HANOVER, NH — Dartmouth College students participating in their first organized tour of Israel brought duffel bags full of toys for children affected by terrorist attacks in the country.
According to Melisa Garber, a Dartmouth senior from Miami, the free Taglit-birthright israel trip organized by the local campus-based Chabad House and provided by Mayanot was “unbelievable.”
“I’ve been trying to come up with words to describe my experience for days now and the truth is there are no words to describe such a feeling,” said the women and gender studies major. “I can only say that, having seen the places I saw, sharing the experiences I shared, and meeting the people I met, I’ve grown a lot both emotionally and spiritually.”
One of the highlights of the trip, she said, came at the beginning when she and her fellow students delivered toys to the One Family Fund, a Jerusalem-based organization that provides social services to victims of terror attacks and their families. Knowing that the toys were destined to children who had either been injured in attacks, or whose parents had been killed or injured, was a powerful feeling, she added.
“Being able to make a child smile after having suffered so much at a young age is a gift in itself,” said Garber.
The Mayanot trips underwritten by Taglit-birthright israel offer Jewish men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 who have never been to Israel a free tour of the Holy Land. Working in conjunction with Mayanot, campus-based Chabad Houses organize groups of college students and alumni to take part in the trips.
Rabbi Moshe Gray, co-director of the Dartmouth Chabad House, said that a student approached him about leading a toy drive for Israeli terror victims. Personally handing over the toys to the One Family Fund as part of this month’s birthright trip was the culmination of that effort, he said.
“We put up fliers and sent out e-mails saying we had three collection points around campus,” said Gray. “Every week, we collected the toys and then each student on the trip took a duffle bag full of toys with them to Israel.”
College students getting together for terror victims is not new among campus-based Chabad Houses. Just last month, Chabad at the University of Arizona and students who went on its birthright israel trip this past summer hosted a campus-wide Israel Walk to raise money for Israeli terror victims. In coordination with Colel Chabad, an organization established in 1788 by the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the students were assigned specific families in Israel to raise money for. They collected more than $2,000.
“We wanted to do something that would bring happiness to other people,” said Rabbi Yosef Winner, co-director of the Tucson, Ariz., campus’ Chabad House, “not just within the campus community, but to do something for Israel that would bring them joy.”
At the One Family Fund, social worker Mindy Levinger, described how receiving the toys donated by the Dartmouth students brought a little bit of happiness to some children in Jerusalem.
“Because of their poverty, some of these children have never really had toys,” said Levinger, who earlier this week took some of the toys with her while checking up on some of the families the One Family Fund helps support. “One family has eight children, but the father was wounded badly and must sleep in a hospital because of the medication he’s taking. I brought teddy bears and crayons and some art games that the children could play with. They couldn’t stop thanking us.
“It’s very important to help and not to forget that these people gave their lives to Israel,” she continued. “We have to be there for them.”