I am a Zionist, I am a proud and passionate Zionist. And my mantra is..every day I have said for many years to myself: ”What have I done for Israel TODAY? Not tomorrow -TODAY!” And I’ll tell you where that came from.. Because every day that‘s what God’s given you.. a gift.. you’re alive! What can you do to change the future? What can you do to help your people? And the “today” comes from a story.. Golda Meir, January 25, 1948.. came to Chicago. She came with a suitcase with two dresses to raise money for the new state of Israel that was about to be declared..and they told her: “You know, we don’t think you should declare a state, it’s too dangerous.” And she said: “The decision about whether to fight has already been decided- we will fight! The decision American Jews must make is who will win-the Jews or the mufti! I don’t need the money three months from now, I don’t need the money two months from now, I don’t need the money one month from now, I need the money TONIGHT!” And they raised $1 million that night in Chicago and that was the birth of Israel bonds. So just to say that is where the “today” comes from.
Ok, so I am a Zionist..How did I learn to be a Zionist? My parents were Holocaust survivors. My mother (Lenke Zoldan) was in Auschwitz as a teenager.. My grandmother was murdered there.. My mother was in slave labor camps and then on a death march. My father (Shlomo Zam) endured the war earlier because he fell under Operation Barbarossa, that went to Kiev, to Babi Yar, the Holocaust by bullets.. Town after town after town extinguished.. He escaped to the forest with some of his family and survived. He was hidden in part by a Ukrainian police chief Ivan Haiducek whom I struggled for years and finally succeeded in getting him honored by Yad Vashem as a righteous gentile and I am searching for his descendants so that they know that the mitzvahs and the miracles that he did for my family and for others for other partisans in the Shoah -my father was a partisan- are remembered and are remembered forever.. And who would have believed that there would be a day that the president of Ukraine would be a Jew! And the prime minister of Ukraine would be a Jew! I wish my father could’ve seen it, maybe he still can.
So when I was a kid I remember sitting at the kitchen table in Chelsea and my father said...I think I must have asked him “Dad..why..” I was old enough to understand, maybe I was 7.. He was the principal of the Hebrew School in Everett..I said.. “Why are we here?” Maybe, I think that’s probably what I said.. “Why aren’t we in Israel?” And he said: “You know, we’re here..God has put us here.. that maybe we can help Israel from the Galut.” And he was preparing to purchase an Israel bond. And I like to say that’s how I learned, that’s where I learned to be a Zionist!
Children of Holocaust survivors are well aware of how precarious Jewish survival is. You don’t have to tell us that one child gets bashed against a wall and another one is able to survive. You’ve heard the stories. So in 1944 there was no one to defend us -and today there’s an IDF! There’s an Israel! There is someone to defend us! So who could imagine that 4 years after my grandmother burned in Auschwitz, my mother was a slave, my father lived like a dog in a hole in the ground that there would be a reborn third state of Israel? A modern state of Israel.. and that she would have an army, an army that would protect Jewish children! So Jews came home. Alan and I met at Mt. Auburn Hospital. It turned out we were from the same street in Chelsea. Pretty funny. Where are you from? Chelsea.. Where are you fr? Chelsea.. What street were you from? Clark Avenue. What street were you from? Clark Avenue. And then when I brought him home to meet my mother for the first time what did he do? He spoke Yiddish to her! She was in love with him within 30 seconds and I swear she loved him even more than I did. It was a love from the first moment that they met. We always did stuff for Jewish causes. We always had an Israel bond.. A patient died, we bought a tree in Israel even for the patients who were Goyim who were not Jewish- because even their families appreciated that their loved one was remembered by us by something that would grow in the Israel. So it always meant something to us. Our kids went to Jewish day school. But then Mark Gelfand outside here as we left one Shabbos said: “Ros, there’s this group that you might be interested in, they’re doing a trip to Israel, why don’t you come?” So I did. Alan did not want to. I did. And that was my first trip with the Friends of the IDF. Who knew I would stand overlooking Syria with the general that made the decision to fight to bogus fight and save Israel in the Yom Kippur War when they had no tanks left and he pretended that there were tanks and he described the battle.. We flew from one end of Israel to the other from the Golan Heights to Gaza and met the soldiers and met the people. It was an amazing mission. And I came home with my heart on fire- as Hannah Senesh would say-with a spark. And I said to Alan: “You know, we can sponsor a soldier who has finished his service to go to university-let’s do it.” I said “How do you thank the first Jewish army in 2000 years? With an education! Because you don’t just lift him, you lift his children, you lift his wife, you lift a family!” So this became our mission. And I like to say.. who knew, Alan, he must be laughing.. it became his legacy. Because you don’t know how people will remember you.. You know we live here we’re like a blade of grass that grows and then we’re done. But how are you remembered? Alan is remembered for being a philanthropist who supported the education of kids who were willing to die to defend the Jewish people. And so that’s how I remember him and that’s how the family remembers him. And there is a scholarship that will forever be in his name and in my parents’ names with the FIDF. We had sponsored 60 years of scholarships when he passed away. I became elevated to different roles.. The National Board of the Friends of the IDF, Vice Chair of the New England Board. And then one day one of the JNF people said, “There are some people we would like you to meet.” And they came to our home. One was a girl from Sderot whose life had been totally uprooted by the stress and the terror of having rockets come down at any time day or night, 15 seconds to get to a shelter. Another was a woman Michal she was in charge of the Eshkol region Otef Aza the Gaza envelope. And another was someone who became a friend Yedidya Haroush. And he said how they were building communities outside in the area near Sderot.. Halutza was his community. And I found Halutza olive oil to use for Pesach one year! You look for these things! And so I said “Alan, I know we do scholarships for the FIDF. I want to be able to say: “What have I done for Israel today? Today I planted a tree in Israel!” So I said “That’s it, Alan.. we’re going to plant a tree in Israel every day for the rest of our lives..” And we continue to do that. I said there needs to be a level of giving that is $3650 a tree a day. If you buy more than one it’s $10. Then I got connected with ZOA. Rabbi Pritzker started a little group of Zionists from the official umbrella of ZOA and she spoke and it was so heartwarming! It was somebody who was unapologetic about being Jewish and wanting to live in a Jewish homeland and have a Jewish people be able to walk free. And I was so impressed, I was so inspired that I started connecting to ZOA. And then I heard Mort Klein.. and Mort Klein I must say is my hero. I listen to his speeches once, twice, three times because everything he says is just to me so moving. So I went on the ZOA mission to Washington when we were still doing that and argued for Israel about the dangers of Iran. I remember I made a list of all the attacks that Iran has carried out since they took over.. And let me tell you there are a lot of American soldiers who have been killed by Iran, not just Jews, not just Argentina.
Then we went on a mission to Israel last year. And I was so moved. Here was a mission right before Covid erupted. We went to Hebron! I wanted to go to two places- Hebron and Sderot. Hebron to pray at Maarat Hamachpela because we tried a lot of treatments for Alan-you know he was ill- and I said how can it hurt to go to Maarat Hamachpela and pray for my husband and pray for my grandchildren and I did. And we went to Sderot and they bombed a playground in Sderot- actually the roads were blocked and it was a matter of would they let us in or not..We got clearance that morning to go in and I stood at the playground that Hamas had bombed the day before and this is what our children have to endure.. And the world doesn’t care! 4369 rockets- who cares? They don’t care about us.. you know that. And we need to support the people who stand with us.. We need to support the people who defend us. So I went to Hebron where Avraham bought a piece of land 3800 years ago, where King David ruled for 7 years 3000 years ago and where Jews to this day go every Shabbat to celebrate. ZOA to me is fearless. They have stood for the rights of Jews everywhere, the rights of Jewish students on campus who are harassed, attacked.. I am a Mort Klein Zionist. That’s how I define myself. His voice is the singular voice on the American stage that proudly recalls our Jewish history, fearlessly calls out Jew-hatred, even in Congress, and stands up for Israel and steadfastly decries our enemies. Other Jewish leaders cower before our enemies, ignoring their blatant antisemitism. My goal with ZOA a personal goal my next goal is to unite the million or maybe 1.5 million Jews in this country who love Israel, Jews who feel that Israel has the right to exist, the right to defend herself, that Jewish students have the right not to be ashamed of being Jewish on college campuses. My Bubi who survived the Shoah (one did, one didn’t) said.. her dying words: Sie Stalz! Be proud! Be proud of who we are! Be proud of what we’ve done! And I want our children to feel that way. American Jews need ZOA..We need everything.. We need a lot but we need to be united! We need to stand together and I like to say when many threads come together a rope is strong. So I came up with -first time I’ve said it openly-10 ways that YOU can do something for Israel today. 1) BUY ISRAEL! Buy something from Israel.. Have a bottle of Israeli wine- it’s a little bit more expensive than two Buck Chuck I know -but have it on your Shabbat table.. We’re not doing parties anymore. Alan was the master of tequila parties. Have something from Israel on the table. The Halutza olive oil.. something.. Go to the Butcherie..Sodastream I’m proud my kids have Sodastream.. the fruit, the dates, the honey, the wine, the olive oil. Buy in stores that support Israel. Baza the Russian store -I love it- because one day I walked in -in the middle of when they were trying to have Trader Joe’s boycott Israel (which they didn’t do so I shop there too)- and Baza had a little sign “minicukes from Israel.” I took a picture of the sign and said “I am buying from this store every week as long as I’m here” because they were willing to not just import from Israel but to announce that it was from Israel..There is also something called Amazon.smile, apparently they will donate 0.5% at no charge to anyone if you designate a charity. So designate FIDF or JNF or one of the Jewish charities that makes a difference- it’s free! It’s a way you can benefit Israel just by living your life without any cost to you. 2) GO TO ISRAEL! I know we don’t travel now.. Covid.. I already have planned my 2 missions for next year to Israel, G-d-willing that Covid recedes. I call it: “Praying with your feet!” You know in the Shalosh Regalim Jews had to come to Jerusalem 3 times year-that wasn’t easy! All we do is hop on a plane -you know, when it’s safe-hop on a plane, go to Israel and we’re there. When the Yemenite Jews were taken out of Yemen, they had never seen a plane. They thought the biblical prophecy -Al kanfei nisharim-was coming true.. On the wings of eagles they flew! This is what we do! Everyday we can go, get on a plane, go to Israel. Israel needs us! In the year before Covid there were 4.51 million tourists in Israel. And in the year of Covid: 360,000. So Israel’s economy, the tourist industry-shut down. A friend of mine just came back, she went on an FIDF mission, and the cab driver that she got told her she was the first fare he had in two years! Israel needs us! So when it’s safe to go, let’s get there! I’m going! 3) FIGHT FOR ISRAEL! You get emails I’m sure in which it says sign here, protest this.. Just do it! Nike has that thing- just do it! For Israel, just do it. Because if you say I’ll do this later you won’t get back to it, you won’t remember the email. Just do it because our voices matter! Stand up, protest, fight for Israel every chance you can! Macy’s went ahead and boycotted Israel with SodaStream. I have never set foot in a Macy’s again.. Ben & Jerry’s you know said no Judea and Samaria. Macy’s- I wasn’t smart enough to write letters and complain, Ben & Jerry’s- I was. I did.. Unilever.. I made a list of their products and said I will never buy them again, I will never eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream again. Ben by the way- his name comes from Binyamin the tribe of Benjamin, that is the region in Shomron, in Samaria.. so his namesake that he’s named for is in Shomron so kind of funny that he would deny his own name. 4) THANK THE JEWISH ARMY: FIDF is one of the ways, it’s the official charity of the IDF.. You can give them a scholarship, you can give them a gym, you can give them a Shul.. Alan’s friend Elliot Honig renovates Shuls for the soldiers. Or you can give a lone soldier a ticket home to visit their parents. 5) PLANT A TREE: Once a day-that’s me, once a week, once a month.. when something good happens.. when something bad happens.. Think of Israel! 6) BUY AN ISRAEL BOND: Give Israel bonds as gifts.. wedding gifts, Bar Mitzvah gifts.. I have a line: “We break the glass to celebrate, now gift a bond to build the State!” Make everything.. think of it.. how can it enhance Israel? 7) NOURISH YOUR FRIENDS WHO LOVE ISRAEL! Join together! Watch a movie.. share a Chanukah party.. Do something.. Have Yiddishkeit and Israel be the center of our lives. 8) SEND KIDS TO COLLEGE WITH ZIONIST KNOWLEDGE: 23% of kids going to college think that Israel has committed genocide because of the lies people in this society and around the world perpetrate just like Nazis against us.. Israel does not commit genocide! Israel has the most moral army in human history! They knock on the roof of a building that has Hamas terrorists in it to make sure the civilians can get out, they call them on their cellphones, they send fliers down to warn them.. No army in human history has ever tried harder to minimize.. and they abort missions when they see there are kids in a playground or a kindergarten and they find that out the mission is aborted! Be very proud of who we are! 9) Join organizations that love Israel.. 10) Don’t support organizations that don’t love Israel.. STOP donating to universities that have Israel apartheid week.. Harvard my Alma mater invited Erekat (who then died of Covid) from the Palestinian Authority to come and speak as a “peacemaker”-he’s a peacemaker who came up with “pay for slay,” a peacemaker that says kill the Jews, we’ll pay you, the more you kill the more we’ll pay you. And that’s who Harvard decided they would invite..Tufts made a course “Colonizing Palestine.“ When universities do that, don’t give them donations! Use the donations to ZOA, to JNF, to FIDF, to CAMERA, to Honest Reporting, to Palestinian Media Watch, to the organizations that stand with us.. not the ones like unfortunately ADL that can’t even say progressive antisemitism or Muslim antisemitism.. We have friends in the Arab world and in the Muslim communities and the ones that want us ripped apart are not our friends. So we have to know who our friends are and we have to know who we can support.. Finally, no matter what you do- even the littlest thing that you do for Israel- don’t ever think that whatever you do is too little. Because did my father ever imagine that a child in whom he instilled a Zionist heart at the kitchen table in Chelsea buying an Israel bond would someday serve on the national boards of ZOA and FIDF and Boston JNF? Planting trees and educating soldiers and fighting for Israel? Just do it! You have no idea what the impact will be down the line!..
So please.. One dinner! You would spend a nice amount of money on going out to dinner. Devote.. donate one dinner to any of these Jewish causes!