The Middlesex Jewish community is banding together to help traumatized Israeli soldiers.
After several well-attended parlor meetings, local synagogue members have formed a committee and launched a fund-raising effort to bring former soldiers from Israel to the community next November.
The effort will be part of Peace of Mind, a program of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma at Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem. The program addresses the emotional needs of discharged soldiers who faced traumatic situations during their military service.
The effort has already succeeded in reaching across denominational lines to raise the needed $55,000. On board are Orthodox Congregation Ohr Torah in Edison, Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emeth, and Reform Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick. Last year, Anshe Emeth hosted a “Peace of Mind” contingent for a week of sight-seeing, shopping, and relaxation.
“This is a fabulous program, but what is also fabulous is that our group is so multi-denominational,” said Rosanne Koenigson of Ohr Torah. “This is a collaborative effort that we hope will remain forever.”
She said she hopes the Greater Middlesex County Peace of Mind program would bring in soldiers every one to two years.
The Edison resident, whose own son is serving in the IDF, already feels a personal connection to the organization. Last year, when Anshe Emeth sponsored the program, Koenigson hosted four Orthodox soldiers.
“Kol Yisrael areivim zeh lazeh, Every Jew is responsible for every other Jew,” said Koenigson. “We have a responsibility to take care of these men and women after their service is over. They are risking their lives for the safety of Israel and for Jews around the world.”
Elissa Rozov of Highland Park chaired last year’s program at Anshe Emeth. A psychologist specializing in helping trauma victims, she said the program “spoke to my heart.”
She met and became friendly with Koenigson last year through the program. The women decided their synagogues should work together to bring in another group of former soldiers.
“It just spread from there,” said Rozov. “The program speaks so well for itself that people are just stepping up.”
She said the committee had submitted a letter of intent to the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County asking for funding for a communitywide event while the soldiers are here, which will be considered later in the year.
Barbara Chabner of HPCT said the group was focusing on members of the Highland Park/Edison community but would be open to other synagogues and individuals joining the effort.
Two students at Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison, Alex Ostrin of Highland Park and Joseph Matthew of Edison, on Oct. 27 staged Hoop It Up, a basketball tournament benefit that brought in $1,000 to assist in the Peace of Mind effort. A private donor has offered to match the funds.
“We thought, we are here in America and couldn’t actually be fighting, but we wanted to raise funds for soldiers who are fighting for Israel,” said Alex.
Joseph, who will become a bar mitzva Jan. 18 at RPRY, said they are planning another fund-raiser within the next two months. He plans on donating a portion of his bar mitzva gifts to Peace of Mind because “it feels good to help them to feel normal in society.”