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Concert will benefit disabled Israeli veterans
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Concert will benefit disabled Israeli veterans

Community efforts fund centers that help ‘lift broken spirits’

Mike Burstyn will perform at the Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans benefit concert.
Mike Burstyn will perform at the Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans benefit concert.

A Monroe woman got to see firsthand the effective techniques employed by an organization dedicated to reintegrating disabled Israeli war veterans into society.

While in Israel this winter, Judy Schneider hand-delivered a $10,000 check to Beit Halochem (House of the Soldier) rehabilitation center in Tel Aviv — there are four throughout the country — from the Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans, which recently took over fund-raising efforts in the town from Monroe Township Holocaust Survivors.

That money was raised through a dinner held this past winter at the Greenbriar at Whittingham adult community — and there’s more to come. On Sunday, Aug. 7, a benefit concert at Monroe High School will feature stage, screen, television, and concert performer Mike Burstyn and singer Julie Budd.

In the decade since the cause has been taken up by the Monroe community, more than $100,000 has been given to Beit Halochem.

The Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans is the American fund-raising arm of the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization, which runs Beit Halochem centers in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and Nahariya. A fifth facility is being planned for Ashdod.

“These young Jews who are fighting for our Jewish identity deserve our help,” said Carl Lustbader, an active member of both the Holocaust survivors group and the disabled veterans organization, who himself previously delivered a $30,000 check to the centers. “It is a pity to see them maimed for life.”

Whenever possible, an individual or group going to Israel arranges to hand-deliver the donations.

Schneider spent two months volunteering through Hadassah’s WIN (Winter in Netanya) program, teaching English at a high school, an elementary school, and a boys’ yeshiva. She said that many of the youngsters she worked with spoke with pride of their future as members of the Israel Defense Forces.

“They are so proud of their country, so full of ruach, so spirited,” said Schneider. “As I looked into their eyes, my eyes welled up. I wondered what is in their future. Who will live and who will die and who will be maimed?”

‘Proud of military’

Although her primary assignment through the Hadassah program was teaching, Schneider also spent time gardening, helping out in a soup kitchen and at a hospital, and caring for individuals with special needs. She also attended ulpan, or intensive Hebrew-language class, for two hours in the afternoons.

When she went to the Tel Aviv facility to deliver the check in February, she was given a tour and was “very impressed.”

“The place was beautiful, up-to-date,” she said. “They have a cafeteria where families can sit together as a unit. They are very big on family togetherness. They have classrooms where young children can attend school while visiting family members. There is a huge Olympic-size swimming pool with a weight lift where they can take people from wheelchairs and place them in the pool. I saw a ping-pong game taking place between a young woman in a wheelchair and her opponent on foot.”

Schneider also saw a “remarkable” shooting gallery where participants used sound rather than sight to aim at targets.

The four Beit Halochem centers treat a total of 58,000 vets, offering them everything from sports to wheelchair dancing, and Schneider said 85 percent of its budget comes from international donations. All patients go home at night.

She said that after surgery and other treatments, wounded vets are sent to Beit Halochem to heal, with the staff trained to offer compassion, “to provide therapies, to offer a comforting shoulder, and to lift broken spirits.”

The wounded veterans “have given of themselves, and no amount of money can buy back what they have lost,” said Schneider. “Because of them, Jews all over the world are proud of Israel’s military. Because of them we have Israel.”

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