In six weeks, Irvine's University Synagogue this summer raised $60,000, enough to purchase an ambulance for the American
Red Magen David of Israel (ARMDI), the equivalent of America's Red Cross.
The appeal was prompted by congregant Eleanor Kahn, 78, a 25-year member of ARMDI who made her pitch to the congregation in May at the urging of Rabbi Arnold Rachlis. "It surprised me he would take money from our congregation, that he would ask for such a large thing at a time when the temple is trying to build itself up," she says from her vacation home in Incline Village, Nev.
"This is the first time it's been done in Orange County," says Eileen Smulson, western region director for ARMDI in Los Angeles.
Prompted by violence in Israel and ARMDI's own advertising, the nonprofit group is awash in donations. Eighty ambulances are in production for ARMDI in Pennsylvania, 50 percent more than are needed, says Smulson.
"We don't have enough drivers," she says. Funds are instead buying other needed supplies, such as bullet-proof vests, defibrillators and a $3.2 million blood-separation system, says she.