East Hills donation drive collects more than 100 duffel bags of supplies for Israeli troops

East Hills donation drive collects more than 100 duffel bags of supplies for Israeli troops
Children from the Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation hold up their drawings to be sent to Israeli soldiers. (Photo courtesy of Clara Pomerantz)

In the wake of the war in Israel, community members have begun gathering donations for Israeli soldiers to fill more than 100 duffel bags tailored for specific troops and their needs.

“Right now [time] is of the essence because you don’t know if the soldiers are going into Gaza right now,” East Hills Trustee Clara Pomerantz said. “So if it’s tomorrow, they need this stuff.”

The collection drive is being coordinated by Pomerantz alongside Stephanie Small, a congregant of the Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation.

Pomerantz was born in Israel, moving to the United States at the age of six, with much of her family still living in her birth country. She said this is why she was so passionate about taking up this project.

She said through familial connections to Israel she was able to learn about the needs of the IDF troops and receive lists of items in demand.

“So every day they’re asking for different things,” Pomerantz said.

Israeli soldiers holding up student drawings they received in their duffel bags. (Photo courtesy of Clara Pomerantz)

Pomerantz said she joined efforts with the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center to collect donations for IDF troops, with the JCC focusing on wound care and Pomerantz’s drive collecting tactical gear.

In tandem with tactical gear, Pomerantz said they are also collecting wound care, food, sleeping bags, waterproof clothes and hygiene products.

Individuals have been dropping off donations at high volumes, Pomerantz said, as well as purchasing items through their Amazon wishlist.

Included in the duffel bags are cards from students at the Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation’s religious school, of which Pomerantz is the director of.

Each duffel bag packed is designated for a specific troop, filled with items they have specifically requested.

“It’s tailored to whoever needs what,” Pomerantz said.

Included in the requests are minute details, including shoe sizes for specific soldiers.

“We’re packing a size nine, we’re packing a size 10 and my daughter and I are looking at each other,” Pomerantz said about a time when she went shopping for requested items. “We had the same idea: we don’t know if this soldier is going to come out alive and here we are packing his boots.”

More than 100 bags have been sent so far to Israeli troops, each weighing upwards of 80 pounds. Pomerantz said they have also raised more than $7,000.

The duffel bags are sent to Israel via two methods: on a cargo flight that departs twice a day or with individuals who are flying to Israel.

Through the cargo flights, Pomerantz said more than 60 duffel bags have been sent to Israel.

But the problem with this method is that when the bags arrive in Israel they end up sitting at the airport for a few days until it is cleared by security and can be sent to the troops.

Pomerantz said the upside of sending the bags with individuals is that they do not have to wait at the airport to be processed and can be given more quickly to the troops.

Pomerantz said coordinating this collection drive was something that just fell together through her connections in Israel and here on Long Island.

“I just found out from phone calls and connections and people [saying] ‘call him, call her,’” Pomerantz said. “You call five people and you end up with the right thing.”

The coordination of the donation collection and shipping requires intense planning and around-the-clock devotion by volunteers, Pomerantz said, with an individual at the airport for every shipment to handle the bag clearance.

While she said conducting this donation drive can at times be sad and emotionally tolling, it’s worth it to provide for the troops.

“It’s an urgent thing,” Pomerantz said. “It’s urgent.”

Pomerantz said it is nice to see the community come together, thanking Mayor Michael Koblenz and Rabbi Michael Stanger for their support.

Donations can be dropped off at the Village Hall, the East Hills Theater or the Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation in the designated bins. Individuals can also contribute through the collection’s Amazon wishlist.

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