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Mitzvah Corps assists Israel’s ‘lone soldiers’
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Mitzvah Corps assists Israel’s ‘lone soldiers’

Members of an IDF paratrooper unit thank the East Brunswick Jewish Center for a donation of water backpacks last month through Yashar LaChayal, which assists poor and “lone” soldiers.
Members of an IDF paratrooper unit thank the East Brunswick Jewish Center for a donation of water backpacks last month through Yashar LaChayal, which assists poor and “lone” soldiers.

Maybe it’s fate that a synagogue’s “Mitzvah Corps” would end up assisting soldiers in Israel.

Four years ago, tzedaka-minded volunteers at the East Brunswick Jewish Center were seeking new ways to donate to soldiers after the Israeli government banned direct contributions. Until then, the Mitzvah Corps had donated “many thousands of dollars” in support of the elite Golani 51 unit, said Jack Silverman, a corps cochair with P.J. Smith and Marty Genee.

They discovered Yashar LaChayal, or “Straight to the Soldier,” a Ma’ale Adumim-based organization that raises money for poor soldiers and “lone soldiers” — the approximately 5,000 soldiers who have no family in Israel — as well as wounded troops.

Since that time the corps has raised more than $16,000 through wine sales with the help of two local businesses. Its next event will be a kosher wine-tasting on Tuesday, Aug. 16.

“It’s an extraordinary thing to be involved with, and I think it really makes people’s lives better,” said Silverman, now secretary of the organization’s American board.

The IDF relies on families to help provide soldiers with some gear and basic supplies. Yashar LaChayal works with the military to identify soldiers who need certain items, ranging from warm socks, hats, jackets, underwear, and blankets to “shlukim,” water backpacks needed while serving in the hot desert.

Silverman said he discovered a personal connection with the organization: He and Leon Blankrot, its executive director, went to yeshiva together years ago in Jersey City.

The biggest fund-raiser of the year at EBJC is its Passover wine sale, which recently netted $5,700.

Silverman said the wine is supplied by Brian Taxman, owner of Pino’s Fruit Basket Shoppe in Highland Park, which gives EBJC a discount so they can resell and reap the funds. Additionally, Jesse Reitner, owner of Lox Stock & Deli in Milltown, uses the EBJC-provided wine during bar or bat mitzva celebrations or weddings through its 18 Carat catering division.

“They are real partners with us,” said Silverman. “Because of those off-season sales through Lox Stock, we were able to make a $1,500 in donation this past winter.”

That money was hand-delivered by Silverman’s daughter during a January trip and was earmarked for a unit in which a friend of hers is serving.

Items from the Passover sale were given to artillery and tank units. Backpacks were also given last month to Shirion 77, a paratrooper unit in which Dory Edelman, the grandson of EBJC members Arnold and Lory Pelofsky serves.

“He had mentioned to my husband and me that his unit needed so many things,” Lory Pelofsky told NJJN. “We said we can send to you but we can’t supply the whole unit so we spoke to the Mitzvah Corps, which took on the unit.

“He comes from a real military family,” Pelofsky said proudly. “He is a medic. His sister just got out of the Israeli air force and the youngest one goes next year. My son-in-law is a lieutenant colonel in the reserves.”

Edelman made a video, available on YouTube, in which he thanked the synagogue on behalf of his fellow soldiers.

“He was almost teary, it was such an incredible thing,” said Pelofsky.

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