February 24, 2024
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Migdal Ohr’s ‘Magen Israel’ Connects Communities to Israel

The organization is caring for new orphans and victims of the massacres and evacuees in the north.

Bnos Leah donation.

(Courtesy of Migdal Ohr) For over 50 years, Migdal Ohr has been caring for Israel’s orphans, at-risk youth and families in crisis. Since the outbreak of the war, the organization has been using its resources and connections to operate the largest humanitarian relief effort in its history, Magen Israel, under the leadership of tzadik and Israel Prize Laureate Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman.

Among its core operations, Magen Israel is operating an ongoing fund for victims of the Oct. 7 massacres, caring for vulnerable populations (including thousands of wounded patients in Israel’s hospitals, farmers in the south, and front line soldiers) and supporting displaced families from the north and the south who have been away from home for months. Simultaneously, Migdal Ohr has continued to operate and ensure the safe operations of its dormitories, schools and programs for over 10,000 orphaned and vulnerable children in their care.

 

Fund for Orphaned Children and Victims of the Oct. 7 Massacres

Magen Israel has created an ongoing fund that will provide for the long-term needs of newly orphaned children and victims of the Oct. 7 massacres. Seeing the initial confusion around donations and attempts to help, Grossman felt it necessary to lend Migdal Ohr’s legitimacy as a highly respected nonprofit to help. The rav’s sensitivity and 50 years of experience working with orphans and families in crisis have shielded these traumatized children and parents from overexposure, helping them organize their affairs and plan for the future.

Designer and artist Elizabeth Sutton pays special visit to evacuees in the north.

Of the families devastated by the massacres, Migdal Ohr has built a close relationship with the Wiener-Rosenfeld family from Kfar Aza. This winter, the organization hosted Shaylee Wiener, Ofer Wiener and cousins Maya and Dvir at a joint event with the JCC in Manhattan where they had an opportunity to tell their story and screen one of the films produced by Yahav Wiener, z”l. It was very heartwarming to see the warm reception and embrace of the community that welcomed them and extended a helping hand to support them.

This resilient, incredible extended family has suffered the loss of three family members killed by terrorists by protecting their children. Couple Hadar and Itay Berdichevsky were killed protecting their 10-month-old twins, Roi and Guy, while Yahav Wiener was murdered giving his wife Shaylee and one-month-old baby Shaya the opportunity to escape.

Shaylee and Shaya hid for 27 hours without water or food and were eventually saved. Hadar and Itay’s babies miraculously survived and were found by rescue teams after 14 hours of crying alone.

Magen Israel’s Fund for Orphaned Children and Victims of the Oct 7 Massacres continues to raise funds for the Wiener-Rosenfeld families and hundreds more like them who will need a tremendous amount of support to rebuild and heal from the devastation.

Partnership between Yeshiva Flatbush and Machane Shura Base.

Designer and Artist Elizabeth Sutton Pays a Special Visit To Evacuees in the North

One of the ongoing challenges for Israel is the evacuation of thousands of families from the south and the north. These families are living in hotel rooms and rental apartments while watching their towns become battlegrounds and rockets rain on their homes. Sadly, many are mourning the loss of loved ones and neighbors. Some families even have one parent away in the reserves while the other is caring for the children at the hotel on their own.

As you can imagine, this is taking a huge toll on people’s marriages, their relationships with their children, their mental health, and their finances.

As the north evacuated its towns, Grossman extended Magen Israel’s support beyond the center of the country.

Last month, the organization was proud to partner with New York City designer and artist Elizabeth Sutton, who planned an exclusive Israel volunteer mission using art to connect with various populations affected by the war. Sutton said, “Working with evacuees through Migdal Ohr was our last volunteer activity in Tiberias. These are people who haven’t been home in four months, have been living in hotel rooms without their belongings and with little to do. Many have lost loved ones as they are so close to the border (some were still in mourning).

“After the Nova survivors, I’d say this was the second heaviest energy I felt all trip. The depression was like a thick fog. They’ve gotten very few visitors as they are far away and were shocked that we came all the way from New York just to volunteer,” continued Sutton.

Artist and muralist Benzi Brofman.

While families in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have gotten a lot of support and donations, families in more remote places like Tiberias and throughout the Galilee have gotten few, if any, visitors or donations. Sutton’s positive energy, bold artistic style and therapeutic activity lifted the spirits of everyone involved in the workshops. It was exactly the burst of positivity and expression that this group needed.

Another exciting project that Migdal Ohr facilitated was a donation of several hundred brand- new toys and games from Bnos Leah Prospect Park of Monsey to evacuee families. While the community originally intended for the gifts to arrive in time for Chanukah, they were held up in customs.

After weeks of follow-up, the toys finally made it to one of the larger hotels in Tiberias that is hosting evacuees. The children there had not received many donations and were thrilled to get the extra love and support from abroad.

 

Facilitating Donations and Partnerships With New York Schools and Communities

AFMO’s executive director, Atara Solow, joined an inspiring delegation that came to strengthen the people of Israel with Rabbi Simcha Willig of Keter Torah Congregation in Teaneck and Rabbi Levine of the Manhattan Jewish Center.

Not only did these groups come ready to roll up their sleeves, they arrived with dozens of duffle bags of brand-new toys, clothes and donations for the children of Migdal Ohr and evacuated families.

While at Migdal Ohr, the groups renovated a multipurpose bomb shelter with bright murals, TV screens and games for children to enjoy. The mural was a collaboration with international street artist and muralist Benzi Brofman who has lent his support for the families of hostages and done a lot of graffiti art advocating for the return of their loved ones. The group was greeted by a musical performance from the children and hosted for an intimate lunch with words of inspiration from Rabbi Grossman.

The unbreakable bond between the communities was instantly apparent. Despite the language barrier, the girls in the group bonded braiding each other’s hair, and the boys played a game of soccer together.

Groups come ready to roll up their sleeves.

Supporting the IDF’s Unsung Heroes: The Partnership Between Yeshiva Flatbush and Machane Shura Base

Migdal Ohr also facilitated a beautiful Torah learning partnership between the Yeshiva of Flatbush and the Machane Shura IDF army base, which culminated in a siyum.

During a previous delegation visit partnering with Migdal Ohr, the students from Flatbush learned how, since Oct. 7, the Machane Shura army base was dedicated to tirelessly caring for wounded soldiers, identifying victims of the massacres, or those who had fallen in battle. This group was one of the first from the U.S. to visit the Shura base and left a profound impact, uplifting the spirits of the soldiers and reservists.

Deeply moved, the students not only donated a barbecue but created a learning initiative over the course of a month to complete the entire Mishnah with the soldiers.They returned to Israel for a siyum with Rabbi Grossman, the chief rabbi of the IDF, Rav Krim, and two of his second-in-commands.

Migdal Ohr is so proud of the students who acted on their inspiration and came up with such a powerful way to strengthen the soldiers of the IDF.

To learn more about Migdal Ohr’s many Magen Israel relief efforts and how to get involved, visit migdalohrusa.org/israel.

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