By the time they arrived in shul on Shabbat/Simchat Torah morning, Rabbi Noam and Shifra Friedman, the JLIC Mizrachi educators at Reichman University in Herzliya, knew something unusual was taking place.
First, there were the sirens.
Then there was the religious soldier who told Rabbi Friedman during davening that he would have to excuse himself from the prayer service to take part in a Zoom meeting to get call-up orders for his unit that was being mobilized.
About forty of the Reichman University community’s students were called up immediately; many of the reserves being called up were lone soldiers from overseas.
In the first days after the start of the war, the Friedmans took on a wide variety of new duties—determining the physical needs of soldiers, especially those with a connection to Reichman University, at bases throughout the country; locating, buying and delivering equipment, which required them and their cadre of volunteers to drive thousands of kilometers; opening their home to students and organizing several kumzitzes and Tehillim groups.
The fall semester at Reichman University, which was to start the week after the chagim were over, was indefinitely postponed, a recognition of the country’s suddenly highest priorities. The students now had free time on their hands. “It wasn’t just us,” said Shifra in a telephone interview at the start of the war’s second week. Many of the young men and women offered their time. They drove their own cars, or borrowed friends’ cars, to transport soldiers, equipment and fresh meals or pizzas to the IDF bases.
One of the most noteworthy requests the couple received, from a soldier already at his base, was for seventy green water-resistant rain jackets, Shifra said. The weather was changing in early October and rain was in the air; the soldiers would be needing this article of clothing.
Where do you find so many green rain jackets on such short notice?
The Friedmans’ circle of volunteers knew. They drove to many stores, and found the required amount of jackets. “By the next morning,” Shifra says, “the jackets were at the base.”
Steve Lipman is a frequent contributor to Jewish Action.