OU IDF Tefilla Card Program, Passing $80,000 Mark, Brings Sukkot Gifts to Soldiers

29 Sep 2006


With the approach of Sukkot, and in a multi-pronged effort both to pray for the safety of Israel’s soldiers and to bring them joy on the Festivals, the Orthodox Union is engaged in the latest distribution of funds raised by its worldwide Tefillah L’Chayalei Tzahal campaign to sell tefillah, or prayer cards, around the world. These cards include a photo of Israeli soldiers at the Kotel in Jerusalem on one side and the Prayer for the Israel Defense Forces on the other.

The prayer begins, “May he who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Joseph, bless the soldiers of the Israel Defense forces and the security personnel who stand guard over our country and the cities of our God, from the Lebanese border to the Egyptian wilderness and from the Mediterranean Sea to the edges of the desert – or wherever they might be – on land, in the air or at sea.”

The campaign, which was originated several years ago, has now raised in excess of $80,000, all of which has been distributed to soldiers and their families across Israel, according to Howard Rhine, OU Vice President and Chair of its Israel Task Force Initiative, who originated the idea.

Soldiers on bases throughout Israel — including many who fought in Lebanon — as well as soldiers in the Judea/Samaria division, once again will receive gift packages to be distributed to them personally by OU American volunteers. These volunteers include both those who will be spending Sukkot in Israel and those who have made aliyah and are living there.

The packages, which include items for Sukkot such as a lulav and etrog, as well as food and candy, will be paid for by proceeds from the sale of the tefilla cards. The cards, and larger size posters, are sold to synagogues, schools and individuals, with the funds being distributed by the OU, through a separate fund in the offices of the Chief Military Chaplain of the IDF.

The selling of the cards is particularly important this year, given the dangers the IDF soldiers have faced and continue to face in the concurrent wars against Hezbollah and Hamas, Mr. Rhine declared. “As long as there is a soldier in harm’s way, the tefilla must be said. It is clear that the religious community has taken Israeli soldiers to heart and that it prays for them daily, by the hundreds of thousands, all over the world. Given the increased dangers, our objective is for more and more people to say the prayer every day, and the way for that to happen is through increased sale of the cards.”

The distribution of the gift packages by Americans visiting the IDF bases is a key aspect of the Sukkot program. Participating in Operation v’Samachta b’Chagecha ( “ and you will rejoice on your Festival ” ), the volunteers will bring with them the good wishes of the American Jewish community with three objectives in mind, according to OU President Stephen J. Savitsky.

“By bringing the Chag (Festival) to the soldiers in the field, we are showing them that we care, that there is a bond between the American Jewish community and the soldiers who are not only defending Israel but are defending the Jewish people as a whole,” Mr. Savitsky explained. “That way we give them chizuk (strength) as we recognize the sacrifices they have made for us.”

The second objective is achdut – or unity – Mr. Savitsky said. “We are one people and the IDF is defending all of us.”

The third component is kesher – or connection, he added. “The people delivering the packages are Americans. They are taking their free time to visit the bases. By doing so, they are developing a connection between our two communities, a connection based on gratitude and prayer.”

As he has in the past, Mr. Rhine encouraged men, women and children to recite the tefilla on a daily basis – at home, in the synagogue, in school, or elsewhere. “It doesn’t matter where you say it, as long as you say it,” Mr. Rhine said. “It can be a child saying Modeh Ani upon awakening, or a woman when she is lighting Shabbat candles, or a man at the minyan,” Mr. Rhine declared. “Who knows which of our tefillot reaches the heavenly throne? We must all be part of the effort to protect our soldiers.”

The prayer is available in both Hebrew and English cards. Posters, 8 ½ by 11 inches and suitable for hanging in homes, synagogues and schools, are available for $5 each; the credit card-sized cards sell for $1. The OU will distribute posters to military bases throughout Israel, Mr. Rhine said, with the cards being included in the soldiers’ packages.

The cards and posters can be obtained by contacting Tova Moskowitz at the OU at 212-613-8126 or moskowitzt@ou.org, or by faxing an order to 212-613-0615.