A Giant of Jerusalem and the Jewish People

Ben Packer,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives (www.youngjewishconservatives.org). He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....

 I can remember being a teenager back in Petersburg, Virginia and being inspired and mesmerized by the exploits and accomplishments of Dr. Irving Moskowitz, z'l, and his Family. I would read everything I could and follow every news story that even slightly touched on his heroics. I was under the impression that I fully appreciated his efforts for the Jewish People, then I moved to the Old City of Jerusalem. Only then, I now thought, was I able to experience the true breadth of how much this man and his family have done for the Jewish People. Everywhere I walked, there was evidence of their greatness. Everywhere I looked, I could see victories for the Jewish People, accomplished through their generosity and vision. 

I was once even privileged to be personally involved in such a victory. It was summertime and I had asked Arieh King of the Israel Land Fund if there was a way I could take part in any of his land redemption activities. He sent me and a few of my friends to work on a house in the Nachalat Shimon Neighborhood, just north of the Old City. While there, local arabs began attacking the house. Eventually police arrived and removed us until ownership of the building could be established. During that time, the arabs severely damaged the house. Full renovations began immediately and the first family to live in the neighborhood moved in a few weeks later, for the first time since before 1948! Only later did I find out who owned the house - the Moskowitz Family. I felt so honored to be part of their efforts. I thought that was as good as it gets. 

However, it wasn't. Years later, I took over running the Jerusalem Heritage House. Although the organization had been a leader in Jewish outreach for decades, I introduced some new initiatives. Since I had been a "lone soldier" in the Israeli army, it was personally impossible for me to ignore the plight of future, current and past "lone soldiers" in need of housing and spiritual strengthening. Additionally, we became very involved with various projects that strengthened the Jewish Presence throughout Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Tours of these areas became and integral part of the outreach experience as well, including our signature Old City tour. This was amazing stuff, but we had a big problem - a severe budget deficit. We would visit "lone soldiers" on their remote posts, plant and harvest vineyards near Shiloh and spend as much time as possible in Hevron, but we were going into debt to do it. Through some friendly connections, we were saved from this fate. Our financial savior was the Moskowitz Family. 

Of course many know of all the Moskowitz Family does for Israeli soldiers through Yashar LaChayal. And all are aware of the so many other organizations they support. But there is so much more. The man and family I had admired decades ago back in Virginia, saved and strengthened my organization in Jerusalem. Its relatively a very small part of their legacy, but the generosity will never be forgotten by our "lone soldiers" and guests. I did not merit a personal relationship with Dr. Moskowitz, but the Family has been so warmly supportive of our efforts. No way it's a coincidence. This man was a Giant of Jerusalem and the Jewish People! Yaakov Avinu lo meit. This is a legacy we cannot even fathom. 

May the Family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Ben Packer

Old City, Jerusalem

www.heritagehouse.org.il