April 23, 2019

Yachad Fills Passover Boxes for Jewish U.S. Troops

Six of the dozens of Passover boxes made by Yachad participants and volunteers April 8 that will be sent off to Jewish members in the military. Photo by Erin Ben-Moche

Amid blasting music and a stack of mostly empty pizza boxes, the teens and 20-somethings at the National Council of Synagogue Youth’s West Coast headquarters on Pico Boulevard looked like they were indulging in a regular get-together.

But the 15 young people were participating in an important project spearheaded by Yachad Los Angeles — putting together Passover boxes for Jewish soldiers in the U.S. armed forces. Inside the boxes were packages of matzo, grape juice, kosher-for-Passover candy, chocolates and a personalized note from the volunteers. 

“We did an event like this for Hanukkah and it went really well, so we figured this would be the easiest and fastest way to help again for Pesach,” said Yachad L.A. Director Monica Kohan Rukhman. “At Yachad, we help others and make them feel included, so it made sense to help Jewish people in the military.” 

Yachad (which means together) is a global organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities and creating inclusive environments for them within the Jewish community. The organization also provides resources for people of all ages, including Shabbatons, parent support groups, professional programs, dating classes and summer camps. 

“We are giving different things such as food, candles, a mini haggadah and a note with our love and support.” — Rebecca Wizman

For this event, Yachad partnered with Rabbi David Becker, a U.S. Army chaplain, and American Friends of the Armed Forces, which was going to deliver the boxes to Jewish military personnel in time for Passover. 

“We are giving different things such as food, candles, a mini haggadah and a note with our love and support for them to show that we are thinking of them,” said Santa Monica College freshman and Yachad student intern Rebecca Wizman. “Our packages are packaged with love.”

With its five-step assembly line, the group prepared a couple dozen baskets — the number within the project’s budget. 

Shoshana Lizer, 21, of Brentwood, has been involved with Yachad since she was 15 or 16. “I really liked making the boxes because I know the people really deserved them,” she said. 

Malki Mintz, Yachad L.A.’s assistant event coordinator, said her sister, Basya, a Yachad member working at Yachad in Israel, got her involved with the organization.

“My sister kept begging me to drive her from the [San Fernando] Valley to the city [for Yachad events] … and then I saw it and fell in love,” Malky said. “I’ve been volunteering for six years and working here for two. I love it.” 

She said the L.A. chapter currently has about 50 people involved and hopes to expand.

Basya added, “at Yachad, everyone feels like a somebody,” she said. “You come here and you can be yourself and nobody is comparing each other. No one judges each other. Everyone is just friends.”