An assortment of teens and families duly obeyed as Eugene Gershman shouted commands at them at the Do-Re-Mi School of Music & the Arts in Livingston.
They ran, fell to the floormats on their backs and stomachs, jumped through obstacles, threw air punches, and socked punching bags.
Those assembled Sept. 14 watched as Gershman demonstrated how, using the pressure point at the nose, any of them could stop someone bigger or stronger from causing harm. (He explained that they could also use pressure points at the ears, throat, eyes, and genitals.)
As Gershman, a former Israel Defense Forces counter-intelligence officer, taught the basics of the Israeli self-defense system known as Krav Maga, his students were not the only ones reaping the benefits. That’s because for each student that day, at least $18 had been donated to support IDF soldiers through the LIBI Fund. Created in 1980, the LIBI Fund provides educational and medical benefits not covered by the army’s regular budget for IDF soldiers.
“It was so emotional for us when the war started this summer,” said Marina Goldin, Do-Re-Mi’s founder and director. She saw an obvious connection between Israel and the Krav Maga program she was in the midst of expanding. So when she was ready to announce the grand opening of a larger space dedicated to Krav Maga, she decided to couple it with a fund-raiser, offering participants the opportunity to donate to the LIBI fund. Many did.
Although the introductory classes offered on Sept. 7 and 14 were free, Goldin committed to donating $18 for anyone who didn’t contribute. She also decided to offer the fund-raising incentive for every student who signs up through Yom Kippur.
(While most of the classes at Do-Re-Mi are for kids — ranging from the arts to math to Russian — Krav Maga classes are offered for all ages through adults.)
Goldin said LIBI’s educational mission mirrors her own.
“These are just kids in the army, just slightly older than our own,” she said. “I like that LIBI collects not for armor but for education.” What’s more, she added, “I consider the Israeli army not just about defense but also about education. Lots of my friends’ kids have gone and gotten an education. The IDF provides professional skills.”
She said that by Yom Kippur, she hopes to have raised more than $1,000.
Among those at the teen-only Krav Maga session were four siblings, members of the Amkraut family of Berkeley Heights.
“We lived in Israel for three years, and this activity is so tied to strength and power and Israel, it was a natural fit,” said father Eric Amkraut.
Shai, 15, said he felt “very engaged” through the session. Keren, 14, thought it could be very “useful” in terms of self-defense. Ma’yan, 12, was more interested in the fun, game-like aspects of the workout, while Simone, 11, liked it so much she stayed for the second session.
“The fund-raiser was the nudge,” said Helen Hadef, Amkraut’s wife. “We started doing Krav Maga last year, and I was thinking we should do it again. But with it tied to the fund-raiser today, I said we need to go do it. Now, it’s double duty.”
Gershman, a former defense contractor, is founder of the Krav Maga Centers of America. Developed by a Hagana fighter who immigrated to Israel from Bratislava in the 1940s, Krav Maga is now taught to soldiers, law enforcement personnel, and civilians. Gershman’s center is one of several Krav Maga training organizations in the United States.