On Monday evening, October 16, the Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld Educational Center organized a virtual lecture with Rabbi Zvi Gluck, CEO of Amudim. Amudim focuses on helping children suffering from trauma in the United States and in Eretz Yisrael.
Rabbi Stuart Verstandig welcomed everyone and noted the presence of the Rav of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Rabbi Daniel Rosenfelt, and Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, Rabbi Emeritus and President of the Coalition for Jewish Values.
Rabbi Gluck shared that the war in Israel right now has been one of the most difficult emotional chesed projects in which he was ever involved. They are helping people by taking them out of Eretz Yisrael. Amudim was dealing with thousands of families who had come to Israel for Sukkos. There were many American families with little kids who had to go to shelters, and it was traumatic for the parents and children. It took a week for the United States Department of State to do anything about helping with this. He explained that Amudim paid 100 percent for the planes to be used for this. They had the planes do double duty, as they would be used as a way back for soldiers.
He shared that Amudim has a full operation mainly for seminary and yeshivah students in Israel, and they are receiving many calls in terms of kids needing emotional support and also to help some to travel back to America. Amudim is currently sending three cargo flights with millions of dollars’ worth of medical equipment. Mi k’amcha Yisrael?
He shared that there is currently 20 million dollars’ worth of equipment in the airport in Israel that cannot be allowed in, so you should be careful to donate to the right places in terms of what is allowed or needed.
Amudim is speaking to parents of children in the army. Everybody knows someone who is affected. Rabbi Gluck said that in the same way we are focused on Israel and the impact on people there, we need to keep in mind the people struggling here in America with issues that may not be war-related.
He shared that no one knows how long it will take.
Rabbi Gluck then detailed actions people can take here in the United States to help. He pointed out that there are now so many new orphans. There are children who don’t have toys and books, as they are confined in small spaces. If you have friends and/or family in Israel, just call. You don’t have to say anything. Just let them know you are there for them – that you are with them. Tell them we are all part of this together.
Rabbi Gluck shared that he is concerned about the mental health aspect of this whole thing. He noted how an organization called Brothers in Arms, which used to have liberal views, changed, and now wants to send equipment to the soldiers in the IDF.
Following this, there was a lively Q&A session. Yaakov Serle, Publisher of the Queens Jewish Link, thanked Amudim and Rabbi Gluck for helping him and his wife Atara, to be able to leave Israel safely after Sukkos. He noted that no one was able to help them except Amudim.
Rabbi Gluck noted that Congresswoman Grace Meng sent a letter to the State Department requesting flights to help people to leave Israel.
Next, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld asked how Amudim is dealing with kids on college campuses.
Rabbi Gluck responded that it is very scary for Jewish students on college campuses. There is so much overt anti-Semitism. We never dealt with this in America before, and it’s coming fast and furious. Many are attending class only via Zoom. “It is frightening what is going on at college campuses.” He shared that there is a fine line between free speech and hate speech.
We need to instill more Jewish pride. Rabbi Gluck said that he is flying an Israeli flag and an American flag in front of his home in Kew Gardens Hills. As Jews, we need to have a voice and stand up for ourselves.
Rabbi Schonfeld added that we need to put pressure on our political leaders to do something about the college campuses.
When someone asked Rabbi Gluck for specific ideas for how we in the United States can help, he offered some possible suggestions. You can create a toy drive; also, you can put together care packages for soldiers. Call people in Israel and set up pen pals.
The community is grateful for this informative program.
By Susie Garber