Paper Shields

Some came in fancy, polished metal cases, some in plain plastic ones. A few showed up sans protective cases, the Hebrew letters shin and daled and yud plainly visible on the outside of small parchment sheets.

For four days last week, dozens of mezuzot were left, usually anonymously at night, in a child’s small, bright red plastic container. The container sat in the corner of Rabbi Yehuda and Laurie Minchenberg’s front porch, behind a potted plant, up four brick-lined steps on a quiet side street in Passaic, New Jersey.

The Minchenbergs had offered to serve as a drop-off site for an impromptu “IDF Mezuzah Project,” a grassroots campaign that began in the wake of the Gaza War. Its goal: to provide mezuzot for the doorposts of every Israeli Army base, as a form of Divine protection for the soldiers in their ongoing battle against Hamas terrorists.

The campaign was initiated on short notice by Rabbi Menachem Kahn, a rosh Kollel and mezuzah expert who lives in Brooklyn’s heavily Charedi Flatbush neighborhood.

In a conversation with an Israeli colleague shortly after the war started, Rabbi Kahn learned that many IDF bases—largely for budgetary reasons—lacked a sufficient number of kosher mezuzot.

The rabbi decided to collect them, have them checked by trained sofrim (Torah scribes), send them to Israel and mount them on IDF doorposts as soon as possible.

While many Jews and non-Jew have supported Israel, both in the country and in the Diaspora, through physical acts like contributing money, volunteering for army service and donating their professional skills, mezuzot add a spiritual dimension to Israel’s defense.

“We believe that a mezuzah adds extra protection,” says Miriam Sheril, who coordinated the mezuzah collection effort at four sites in the Passaic/Clifton area.

As of early last week, volunteers in more than a dozen US and Canadian cities—like the Minchenbergs—had collected enough scrolls and financial contributions, to send at least 5,000 mezuzot to Israel, Rabbi Kahn says. “Every day we’re getting more . . . the campaign just took off.” He will keep going, he says, as long as the donated mezuzot keep coming in.

Rabbi Kahn has spread the word about his mezuzah-drive largely vis social media, via his Merkaz HaSeforim organization.

“We’re just answering a need,” Rabbi Kahn says. “Every single door on a base needs a mezuzah.

“A mezuzah,” he says, “is a shmira for the soldier, a protection. It’s like a helmet.”

“The IDF has not replaced most of its [missing or non-kosher] mezuzot scrolls . . . on IDF army bases,” according to Or LaChayal which has worked to provide mezuzot to IDF sites for several years.

Rabbi Kahn says several sofrim have offered to inspect the donated mezuzot at no or heavily discounted fees, and a Toronto graphic artist designed the online “IDF Mezuzah Project” brochure for free.

The donated mezuzot appear to be “in good condition,” says Rabbi Minchenberg, who teaches at Yeshivat Noam, in Paramus, near Passaic. He says he was “shocked” by the outpouring of support for the mezuzah drive. He had doubted if members of the Jewish community had “lots of [extra] kosher mezuzos lying around.”

Apparently, they do.

Making the Minchenberg home available as a drop-off venue is “easy chesed,” says Laurie, a special education teacher who has many family members and friends in Eretz Israel. “It’s the least I can do.”

“I feel a little guilty sitting here,” safely in the United States, while Israel came under attack, she says.

But she wasn’t just sitting.

Steve Lipman is a frequent contributor to Jewish Action.

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