By Ariel Hirsch, ROI Community team member
As Israel entered the third week of Operation Protective Edge, Lynn Schusterman and Sandy Cardin touched down in Ben Gurion International Airport. Understanding Israel’s growing need for support as rocket fire from Gaza continued and a mounting number of reserve soldiers were called upon to help the military effort, the Chair and President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation immediately proposed the creation of an emergency micro grant fund that would enable members of the Schusterman network to engage in meaningful relief efforts around Israel during these difficult times.
Within 48 hours, the micro grant infrastructure was ready to launch; since then, inspiring applications for relief grants have continued to flood in. Dubbed #MakeItHappen: Eitanim micro grants, their name thoughtfully references the notion that the Jewish community’s strength comes from its togetherness (in Hebrew, eitanim is the plural form of “strong”). Here, we share with you some examples of the projects that have received Eitanim funding in the last two weeks. As incredible ideas continue to be sent our way, we are increasingly touched and inspired by the strength, solidarity and sense of mutual responsibility demonstrated by the individuals in our network. #AmYisraelChai
Making Relief Happen with #MakeItHappen: Eitanim micro grants
ROIers David Kramer and Noa Margalit used their Eitanim micro grants to provide supplies to IDF soldiers serving in Gaza in the current operation. Noa secured a top-notch discount on good quality headlamps, crucial equipment that she sent to IDF troops in the Gaza Strip. David, addressing the emotional needs of the soldiers, used his micro grant to deliver a strong message of solidarity to troops: the founder of NU Campaign, David and his team are in the process of delivering (and printing more!) special “Thank You IDF” T-shirts to soldiers in Gaza, each with a protective verse of Psalms printed on the inside. David’s goal is to give one t-shirt to every IDF soldier involved in Operation Protective Edge. At the time this blog was written, he and Nu Campaign had already managed to deliver an impressive 5000 of these shirts to their intended recipients.
When soldiers and reservists are called to the front lines, their families are left with the sometimes daunting task of holding the fort at home. With this reality in mind, seven Schusterman Connection Point alumni worked tirelessly with ROIer Shira Katz Vinkler, head of the Yerushalmit Movement, to provide aid to families with a parent in reserve duty. Yerushalmit’s relief has taken many forms, from sending hot meals to more than 100 Jerusalem families, to setting up an impromptu summer camp to give parents a few child-free hours during which to run their most necessary errands. If you live in Israel and are eager for a way to give back to the community, Yerushalmit is currently looking for volunteers. Contact Shira for more information, [email protected].
Rest and respite for young and old: Arguably one of the most difficult outcomes of this conflict so far has been the disruptive effect that it has had on communities in the south of Israel. Parents and children have been forced to find refuge in bomb shelters for hours on end, businesses in the area have suffered serious financial losses due to lack of patronage, and elderly people have been unable to complete their daily tasks in light of the chaos and danger caused by ongoing rocket fire. As a response, ROI Community member Noa Yaar used her grant funds to organize a field trip for approximately 35 children from the southern city of Ashkelon to visit the north, where they enjoyed a rocket-free afternoon outdoors playing with kangaroos at the Gan-Garoo petting zoo. To help the elderly, Schusterman Connection Point alumnus Shalom Boguslavsky is organizing a spa trip for elderly members of the Russian speaking community living in the south. Set in a location that is out of range of Hamas rockets, Shalom’s goal is to provide this group with a much-needed break from the debilitating stress of their present daily realities.
Have Eitanim grantees helped the southern economy? You bet. ROIer and Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Ofer Berkovitch immediately recognized southern shops’ need for a boost. With the help of an Eitanim micro grant, Ofer is developing ways through which citizens from central and northern Israel can support southern businesses that are facing tough times.
So far, the responses to #MakeItHappen: Eitanim initiatives—both from the initiators themselves and from those that have received aid from Eitanim-funded projects—have been touching and encouraging. In one of many moving messages that have come our way, ROIer Nissimi Naim-Naor wrote to us about his experience delivering Shabbat meals to the families of reserve soldiers with the Yerushalmit Movement. He describes the genuine appreciation of the receiving families:
Thank you so much for the special grant for the war. Two of the women to whom I brought food for Shabbat cried tears of gratitude, relief and excitement; all the rest thanked me as if I’d saved their lives. Thank you for making this possible. Have a quiet and peaceful Shabbat (Shabbat shalom veshaket).
And a meal recipient sent us a photo and wrote: Look at what arrived at my house. [Food from] A Jerusalem organization that supports wives of reserves soldiers… They also offered me help with a babysitter. Touching and heart-warming.
Are you interested in staying informed of the situation Israel or lending a hand? We encourage you to browse this list of news resources, relief organizations, and suggestions for how to get involved or make your voice heard.
If you are located in Israel and would like to join coordinated relief efforts in the south, check out Lev Echad – Community Crisis Aid at www.levechad.org.