We Did It! Omaha Yachad’s Inclusion Event Produces 100 Packages for IDF Lone Soldiers

01 Mar 2016

Last month, when Yachad’s New York-based international headquarters called to ask if Omaha Yachad would be participating in a collective program to assemble care packages for Israel Defense Force soldiers, with 15 other Yachad chapters in the United States and Canada, I don’t think they expected “little Omaha” to produce 100 care packages.

Yachad is the Orthodox Union agency dedicated to enhancing the opportunities of individuals with disabilities; promoting Inclusion and independence through a full array of integrated activities; and ensuring their full participation in mainstream Jewish life.

The care packaging initiative was organized as a project for North American Inclusion Month (NAIM), an annual February initiative of Yachad.

In the spirit of NAIM, the initial intent was to “include” all of the North American Yachad chapters, but I wanted to “include” all of our Omaha community in a united effort to give back.  Our Yachad members are so fortunate to have many people in Omaha give to us and contribute to programming and other initiatives. For all of you to help Yachad give back to others in need, helps everyone feel valued and inclusive….that no matter who we are, we all have something to contribute to others. We set a lofty goal, but thanks to a true community-wide effort we were able to meet that goal.

This past Sunday, Yachad and Bnai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) came together to assemble 100 care packages to IDF soldiers, thanks to the following community efforts:

100 pairs of socks

100 Word Find/Sudoku Books

100 sticks of Chapstick

300 sticks of Twizzlers

100 Personalized Notes to the soldiers

Kosher candy, donated to Jewish Family Service

100 purse size packs of tissues

100 decks of playing cards and 100 tubes of Neosporin

The packages are now on their way to New York, where they will be shipped to Israel’s lone soldiers by Nefesh B’Nefesh together with the packages from other Yachad chapters.

Batya Jacob, Yachad’s director of Educational Support Services and coordinator, of its national programs, explained, “The response we received from our chapters across North America for the Lone Soldier Project this past month was astounding.  Every Yachad chapter packed gifts for the lone soldier olim (immigrants to Israel) through Nefesh B’Nefesh together with Orthodox Union’s Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC) or Hillel students from local college campuses.”

She continued, “Our Omaha chapter exceeded these parameters by inviting the entire Jewish community to participate and be a partner in this important project.  Kudos to Karen Gustafson and Omaha Yachad program director Jan McCarthy for their leadership on this and the many Yachad projects that they run each year. In addition, we thank Nefesh B’Nefesh for partnering with Yachad and OU-JLIC by delivering the packages to the soldiers in Israel who are protecting our homeland, the State of Israel.”