Chabad of Hewlett, Hewlett United for Israel and Toys for Simcha join mission to Israel

Chabad of Hewlett collaborates with other organizations


Jewish communities came together to show solidarity with Israel earlier this month. Members of Chabad of Hewlett, Hewlett United for Israel and Toys for Simcha joined forces to head overseas and help relieve hardships in Israeli communities.

“Since Oct. 7, obviously all feelings and actions have been more intense,” Jay Saltzman, a Hewlett resident who traveled with the group, said, referring to Hamas’s attacks on Israel.

The trip’s itinerary for the group of about 15, half of whom were from the Five Towns, included delivering care packages to members of the Israel Defense Forces on the Gaza border, meeting with families of fallen soldiers, packing food at pantries for those in need, touring a Chabad house and a local police station, and visiting the site of the Nova Music Festival, where some of the attacks occurred.

“The journey was very special and will remain with us in our memory forever,” Rabbi Nochem Tenenboim, of Chabad of Hewlett, wrote in an email.

Saltzman is a member of Hewlett United for Israel and Chabad of Hewlett. Hewlett United for Israel, a nonpartisan grass-roots organization, was founded in June 2022 to battle antisemitism. Saltzman said he found speaking with IDF soldiers and seeing the aftermath of the Hamas attacks to be especially moving.

“You can follow what’s going on there,” he said. “It’s a very different reality when you stand on the kibbutz, right on the Gaza border.”

One Israeli man who spoke with the group said he had rescued nearly 350 music festival attendees on Oct. 7, loading them into his truck and taking them to safety, all while traveling unarmed.

“The bravery of the common people there — it’s hard to describe,” Saltzman said.

He said he also appreciated being able to pick fruit on a strawberry farm to be sold the next day. “It really felt like I was helping out,” he said. “The fellow that owns the strawberry farm has had no workers since the war broke out.”

The group also hosted a barbecue for active soldiers at an army base, eating, chatting and dancing with them.

“The young men and women were amazing,” Saltzman said. “They know what they’re fighting for, and they’re very dedicated.”

J.J. Hecht, president of Toys for Simcha, an organization that donates toys to hospitalized children in Israel, also went on the trip. Toys for Simcha, which is headquartered in New York City, widened its mission after Oct. 7, to help children in need throughout Israel, hospitalized or not.

The barbecue, Hecht said, gave him new perspective on what is happening in Israel.

“That was a really happy experience — that was a really positive experience,” he said, recalling the uplifting energy of the younger soldiers. “We left the army base with a tremendous amount of hope.”

This was the largest mission Toys for Simcha had been part of since the start of the war, Hecht said, this being the biggest group their organization had traveled with. And Hecht gave a dollhouse and drone to two children.

The group stayed in a hotel in Jerusalem where the government placed families who were displaced from their homes on the Gaza border.

“Nobody talks about it, but there are internal refugees all over the country,” Saltzman said.

In the hotel, the displaced Israeli children were up late at night, playing soccer and other games and doing puzzles in the hallways.

“You really just want to talk to the kids and give them a hug,” Saltzman said.

Tenenboim noted that this is one of the most challenging times Israelis have faced. “Israel is amazing in its beauty,” he wrote, “and we found that the spirit and devotion of the people are so strong.”