Chesed Center in Hewlett expands to support and supply Israel


Support for Israel continues to grow in the Five Towns. The IDF Chesed Center, a grass-roots distribution site that sends tactical supplies to Israel Defense Force soldiers and resources to displaced Israeli families, has outgrown its small warehouse on Mill Street, in Lawrence, and moved into a larger one on Peninsula Boulevard, in Hewlett.

“We’ve kind of kicked it up a notch,” Marc Bodner, a co-founder of the center, said.

The Israel support organization moved into an old bank building at 1315 Peninsula Blvd. in December. Many of the volunteers previously worked with the organization Soldiers Save Lives, but recently created the Chesed Center to serve as more of a community center, Bodner explained.

The projects in the works there include sending equipment, such as helmets and protective vests, to members of the IDF; mailing sympathy and support cards to Israel; packing baby clothes and diapers for the children of Israeli widows, or women whose husbands remain Hamas hostages; and raising money for, and arranging Shabbat meals for soldiers.

“People don’t know how to help — we’re trying to get the community involved,” Bodner said. “They wanted to be a part of the war effort, and writing a check didn’t help to do that.”

The center has also introduced programming including Shabbats, informational presentations held by rabbis and IDF members, musical events, and volunteer nights open to anyone looking to help.

“We’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible with all the synagogues in the area and all the public schools,” Bodner said. “Whether you’re Jewish or not Jewish, anyone that sees what’s going on and wants to help is welcome to.”

On Feb. 13, Rabbi Nochem Tenenboim, of Chabad of Hewlett, invited Hewlett High School students and other teens from across Long Island to volunteer night to write notes to IDF members paint an Israeli flag on the Chesed Center wall and share dinner.

“As the rabbi in the Hewlett community, I will direct people to the various options available to help with kindness, and that includes this wonderful place,” Tenenboim wrote in an email.

Adi Carucci and Sara Matathias, two Chesed Center volunteers, contacted Tenenboim after learning of the center to see about getting more people, and specifically local teens, involved.

“Once you’re in a room like this and see duffel bags, it just makes it all the more real and more impactful for the teenagers, especially,” Matathias said, “so they can see the connection between the work they’re doing and where it’s actually going.”

“It doesn’t matter what they do,” Carucci added. “They just need to feel connected.”

Uriel Hillel and Harel Maman, Hewlett High freshmen, said they wanted to show their support for Israel by volunteering. “It makes me feel great,” Hillel said.

Jeff Eisenberg, another co-founder of the center, said that it also hosts birthday parties, bar mitzvahs and other celebrations at which those who would like to get involved can lend a hand.

“We want life to happen here,” Eisenberg said.

The IDF center now has someone managing its calendar, because of its busy schedule, he said.

It hosted a unity Shabbat last Thursday through Sunday, with programs and activities including packing gear, letter writing, music, speakers from the IDF and more to bring people together and continue recruiting volunteers.