Valiant initiative:
Jewish idealism personified

18-year-old Jacob Katz from Boca Raton raises more than $60,000 for bereaved Salomon family by putting responsibility and faith into action.

Mordechai Sones ,

Jacob Katz
Jacob Katz
Courtesy of Jacob Katz

Our Sages revealed to us that subsumed within the creation is a natural law that beneficial forms are conveyed to the world through the agency of beneficial people.

Jacob Katz, 18, today starts learning in the preparatory military Mechina in Eli. He begins IDF service in March, where he plans to enter a combat unit, preferably the Paratroopers. Like every Jew, his innermost soul was afflicted by news of the Salomon family's tragedy in Halamish (Neve Tzuf). But the combination of his upbringing, education, and personal choice not to sit idly by the suffering of another led him to stand up and take action.

"When I heard about it, it was really terrible; especially going into my own Friday night, with the whole family there... It was so personal, even though they were so far away, it was just a really terrible feeling.

"That Shabbat went by, and on Saturday night I saw some of the pictures and I couldn't get it out of my head. Sunday, during morning prayers it was like a physical sensation - I'm not going to say that I 'felt their pain', but it was very with me."

Katz graduated from Yeshivat Orayta in Jerusalem's Old City. "My rabbi, the head of Orayta, Rabbi Binny Freedman, told me something very wise. I told him about my thoughts and what I wanted to do, and he said it was a good idea. The he said, 'Life is basically a series of good ideas. And the way that you live your life is the way you carry out those ideas,' and I sensed the truth in that."

Katz mulled his rabbi's advice and decided to open a GoFundMe fundraising campaign: "It came to me that we should be able to do something; we should be able to help them. I'm sure her financial situation just became pretty unstable, so you figure you want to do something. So I went home and typed up a paragraph and set a goal of $10,000; I was like 'What the heck, if we get $2,000 that's real great, whatever works'. And thank G-d, honestly, at the end of the day the right people saw it.

"Now we're at $60,300 and something. It was amazing - people just giving from their own pockets to people they just don't know - such a beautiful thing.

"I didn't do anything; you just set up the page and let it go. I was inspired to see so many different people from America and around the world giving, and as it got bigger and bigger, non-Jews gave, saying they stand with Israel."

Jacob credits his parents, Daniel and Caroline Katz, with being the example and inspiration that imbued him with his sense of mission.

"My parents have given tzedaka for their whole lives, and that's what my father taught me while growing up: If you have something, you have to give it. It's what I was taught in Orayta as well, thank G-d we're given such awesome gifts, and it's our responsibility to contribute it to the clall (collective nation).

Jacob Katz
Jacob Katz

"My Dad, for as long as I can remember has always been giving tzedaka to every homeless person on the side of the street, being involved in the community, and my Mom as well, they're extremely giving people and they've been incredible role models.

"I really didn't do anything at all; I just had these major role models and this idea just kind of popped into my head."

"The whole idea of Shabbos is supposed to be a time for tranquility and filling up familial bonds, and the fact that it was desecrated in such a horrendous way - it was a stark contrast between what should be the case and what was the case. How could our sacred time of the week just be ripped away from this family? There aren't really words for it. You can't sit back when something like that happens; you're not doing your job if you hear about something so terrible and you just sit back; I just feel like you can't do that.

"When I saw the pictures, it was all too real. Unfortunately in America, we hear about these things too often that it becomes almost a cliché - another terrorist attack here, another terrorist attack there. But this one was so real because of the pictures - they were celebrating; there was a glass of wine right on the table; it was too much.

"And we always say, 'Our brothers and sisters in Israel.' It's the classic line in every AIPAC speech... And I said, 'If we really care about our brothers and sisters in Israel, we should treat them like that, and I really believe that's the truth."

Katz's GoFundMe campaign on behalf of the Salomon's of Halamish is still active, and according to Katz, the entire Salomon family will be in need of long-term rehabilitation that will require massive resources.

"I got in touch with Michal Solomon and I visited her yesterday at her house. We had a nice conversation, we spoke for about an hour about America and Israel, and I was talking to her kids a little bit. She was so, so sweet and so welcoming. It kills you; we were talking about the attack and it was heartbreaking. I felt like I already knew her before, and that's really the whole story, the underlying idea - that's what it means to be a People, to be a Nation - that you don't just look the other way when something bad happens, you don't have the luxury to do that; that's not what we're here to do - it's why we have eyes and ears, so we can help each other out."