Neeli (Axler) Engelhart, ’94
Physician Assistant; Lecturer at Machon Tal/the Jerusalem College of Technology
We have been involved in the Lone Soldier Home in Modiin, named Beit Almog Shiloni, for a few years, so the place and the soldiers were known to us even before Covid. We have had our boys choose an organization the year before their Bar Mitzvahs and we have worked with the organization to create a chessed project the boys can do for the entire year leading up to their Bar Mitzvah. As we approached our third son, Max’s, Bar mitzvah he wanted to concentrate his chessed on the soldiers at Beit Almog. We brainstormed with the people at Beit Almog and had a bunch of ideas, well, then came Corona and many of the plans were thrown out the window. As we entered the new world of Corona we shifted our ideas and it became a family project for the year and we have tried to also make it a series of projects that his friends can be involved in helping with.
At first, we saw an opportunity to get involved in a local organization, at the start it was buying lulavim for the soldiers on Sukkot a few years ago, but then we decided to get more involved and Max wanted to do more for these soldiers. With Covid and lockdowns, the length of time the soldiers are away from home can extend to 30 days. We want them to get treats while they are on base and to have treats when they get home for Shabbat. In addition, getting Max and his friends involved has been an incredible way to usher them in to being Jewish adults. Learning to be Oskim Btzarchei Tzibur, as lesson we hope they will take with them even after they finish learning their leining.
We have done baking for the soldiers, we have done food delivery when they are home for Shabbat, we have done food packages that were delivered to their army bases and we have also done a few nonfood related fundraising activities. There are eight lone soldiers currently living in the 2 homes in Modiin. When we made aliyah we said partly we did so to ensure that our sons would not be lone soldiers. We figured if we sent them to Tziyoni schools and camps they would want to come to Israel, so we decided to come with them and make our dream a reality years before our boys were thinking about the army. We feel connected to these soldiers, who chose to make this move and serve our country alone. We want to do everything we can to make them feel at home and to make them feel taken care of.
My parents always showed us by example, the importance of community involvement. The chessed programs at Ida Crown allowed me the chance to get involved in community projects and to learn to balance the chessed projects and my own work/school commitments.