August 10, 2006
LOS ANGELES – As Israelis of all stripes pull together in a myriad of ways to support its soldiers and targeted citizens, American Jews in locales big and small are likewise looking for ways to help.

Las Cruces, N.M. - resident Ginette Weiner, for instance, took up the call from Rabbi Yisrael Greenberg to perform a mitzvah in the merit of Israel’s deliverance from harm. Greenberg, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary based in El Paso, Texas, sent pledge cards to supporters urging them to dedicate a mitzvah "to the safety and security of the people of Israel and the soldiers on the front lines." Weiner promptly returned her card bearing a promise to light Shabbat candles.

In an interview later, she said that she planned to go beyond her original pledge and also pray for the immediate release of the three Israeli soldiers captured last month by Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, which sparked the current war.

"We just want to bring a smile to the soldiers' faces, so they know that the Jews who don’t live in Israel still think about them and appreciate them."

"I will [also] pray for Mrs. Goldwasser as she suffers through this ordeal," she said, referring to the mother of 31-year-old reservist Ehud Goldwasser, who along with Eldad Regev, 26, was kidnapped by Hezbollah guerillas on July 12 on Israel’s side of the border with Lebanon.

Word of their condition, and that of 20-year-old Gilad Shalit who was captured June 29 by Hamas forces in a cross-border raid near the Gaza Strip, has not surfaced since Israel began its now four-week-long military campaign in southern Lebanon and Gaza.

A World of Good

At a time when it may seem that all Americans can do is sit back and watch the news unfold from half-a-world-way, the Jewish community has pulled together to run emergency fund-raisers, big-city-rallies and gift drives benefiting Israeli soldiers and civilians sheltered in bunkers. Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries and their congregants have responded to the call in particularly spiritual terms, in addition to giving speeches at rallies and running fund-raisers of their own.

Speaking by phone, Greenberg said that following the front-page coverage by the El Paso Times of a special Rosh Chodesh service he held on July 25, e-mails and telephone calls poured in from across the region. One e-mail in particular, the rabbi recalled, came from a member of Carlsbad, N.M.’s Jewish community.

We "stand together with you in support of the State of Israel," wrote the respondent. "We are raising funds for Magen David Adom," Israel’s emergency ambulance service, "and pray with you that there will soon be peace through victory."

Communal Prayers, Individual Deeds

Prayers have been the order of the day in synagogues across the United States. One day following Greenberg’s service in Texas, Rabbi Joseph "G‑d created all human beings, it is incumbent on Jews to pray for the well-being of all." Eisenbach of Chabad-Lubavitch of Northwest Connecticut held a similar vigil some 2,000 miles away. Eisenbach said he told community members that innocents on both sides of the border have been placed in harm’s way because of the actions of Islamic fanatics.

"G‑d created all human beings," he said. "It is incumbent on Jews to pray for the well-being of all."

Toward that end, Rabbi Mendy Greenberg, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Bonita Springs, Fla., stressed the importance of laying tefillin and lighting Shabbat candles in his address at the July 23 Israel solidarity rally sponsored by the Jewish federations of Fort Myers and Napels, Fla. From the podium at Florida Gulf Coast University’s campus in Estero, Fla., he also called for the reciting of Psalm 20, which for thousands of years has been recited by Jews to arouse Divine mercy in times of distress.

According to participants, dozens of Jewish men donned tefillin following the rally.

The Jewish community has pulled together to run emergency fund-raisers, big-city-rallies and gift drives benefiting Israeli soldiers and civilians sheltered in bunkers.

And as evidenced earlier this month in Nevada, children are also doing their part. As part of the Tisha B’Av programming at the Chabad of Northern Nevada in Reno, nine children built models of the Holy Temple out of sugar cubes, prayed and wrote letters to be sent to Israel’s troops.

Nine-year-old Orian Raviv’s card thanked soldiers in the north for protecting his family in Netanya, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“We just want to bring a smile to the soldiers’ faces,” Estee Raviv, his mother, told the newspaper, "so they know that the Jews who don’t live in Israel still think about them and appreciate them."

In southern California, tourist Sandy Benson embodied that same take-charge spirit. On a warm afternoon last week, Benson, who was strolling down funky Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz, a neighborhood bordering Hollywood, stepped inside the new building housing Chabad of Los Feliz.

After a short tour of the premises and learning about the efforts of Lubavitch emissaries not just in the United States but in Israel – since the war began, dozens of rabbis, students and lay leaders have descended on bomb shelters and military encampments to offer an encouraging word and a bite to eat, as well as the opportunity to perform a mitzvah – Benson decided to give charity.

Before leaving, she said simply: "My heart goes out to the people of Israel."

Community members in Montreal participate in a 14-hour-long Torah Vigil for Israel at Chabad Queen Mary.
Community members in Montreal participate in a 14-hour-long Torah Vigil for Israel at Chabad Queen Mary.