said Stufflebeam. “While this will definitely be a fundraiser, it is also an opportunity to educate people about lone soldiers.”

For more information about the organization go to michaellevinlonesoldier.org. The program is free, but an RSVP is requested at tinyurl.com/HarrietLevin.

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