Updated: Nov 30
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On Shemini Atzeres, October 7th, the world woke up to hear the devasting news of the horrific attack on Israel by Hamas. Since the attack, Israel called up thousands of soldiers to the front lines and thousands of families have been evacuated from Israel’s south and north to seek safe ground from Hamas and Hezbollah.
Seeing the impending needs, Hebrew Theological College (HTC) – a member of Touro University, in Skokie, IL mobilized its students and a team of dedicated volunteers from its Rabbi William Z. and Eda Bess Novick Z"L Bigdei Yisrael clothing for Israel program, to launch an emergency clothing drive campaign in partnership with Yad Leah in NJ and Just One Chesed in Israel. The campaign will provide new winter gear for the thousands of Israelis who will need warm clothing for the winter months ahead.
HTC requested donations of new coats, snowsuits, winter gear for children, infants and adults as well as blankets, sleeping bags, shoes and boots and thermal base layer clothing and facemasks for soldiers. To make it easier for our community to participate, HTC set up an emergency winter clothing registry on Amazon. To date more than 2,500 items have been ordered from the registry, with many items coming in bulk. Local clothing stores have also donated cases of shoes and clothing and hundreds of community members have dropped off clothing.
The hundreds of duffel bags and boxes of clothing are currently being sorted and filled to ship from Chicago. The duffel bags with be shipped to Israel by plane and distributed by Just One Chesed. The boxes will be distributed through our partner Yad Leah, which manages over 20 distribution locations throughout Israel. There are many newly formed partner hubs to provide clothing and assistance to relocated families in addition to the general families in need, who Yad Leah already helps to support.
“We’re so thankful to our alumni and many community members who heard our call to help. The boxes started piling up even before our drive began and continue to pile up days after. It is so heartwarming to see how much people want to help and be a part of something that will directly impact so many of our brothers and sisters in Israel,” said Rabbi Josh Zisook, Director of Special Projects at HTC.
HTC is very fortunate to have this infrastructure already in place in Israel. Back in 2004, a delegation from the HTC Alumni Association brought suitcases to donate to the needy in Tzfat as part of their alumni mission. Fast forward 19 years, HTC’s Bigdei Yisrael clothing drive program morphed into a massive yearly clothing drive, which has shipped over 100 tons of clothing to thousands of people in need in Israel. This program, managed by Yeshiva parents, Pnina Levinson and Zehava Krauss was dedicated by the Novick and Milstein families after their parents Rabbi William Z. and Eda Bess Novick z”l, who inspired our community by taking hundreds of suitcases of clothing for the needy with them on their trips to Israel for nearly 50 years.
Pnina Levinson remarked, “We have received countless testimonials describing how our collective efforts have enhanced people’s lives. For many women, the opportunity to have a new outfit for themselves or their children has increased their self-esteem and bolstered their spirit. To be able to give a child a warm coat for the winter is such a gift. This is a true kiddush Hashem!”
Thank you to the hundreds of community members who support HTC's Bigdei Yisrael each year; we're so appreciative of your participation! Special thank you to Congregation Or Torah, CTN, Arie Crown Hebrew Day School, Shaarei Chinuch Day School and NCSY for partnering with us to support this project. The project should be a zechus for our community and a tremendous chesed (kindness) for our brothers and sisters in Israel especially this year when the need is great!
UPDATES FROM BIGDEI YISRAEL:
Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, IL is a member of Touro University and a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community. For more information about HTC and its programs, please contact Rabbi Josh Zisook at firstname.lastname@example.org.