Saturday, January 29, 2022

Areyvut’s mission is to “develop meaningful, fun, and unique programming that get Jewish youth involved, while also helping them to realize the immense power they have to make their community and the world a better place.” Areyvut focuses on the three core Jewish values of chesed (kindness), tzedakah (charity), and tikkun olam (social action), and strives to inculcate these values into young people so that they become the Jewish community of tomorrow.

Responding to the needs of people affected by Operation Protective Edge incorporates all of these values. So, Daniel Rothner, founder of Areyvut, and Stuart Katz from Tal Tours, organized a community fair. The goal of the fair was to support businesses located in the most affected communities in Southern Israel. “I have many relatives and business contacts in Israel,” says Rothner, as to what inspired him to organize the fair. He adds, “People were looking for an opportunity to help.”

Ultimately, thirty vendors from Southern Israel were brought to America to sell their wares.

Aryevut and Tal Tours help defray the costs to bring the vendors to America, found home hospitality for those who needed it, and arranged the seven locations where the fairs were held. Katz identified and vetted vendors and helped coordinate all aspects of the program. The fairs were held in and around Manhattan including one in The Roemer Shul of Teaneck on September 9th.

The room teemed with interested customers who roamed the aisles shopping for items such as jewelry, chocolate, kitchenware, art, toys, kippot, and Judaica. Israeli music was played and a man on stilts shuffled around, adding a touch of levity to the serious shopping spree. Ari Eckman of Teaneck, along with his wife, attended the fair. “Coming here is an opportunity to show emotional and financial support to those who suffered due to the situation this summer,” said Eckman, who was particularly concerned for those who depend solely on tourism.

Another attendee came from Fort Lee, after hearing about the fair on Nachum Segal’s ‘JM in the AM’ radio show. “My heart goes out to these vendors, who make such beautiful things, and to all our fellow Jews in Israel.”

Hila Yaboki was one of these vendors. She designs jewelry and other accessories and sells vintage clothes. Her company–Shimuchic–is located in Beer Sheba. She also goes to festivals around the country (and those in Beer Sheba) to sell her wares. Yakobi noted that she does more than 50% of her annual business over the summer. However, this year, the festivals were canceled, as no one was traveling. “We were not in the mood to buy anything.” She also noted that internet sales were down. The fair was a wonderful opportunity for Yakobi. “It gave us a lot of power. We feel a lot of hugs!”

“Their heart is with me and they care about me and that makes me very happy,” says Liat Aviram. Aviram who lives in Kfar Mordechai (a moshav near Ashdod), sells hand-crafted jewelry to stores in Israel. Aviram noted that business was about 10% of normal this summer–usually a very busy time in Israel. “I really appreciate the organizers helping us get over our troubles,” said Aviram.

Formerly of Long Island, Zev Stender has lived in Israel for 15 years. Five years ago, he and a partner created Holy Cacao Chocolate. The company, which imports coco beans and makes chocolate which is additive free (other than sugar,) is based in Pnei Hever. However, the company’s distributor is located in Beer Sheba. “We didn’t hear from the distributor for five weeks. They were underground,” says Stender. Suffice to say, business was very slow and Stender was happy to have an opportunity to come to the fair and make up some lost business. “We feel the support. There is a sense of ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ which is heartwarming.”

Rothner estimates that in Teaneck alone, the fair drew 2000 attendees while vendors’ sales were $70,000. He was happy for the impact it had, but added, “I hope we don’t have to do it again.”

By the way, the winner of the raffle, a trip to Israel for two, was L’via Wiesinger, mother of a boded and a contributor to JLBC.

For those who did not attend or those who simply want to do more shopping, check out http://www.areyvut.org/whats_new/?id=223. Here you will find a list of the vendors that attended, their contact information, and a brief description of the items they sell.

By Larry Bernstein

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