April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Say Thank You to our Chayalim: With “A Package from Home”

When 12 year-old Reina Amar, daughter of Ahrona and Alain Amar of Teaneck, visited Israel for the first time this summer, she was taken by the sheer number of chayalim she saw everywhere during her stay. Reina, a student at Ben Porat Yosef since nursery school, had often been taught both at school and at home about the value of Zionism and the importance of our connection to the Land of Israel. Over the years, Reina also came in close contact with Israeli teachers and the many Bnot Sheirut working in her school. Yet, it was only when she was physically in Israel that she was able to process the large number of young men and women who are in Tzahal and to appreciate fully all that they sacrifice for our survival.

Soon after she returned home, Reina heard about Tzvi Weisel, the son of a colleague of her mother’s. Tzvi had joined Tzahal to become one of the country’s many Chayalim, Bodedim, soldiers from abroad who have no immediate family in Israel and yet selflessly volunteer to serve in the Israeli army . When Tzvi’s mother, Cindy Weisel, confided that she was sending her son a “care package, filled with small treats and necessities,” the idea for Reina’s Bat Mitzvah Project was born. She thought it would be wonderful to be able to thank these young men and women who were volunteering their services to help protect our Jewish State, by sending them packages from home. In this way she could demonstrate how grateful we are for their service.

Reina was introduced to a wonderful organization that started 11 years ago during the second intifada by an Israeli woman, Barbara Gilor. Barbara wanted to do something to help the chayalim and soon realized that sending them care packages that showed appreciation and love would be appropriate. In her living room, she and other volunteers packed donated toiletries, clothing, snacks and letters; items needed to make the chayal feel embraced and comfortable. Cash contributions were utilized to purchase additional products. Now this amazing, all volunteer organization, “A Package from Home,” (www.apackagefromhome.org) has grown and expanded and many volunteers from all over the world carry duffel bags filled with supplies for the soldiers, especially for those chayalim that do not have someone nearby to personally supply them with extras and provisions.

Reina was actually the very first bat mitzvah in her school to sponsor a special Tzedakah project as she reached Gil Mitzvot; and her school, Ben Porat Yosef, enthusiastically embraced her effort and contacted other parents to encourage them to contribute to the “A Gift From Home,” collection campaign.

Just as Reina and her friends were busily gathering supplies, Rabbi Ely Allen, Rabbi emeritus of Reina’s synagogue Shaarei Orah, was also looking for an appropriate Israel Community Service project. On Yom Hazikoron, he and his students at Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies, had viewed a film about Michael Levin, A Chayal Boded who had been killed in action, and Rabbi Allen felt the need to make a difference. That was precisely when the Rabbi received the Amar’s email detailing Reina’s Bat Mitzvah Project . Rabbi Allen joined the campaign and launched a second collection drive for the soldiers, on the four Northern New Jersey campuses where he is the Director of Hillel. The college students enthusiastically embraced the project and brought in toothpaste, toothbrushes, lip balm, candy, hand warmers and deodorant; anything that a concerned relative might send to a child or a sibling in the army to make him feel cherished, comfortable and happy. The combination of the Hillel packages and what Reina collected will be sent to Israel in time for Pesach. The students in Reina’s school and on the college campuses also participated in a letter writing campaign, so that each recipient of a “Package From Home,” will receive a personal note along with their gift.

Reina has continued to increase the level of her tzedakah by raising $600 of the $1,000 needed for her and her friends to adopt an army unit of their own. The donors will receive a personal thank you from the IDF commander of the Chayalim Bodedim and a beautiful plaque recognizing their donation. Anyone interested in helping Reina to realize her goal can contact her at [email protected].

By Estelle Glass

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