October 7th, 2023.
War breaks out across Israel, the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust leaves thousands dead, hundreds missing or captured, and an entire nation mourning.
The world prays for the release of the hostages.
Zaka works to bestow dignity on the buried.
Refugees spill toward the country’s center; communities open their arms wide to gather them in.
And what of the other victims?
Israel called up 360 000 reservists, men with lives and wives and children. Men with jobs and shuls and careers. All abandoned, left behind as they joined this war.
And that left an estimated one million children in Israel without fathers at home to help them with homework, drive them to school, eat supper with them or kiss them goodnight. 300,000 wives who are now doing it all, alone, without the paychecks their husbands usually bring in.
They are the silent victims. The victims of a terrible war that has snatched their regular lives from them.
And while there were packages and letters for the soldiers on duty, carnivals and clothing drives for the displaced families, and memorials for those killed, for the families of the reservists, there was virtually nothing.
From World Pandemic to World War
Rabbi Yosef Ettlinger and his wife, Faigie, are doers. Where others speculate and dream, the Etllingers delegate and do.
When Covid shut down the world and children and families were stuck at home with nothing to do, The Ettlingers initiated GoBidud, an organization providing comfort packages and food for those in quarantine.
When people couldn’t be in contact, and all interactions were six feet apart, GoBidud was the virtual hug that kept families going, with subsidized meals, care packages, and toys for children.
The night after Simchas Torah, Rabbi Ettlinger, a rebbi in Aish HaTorah, member of Sanhedria Murchevet’s Minyan Avreichim was walking home from shul with his Rav, Rav Yitzchak Berkovitz, Rosh Yeshivas Aish HaTorah, when the Rosh Yeshivah turned to him. “Your name has become synonymous with chesed,” he said. “You have to do something for Am Yisrael now. It’s up to you.”
It was a huge responsibility to be placed on the shoulders of one man, but with Faigie behind him and an incredible community ready to help, Rav Ettlinger didn’t back down from the challenge.
Reminiscent of Covid era, he reinstated subsidized foods, as schools were closed, the store shelves were empty of most proteins, and the Anglo communities were hanging by a thread of emotional stability.
That morphed into sending pizzas to those directly affected, families of soldiers headed to war.
Right away, the Ettlinger home also became the drop-off center for items collected for soldiers and displaced families; helmets, vests, food and clothing.
One night, a woman called up Faigie and said she had twenty-five babkas she wanted to donate to the wives of chayalim on duty. Faigie found families to send them to but then she realized: why not also send them Shabbos meals?
And GoChesed exploded.
Doing His Part
Having raised already close to 150,000 dollars and climbing, GoBidud/GoChesed allocates some of their funds to people in the south, refugees, local families who are crushing under the stress and anxiety, but with the lion’s share directed toward reservists’ families.
“We feed and emotionally support the wives and children of soldiers, the women and children on the home-front suffering from anxiety and war trauma struggling to keep emotional and functionally stable homes,” Rabbi Ettlinger explains.
“We also hire refugees from the South to do household work by underprivileged overwhelmed Jerusalem families, but most prominently; we adopt communities of women whose husbands are in miluim and arrange homemade and catered weekday meals, childcare and household help, homemade food and goodies for Shabbos from a sister community; facilitating positive relationships and ahavat chinam between the two communities.
The most historically exciting developments, says Rabbi Ettlinger are the reciprocal intra-community unity activities underway. As one recipient wrote. “You are rectifying the sin of mechirat yosef!” Win, win, win.”
GoBidud/Go Chesed has long term goals as well to the tune of well over 1 million dollars, understanding that there are and will be alot of pieces that have to be picked up emotionally, educationally, and domestically (shalom bayis) – the damage won’t miraculously disappear the day the war is over.
The reservists from Eibei Hanachal, Tzur Hadasa, Kfar Eldad, Modiin, Susya, Maon, Nokdim, RBS, Jerusalem, and more have gone out to protect us. Their wives stay at home, on the literal Homefront, keeping their lives running, alone and lonely, with no partner to lean on.
Chanuka came and went and for these families there was no father to light the menorah.
GoBidud/GoChesed arranged parties to light up the children’s lives with pecklach, pizza and entertainment. The many thousands of dollars per party spent went a long way in brightening these dark days,
“We need to show these amazing families the the hakaras hatov and love they deserve,” Rabbi Ettlinger says. “Show them we care. Show them that you remember them juggling it all alone as you go about your day.”
Am Yisrael is incredible, he says. They rise to the occasion, again and again and again.
So one more time:
Stand up for the silent victims of this terrible war.
Go forth and Go Chesed.
To get a glimpse at some of the other war efforts GoBidud/GoChesed has been involved with click here https://mishpacha.com/the-moment-issue-991/.