This past year, I had the privilege to spend the year in Israel where I learned in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, commonly referred to as KBY. Considering that I was away from my family and friends in America for a full year, I made many long, international phone calls. I was invariably asked the question, “What’s new in yeshiva?” In the beginning of the year, this was a great question to start a long conversation, appropriate considering the novelty of the yeshiva experience. However, as the year went on and I fell into a routine, the question became harder to answer. “You know, we learned this week… Ya, I know that’s what we did last week… and the week before…”. However, something I experienced my last day in yeshiva was definitely out of my ordinary routine and prompted me to write this article.
This past Thursday, July 9, I accompanied my mashgiach, Rabbi Davidson, on his delivery route for Yad Yissachar. Yad Yissachar is a tzedaka organization started by members of KBY with the goal of maximizing the number of people they help by having the lowest overhead possible. The organization provides a variety of services for underprivileged families in the Ashdod area. The main service that they provide is delivering food packages for Shabbos, similar to Tomchei Shabbos. Just like Tomchei Shabbos, Yad Yissachar has volunteers, namely the talmidim and avreichim (rabbinical students) of the yeshiva, who pack and deliver the food packages to families. Every week on Wednesday, my peers and I would assist in packing the packages. Occasionally, I would also go with my mashgiach on his route, dropping off food packages for Shabbos to various families, who ranged across the spectrum of Israeli society, from secular to Charedi, from native-born Israelis to immigrants. Anyway, our trip on Thursday was mostly routine, we had our bags to deliver to 15 families in Ashdod and we drove around delivering them. However, since it was the last week of yeshiva, we were tasked with informing the recipient families that the Shabbos packages would not be delivered the upcoming three weeks. This interruption was due to a very simple reason: Bein Hazmanim, the yeshiva summer break. Since the yeshiva’s talmidim are not available to pack, the organization is forced to suspend their services during this time. It was rather uncomfortable to notify the families of this development. Although Rabbi Davidson did the talking, it was still disheartening for me to see the disappointed reactions on their faces. Even worse was when we had to instruct the children who answered the door to inform their parents that packages wouldn’t be delivered the next three weeks.
On the way back, I asked Rabbi Davidson why Yad Yissachar wasn’t able to hire substitutes to package the bags for the three weeks of Bein Hazmanim. He answered me that the organization did not have the ability to fund such an operation. Even with the three week Bein Hazmanim break, Yad Yissachar struggles week to week to obtain the funds to finance the food for their operation.
As a person who witnessed firsthand the impact of this special organization, I feel a responsibility to spread awareness. Yad Yissachar is an organization created solely for the purpose of helping other Jews, regardless of their religious status or country of origin. Especially during the Nine Days, a time where we mourn, among other things, the Second Beis Hamikdash, which was destroyed as a result of Sinas Chinam, assisting Yad Yissachar is a great opportunity to help fellow Jews and spread Ahavas Yisrael.
To learn more about Yad Yissachar please visit their website, tzdaka.com. (Since this is an organization with a focus on minimizing costs, the website is not state of the art but they do have an English option.) Tax-deductible donations can be given through the website or through israelgives.org (search yad yissachar).
By Shmuel Kaplan
Shmuel Kaplan spent the past year learning in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh. He plans on returning this upcoming year for Shanah Bet. (Even though his phone calls might not have always been the most exciting, his parents are still giving him the privilege of returning to Kerem B’Yavneh for Shanah Bet.)