A package of toys with a caring note
A package of toys with a caring note Courtesy of Pantry Packers

With tens of thousands of Israeli families under attack and required to stay near the safety of the protected rooms within their homes, Colel Chabad, Israel’s oldest continuously operating charitable organization since 1788, has increased their home deliveries to support the elderly in need.

While the seniors would usually get their warm, healthy meals at one of the 22 soup kitchens located around the country, the constant threat of rocket attacks have forced Colel Chabad to temporarily shut the facilities and deliver to the homes in some of the hardest hit areas including Ashdod, Lod, Dimona, Jerusalem and Tzfat. To that end, the organization delivered 25,000 meals to over 5,000 elders, enough to last them through the long weekend and holiday.

Recognizing that the elderly in Israel are certainly not the only ones suffering, the Youth Department at Congregation Bnei Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey decided to take action and do something to help the children who are forced to spend hours in their protected spaces.

“We called upon the community to help raise money to send toys, educational books, and comfort food to bomb shelters across southern Israel,” said Rivka Szafranski, who together with her husband Yehoshua run the youth department.

“We decided to team up with Colel Chabad, which already has the infrastructure and volunteer system, to package and distribute gifts to these children who are suffering during these traumatic times.”

“We’ve now raised over $38,000 and growing, and have over 30 other communities involved in donating gift packages for Israeli children in the hardest hit areas,” said Doron Katz from Teaneck.

In this initial round of distribution, packages were delivered for the Shavuot holiday to the young children who attend the Colel Chabad daycare centers in the cities of Yavne, Ashdod and Sderot, which have been under attack in the latest round of violence in Israel.

The packages were prepared under the guidance of the professional staff helping support the emotional well-being of the children at the daycare centers. The gifts were not only age-appropriate but also included quality books talking about emotions and challenges designed to help the children throughout this very scary and confusing time.

“It warms our heart to feel your love and caring,” said Miriam Blau, educational counselor at the Maonot Chaya Childcare Centers in Israel. “It means so much to these children during these turbulent times to know that there are sisters and brothers on the other side of the world that think of them and care for them.”

“Thousands of families are living in very tense and scary times, having to drop everything and run to the nearest shelter, sometimes multiple times a day,” said Itzik Marton of Colel Chabad. “The tremendous response from Jewish youth in the United States to this initiative really shows how ‘Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh’ – we are all connected.”

The gifts were packed at the Pantry Packers Volunteer Center in Jerusalem, under the direction of Rabbi Menachem Traxler and included handwritten notes from dayschool students from Yeshivat Noam in New Jersey, as well as other participating Jewish communities around the US.

“To see this project grow so quickly and continue to attract the involvement among the Jewish children of the Disaspora is inspiring,” said Rabbi Shalom Duchman, Director of Colel Chabad. “The children of Israel are never alone and we will continue to support our brothers and sisters in any way we can.”

As their annual tradition, Colel Chabad’s Western Wall location once again provided drinks and pastries in the Kotel (Western Wall) plaza for those who made their way to the Kotel for the morning holiday prayers.

Children receiving the gifts
Children receiving the gifts Courtesy of Pantry Packers
A package of toys with a caring note
A package of toys with a caring note Courtesy of Pantry Packers
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