March 15 was the kickoff for the Zionist Organization of Americas Purim IDF Project 2011, during which 4,000 packages were distributed among IDF soldiers at their bases throughout Israel. Rubin Margules, President of the ZOA’s Brooklyn Region, and a member of ZOAs National Board, led the five-day missionincluding one day at the Gaza border under rocket firefor this, his eleventh, multifaceted Purim campaign in Israel.
In a major effort coordinated by the ZOA’s Israel Office, tons of foodstuffs and supplies were purchased from a variety of vendors, packed in a series of community volunteer gatherings, and then distributed with handwritten letters gathered from abroad to thousands of appreciative soldiers.
The Israel Office also arranged meetings for Margules and his delegation with several military and political leaders, most memorably Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara, MK Yaakov Katz and Mayor of Ariel, former MK Ron Nachman.
In addition, with the help of the Ariel Development Fund and Sar El, ZOA’s Israel Office organized a pre-Purim concert for 500 soldiers that was to feature the popular Harel Skaat at the brand new Ariel Performing Arts Center. The cultural center has been a target of anti-Israel boycotters because of its location in Samaria, so the city of Ariel was extremely grateful for ZOA’s show of solidarity. At the last minute, however, the concert had to be canceled due to the Fogel family massacre in Itamar, after which the soldiers were ordered to stay in their bases on high alert.
Many American yeshivot and congregations participated in Purim IDF Project 2011, whether by helping to raise funds or enlisting students to write personal letters to the soldiers. It is unbelievable,” said Margules, “seeing the enthusiasm these soldiers display as they read these notes and letters written by students and contributors thanking them for defending our biblical homeland. We come to thank them and they can’t stop thanking us!”
The participating schools included: Bnos Shulamith, Brandeis School E.S., Central High School for Girls, Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, Nefesh Academy, Shulamith School for Girls, Sinai Academy and Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls. And among the congregations were: Anshe Chesed, NY; Beth El Synagogue, Margate; Flatbush Park Jewish Center, Brooklyn; Israel Center of Conservative Judaism, Flushing; Manhattan Beach Jewish Center, Brooklyn; Ocean Avenue Jewish Center, Brooklyn; and Torath Israel Sephardic Congregation, Brooklyn. Emunah Women also played a helpful role in the letter writing part of the campaign.
“Thanks to Rubin and his helpers, we had significant funding for this effort,” said ZOA’s Israel Office director, Jeff Daube, “and the IDF soldiers were not the only beneficiaries: We decided to purchase the supplies for the Purim packages in the economically depressed town of Netivot, to help its businesses. Some of the funds also went toward backpack water carriers, shlukerim, which we obtained via Yashar L’Chayal, an independent IDF support organization. We were delighted when it generously agreed to match ZOA’s purchase with donations of its own.”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, We are especially happy that this year once again Aluma, the organization that supports the female soldiers of the IDF, and the Samaria Regional Council came through in the clutch by getting young volunteers to help us pack and distribute the more than 4,000 mishloach manot. In addition, the Young Israel, the Orthodox Union/NCSY, Emunah, Sar El, the Ariel Development Fund, the Ariel University Center, musician Elion Shemesh and volunteer Dovi Weiss all contributed time and effort to make this campaign the outstanding success that it was. The ZOA is very proud of Rubin and the many thousands of participants who, over the course of eleven years, have engaged in this quintessential Zionist project.”
Appealing to the American Jewish community, Margules added that we need your help to make future Purims especially joyous for our soldiers in Israel. They are our defenders and our mishloach manot project is a perfect opportunity to express appreciation. Writing a note gives a participant a chance to offer a personal thank you. How small the task, yet how big the reward.
Anyone wishing to participate in Purim IDF Project 2012 is invited to view our website at www.zoabrooklyn.org or call 718-339-8301 for further information.