Lower Merion Synagogue held its 3rd Annual Bake4Israel late last month. LMS, a diverse and strongly Zionistic congregation with a high rate of aliyah, service in the Israeli Defense Force and study in Israel. LMS is the largest Orthodox synagogue in Pennsylvania.
Three years ago, LMS members and Jews around the world were horrified by the wave of stabbings and other terror attacks in Israel. Tehillim gatherings were held regularly, but there was a need to do more, and the LMS Bake4Israel initiative was born.
LMS Rabbi Avraham Shmidman noted, “the Bake Sale raises funds to help combat terror in Israel. It also heightens awareness of the ongoing attacks Israelis face; provides our community with a positive and active response, and breeds unity within our shul family when our enemies seek to destroy and divide us.”
Each year, people of all ages bake in their homes or at the shul, and donate their baked goods to the event. The Bake Sale’s tables overflow with cookies, cakes, challahs and other delicious items. In 2015 and 2016, the proceeds funded mobile medical kits and trauma bags for United Hatzalah volunteers.
This year’s Bake4Israel brought a heartbreaking reminder of why this initiative began. While the volunteers were wrapping baked goods and setting up the tables, the news broke of the murder of 19-year-old IDF soldier Ron Yitzhak Kukia. The shul is donating this year’s proceeds in memory of Ron Yizhak a”h to fund an emergency trauma kit for a United Hatzalah volunteer in Tel Aviv where the Kukia family lives.
“I began organizing the LMS Bake4Israel Sale while my son was a tzanchan, often exclaiming Mi K’amcha Yisrael at the things he shared. Co-chairing this event with my daughter Rebecca and other wonderful women has shown me how our community feels so strongly connected to Israel, even from 6,000 miles away,” said Debbi Frankel, one of the Bake4Israel co-chairs.
“People are eager to give their time, money, and resources. The baking brings joy, knowing the tzedakah it raises benefits Israel’s first responders. This year, the joy is coupled with deep mourning as we lost one of our soldiers on the very day of the event — May his soul rest in peace,” Frankel added.
It is a beautiful sight, seeing children proudly arrive with their baked goods, sometimes suggesting prices for $100 per cookie because “it’s for Israel.”
Another co-chair, Lori Salkin, chimed in: “The outpouring of support from our entire community is incredible. I feel honored, in our third year, to be part of a program that continues to grow, and which reminds us all that Klal Yisrael can always help each other. Even a simple act such as baking challah with your children can have a meaningful impact.”
When asked what makes this project unique, Rebecca Frankel Adlerstein responded, “Every year we all look forward to welcoming the families as they drop off their baked goods, with huge smiles on the children’s faces because they too took part. Teaching our children that we are forever Am Yisroel Chai! Until it is our turn to return home, we will continue doing all that we can to help.”
Gwen Horowitz, LMS executive director, told JewishPress.com that she “hopes other shuls will be inspired to host similar events which not only raise needed funds for the Jewish State, but provide young people with the modelling needed to begin acting on their love for Israel from an early age.”
United Hatzalah of Israel is the largest independent, non-profit, fully volunteer Emergency Medical Service organization that provides the fastest and free emergency medical first response throughout Israel.