June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Parentsbeyachad.org: Peer and Celebrity Support For IDF Families Worldwide

Natanel, Derek Saker’s son, in the IDF.

“As a parent of a chayal on the front lines, I started a private WhatsApp support group for parents of IDF soldiers a few weeks into the war, to provide a safe space for ‘us parents’ to share our emotions, concerns, fears during this extremely challenging time,” shared Derek Saker, known to many by his groundbreaking involvement with JWed (formerly Frumster), for those who remember back far enough to the neonatal world of online Jewish dating.

Saker reported that participation grew by the hundreds and is currently a diverse group of parents of chayalim, now numbering over 800. “They include parents living in Israel and outside Israel in the U.S., U.K. and South Africa. They include religious and non-religious, Modern, Yeshivish, Dati, Leumi, Chardal, Chabad and less-affiliated.”

Saker serves as administrator of the group, and any member approved can post. “On occasion I delete certain posts that I feel are not appropriate, but other than that, it is a naturally mature group of mothers and fathers who post regularly throughout the day with thoughts, reflections or questions.”

Members can invite others to join. When someone clicks to join, there is a personalized vetting process; once satisfied, they are approved. Members can reply and converse either within the full group or privately between themselves and other members, as on any WhatsApp chat.

Saker said that soon after the chat started, he began posting a personal video message of support/divrei chizuk, each day from a different well-known person in the Jewish world. Because he knows many people across the Jewish spectrum from his work with JWed and as a former director at Ohel, he thought there was a suitable aperture to invite some of these contacts to leave a personal video message of chizuk to the parents in the chat. They were almost unanimously “honored to be asked,” and graciously sent video messages, which can now be viewed on the website. But at first the messages were posted directly to parents on the chat.

While the ground war rages in Aza, most of us would agree that the global Jewish community shares the pain and difficulty of the situation, in addition to their experience of antisemitic hate and rhetoric that have reared their ugly heads. The website was created a few months into the war, because Saker felt it was important that others could also experience the outpouring of support and achdut. Now, over 100 chizuk video clips are available on the website, including from rabbonim and rebbetzins, vocalists, politicians, organizational leaders, CEOs, educators and comedians. Senator Joe Lieberman, Rabbi David Wolpe, Alan Dershowitz, Israeli Government Spokesman Eylon Levy, former Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Post Avi Mayer, and music artists such as Yaakov Shwekey, Matisyahu, Shlomo Katz and Nissim Black have all left inspirational video messages.

Others who have submitted videos include Rabbi Leo Dee; Gil Hoffman of HonestReporting; Rabbi Steven Weil, CEO of Friends of IDF; Gila Sacks, daughter of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l; Jake Wallis Simons, editor of the London-based Jewish Chronicle; and MK Dov Lipman.

Saker told The Jewish Link, “The unity and cross-spectrum support shown is like I have never seen before expressed in so many personal video messages for one cause, by so many well-known Jewish people. Our soldiers are not just fighting to win the war against Hamas and eradicate their evil, but are also fighting for a better tomorrow. They, and we as parents, seek not to just return to 6 October as it were; but a society much more unified and respectful.”

He also shared some heartwarming stories that evolved from the group. “A wealthy group of women (who do not have children in IDF) offered a luxurious apartment in Netanya for mothers of IDF soldiers [to use] for a few days each. Four therapists from New York have been offering their services free to all members of the chat. Two well-known people who sent video messages provided 20 of their most recent publications free of charge to the group.

“A mother in the group with two sons in the IDF cooked Shabbos food for about 50 chayalim,” Saker continued. “They dropped off the food at a central location and the IDF distributes to whatever units it decides. The food she made just happened to end up going to a unit where her own son was based. He immediately recognized the food they received as his Ima who had made it! The officer allowed him to send a voice message to his mother.”

“Some parents could not afford to fly to Israel, and others in the group helped them to afford the trip. Many parents from outside Israel who fly to Israel to see their child in the IDF stay with other parents in the group who live in Israel. Parents of all Jewish backgrounds … all helping/staying with each other.”

The efforts of the app also strive for a “tomorrow” of physical peace for Am Yisrael and far more real unity, achdut, within Am Yisrael.

Saker summed up: “The fact is that it is much easier to show or have unity in time of war, than in a time of peace. We individually and collectively have to have the determination, the resolve and the pragmatism of a diverse people to move forward to a brighter dawn, with much greater understanding and respect of one another and our responsibilities to and for each other, and must be shared by all.”

You can view the chizuk videos by visiting http://www.parentsbeyachad.org, and can share the website with parents of IDF soldiers from anywhere who might want to join the group.

Am Yisrael Chai … v’kayam!

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