Rising Together: A Journey of Hope and Healing

with Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon’s Sulamot and La’Ofek Organizations, Guided by CEO Rabbi Eli Taragin

Since the war began, Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, founder of nonprofits ‘Sulamot’ and ‘La’Ofek,’ and CEO Rabbi Eli Taragin, have been beacons of hope amidst a nation’s challenges. They are lighting the way at a time of immense challenges for our nation, impacting the narrative of this unprecedented war, offering hope to IDF soldiers on Israel’s frontline, their families, and the displaced communities who have lost almost everything. Their story, a tapestry woven by thousands of global partners, is one of positive changes for Am Yisrael in this time of adversity.

Rabbi Eli, please share the story behind the mobilization of Sulamot and La’Ofek immediately after Simchat Torah?

Rabbi Eli Taragin: As soon as Simchat Torah ended, Rav Rimon and I said we had to activate what we term in Hebrew as “צַו 8 אֶזְרָחִי” – civilians enlisting themselves to support the war effort. Halachic questions to Rav Rimon were already pouring in on Simchat Torah itself, and our staff was being inundated with calls from soldiers and family members reporting the inadequate supply of essential protective equipment. Even though we immediately understood that this war was unlike any other, we also knew the drill from past emergency situations. An emergency relief fund for SOS needs was immediately established, funds that would be the difference between life and death. But in the same breath we also knew that we needed to already plan for “the day after” and we knew that we could count on the greater Jewish community to make it happen. 

Rabbi Eli Taragin

What are the main focuses of your organization’s operation during these critical times?

RET: Recognizing significant shortages in equipment at the beginning of the conflict due to an unprecedented number of reservists, we established a comprehensive logistics center. This center efficiently processed requests from hundreds of units in the field, addressing needs ranging from winter gear to tactical equipment. 

We provided vital equipment to over 35,000 soldiers within the first month of fighting. The response has been overwhelming, with soldiers expressing gratitude not just for the equipment but for the profound sense of support they feel from Jews worldwide. One commander sent me a message, “your equipment is filled with ruach – the spirit of the Jewish people – and that’s what keeps us strong.” 

Understandably, our focus is two-fold, aiding the soldiers through our “Emergency Relief Campaign” and supporting affected communities through our “Atufim” program. 

Amidst the chaos and devastation, please share an uplifting moment for Sulamot and La’Ofek.

RET: One powerful moment that most resonates, and I know will stay with me, was when we successfully provided over 5,000 ceramic bullet-proof vests to soldiers across the country, in collaboration with the IDF. The journey to secure these life-saving vests was a testament to the collective spirit of our community and the urgency of Am Yisrael all around the world to assist their brothers and sisters in uniform.

Thousands of people rallied to donate millions of dollars in order to protect the lives of our IDF soldiers. We worked around the clock to overcome logistical and bureaucratic hurdles, in order to procure the vests and deliver them to the soldiers quickly. When the shipment of vests finally arrived, on Erev Shabbat, it was an emotional milestone for everyone involved. Witnessing the tangible impact of our collective efforts brought a sense of accomplishment and great relief and became a reminder that, even in challenging times, unity and shared purpose can achieve remarkable outcomes.

Tell us more about the “Atufim” program and assistance provided to evacuees from the North and South.

RET: Our “Atufim” program, in partnership with World Mizrachi, provides aid to evacuees from both the North and the South. The purpose of the program is not only to address the physical needs of these families but just as importantly give encouragement and chizuk on a communal level. These are tight-knit communities that have experienced trauma on a personal level, and also in ways that have left their community feeling broken.

Atufim offers several branches of assistance. 

  • Employment assistance: 

Atufim offers assistance in finding work for people who have been displaced from their homes and are currently without a livelihood. As an organization we have had experience with this most important task. La’Ofek’s “JobKatif” project helped thousands of displaced families from Gush Katif in 2005 find work, transforming an 85% unemployment rate into an 88% employment rate. We have once again stepped up to assist a similarly displaced population through Atufim. 

Since we started the Atufim program over 1,000 evacuee applications have already been received and our staff is working tirelessly to match them with employers.

  • Adopt-a-Community:

The Atufim program recognizes the necessity to strengthen the communities, both in the short-term and to ensure the stability and unity in the long-term. The goal is for the communities to eventually return back home. In that vein, the Atufim program has “adopted” five communities to date: Netiv HaAsara, Kibbutz Zikim, Moshav Yachini, Shokeda, and Tzochar, each with 500–900 individuals. In order to connect and strategize, I personally meet with the leadership of the community to understand their unique needs because their needs and goals – while all urgent – vary greatly. Atufim is dedicated to SOS needs (purchase of equipment, medicines), assisting families that have been financially affected, and integration of programming that will help strengthen the social, educational and community fabric. We have turned to Jewish communities worldwide to adopt these communities and assist in various ways.

  • Education:

Thanks to Sulamot’s expertise in the educational field, the Ministry of Education asked the organization to help establish a system of training and learning in the evacuees’ centers. Sulamot sends rabbis, lecturers and instructors to these centers to give uplifting talks and experiential lessons to children, youth and parents. This empowers and strengthens their spirits in these most challenging days.

The global response to your initiatives has been remarkable. How has the partnership with World Mizrachi and the Tzevet Perez Campaign contributed to your projects?

RET: We are immensely grateful to all our partners worldwide, especially to the World Mizrachi movement. The partnership has been crucial in funding life-saving equipment for IDF soldiers, adopting southern communities, aiding evacuees, and extending educational support. Together, we stand united, making a significant impact in the lives of those affected.

None of this would have been possible without the support of individuals and communities worldwide, which have given us the ability to contribute material needs where they are needed and more crucially is instilling a sense of unity and strength for the greater Am Yisrael. This is our opportunity to embrace our brothers and sisters, and it is touching to see how so many are rallying together with us to bring hope and strength to Am Yisrael

Our message is clear: when we are united, we are stronger. Together, we can make a lasting impact and demonstrate the resilience of Am Yisrael.

For those ready to contribute, where can they donate to support these ongoing efforts?

RET: To contribute and be a vital partner in this ongoing effort, please visit jgive.com/new/en/usd/donation-targets/113374 or email our development department at inbar@sulamot.org. Your support is crucial, and every donation contributes to healing and rebuilding. 

Thank you for standing with us in this sacred mission.

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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