The Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin was founded by former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) lone soldiers to support those serving today. Michael, of blessed memory, was born in America and fell fighting as a lone soldier in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. The center was created by a group of Michael’s friends, following through on his dream to create an organization that would assist, connect and care for lone soldiers before, during and after their IDF service. Michael dreamed of a place staffed with people who understood the unique difficulties these soldiers faced. A center where they could eat, socialize, and receive everything from special counseling to assistance in finding an apartment. Today, there are branches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Be’er Sheva.
An Israeli lone soldier by definition is a member of the IDF with no family in Israel to support him or her. The lone soldier might be a new immigrant, a volunteer from abroad, an orphan, or an individual without a family home to call his own.
Data from mid-2014 to mid-2015 show about 2,000 lone soldiers originating from the United States. Northern NJ, in general, and the greater Teaneck area, in particular, have been the source of one of the greatest concentrations, per capita, of young men and women (outside of Israel) serving as lone soldiers.
Many residents of Bergen towns with a significant Jewish presence find that they know one or more lone soldier volunteers among their friends, neighbors and family. Concern for lone soldiers is not just identification with people in a far-off land, it’s identifying with people in our own home town, if not with those right down our block.
The center provides support, advice, Shabbat and holiday meals, social events, as well as helping with housing, furniture and essential items needed. In other words, it acts as a family and community to thousands of lone soldiers every year. There are currently over 6,000 lone soldiers serving in the IDF, from 50 countries around the world. The center’s small staff and over 300 dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to provide for the needs of these lone soldiers.
The LSC is a grassroots, Israel-based charitable organization that operates with no U.S. staff members. The organization prides itself, first and foremost, in taking care of these young soldiers who are far from home. Unlike in the U.S. military, Israeli soldiers go home on leave most weekends. These lone soldiers do not have homes to go to or families to support them. The LSC becomes that much-needed “family,” both for fun and for serious need.
Very soon, Israelis will be celebrating the joyous holiday of Passover. This springtime holiday permeates the environment of this small country, as families join together in celebration. Lone soldiers are invited to seders through the IDF, as the IDF takes this on as a challenge to ensure that every lone soldier has a seder to go to. However, the seder is only one night out of a holiday that lasts a week. When lone soldiers are on leave for Passover, many become concerned about purchasing the special (and more expensive) food they need for the holiday.
Here, once again, the LSC steps in to fill a most critical void! The LSC provides the lone soldiers with supermarket vouchers in order to assist them in observing Passover without worrying about finances. While the typical Israeli soldier goes home for the holiday and is not concerned about purchasing Passover food, the lone soldiers are on their own.
Another reason to support this initiative is to enable lone soldiers to receive these vouchers as unexpected holiday gifts. These brave young men and women who volunteer to enlist in the IDF deserve to receive these gifts as a token of our appreciation and not just because they are in need.
The Lone Soldier Center has set a goal of raising a minimum of $18,000, which will enable at least 700 lone soldiers to receive vouchers in the amount of 100NIS. Enhance your own holiday simcha with thoughts of the joy you can bring to soldiers in need. Donating vouchers for as many lone soldiers as possible amplifies the overall happiness and appreciation you can engender on this special holiday.
See below for simple directions for voucher donation:
To donate, please visit: http://lonesoldiercenter.com/vouchers-for-lone-soldiers. All donations are tax deductible. Or, you may email Lizzie Noach, Community Relations Staff Member: [email protected]. For further information about the Lone Soldier Center, please visit: www.lonesoldiercenter.com.
By Mel Saltzman, on behalf of The Lone Soldier Center