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August 15, 2002

Women Unite for Israel

The Day of Unity will connect those of all levels of observance through workshops, discussions and dancing.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/community_briefs/article/women_unite_for_israel_20020816

Yehudit Eichenblatt wanted to do her part for Israel, but she just wasn't sure exactly what that should be. She had been to protests outside of the Federal Building; written letters to President Bush, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and attended every Israel solidarity rally held in Los Angeles, but nothing, it seemed, was helping.

"People were still dying every day," said the 36-year-old mother of six from Hancock Park.

So Eichenblatt decided that a different tack was needed. Together with her colleagues from her Yeshiva organization, Bais Chana of California, Eichenblatt has organized a Day of Unity -- a spiritual gathering for Jewish women from all religious affiliations, political spectrums and levels of observance in Los Angeles, to come together in support of Israel.

"Ever since I started working with women, I always wanted to do something that would unite Jewish women, and I realized that Israel is the cause that would make people come together," Eichenblatt said. "I think that spiritually we can be doing much more, and affecting the situation more than we are politically, and coming together in unity has a very strong spiritual impact, and more good will come out in the future with women doing good deeds."

Eichenblatt and her team of volunteers sent out invitations to all 700 Jewish organizations, synagogues and schools that are listed on The Jewish Federation's Web site, and then followed up with phone calls.

"So far, the response has been great," Eichenblatt said. "The Hadassah women in Huntington Beach called and said they were coming. People from Sinai Temple are coming. Mordecai Finley from Ohr Hatorah is promoting it for us. Temple Emmanuel, Aish HaTorah, Anshei Emes, Torah Ohr, Bais Yehudah, Chabad houses from all over Los Angeles -- they all say that they love the idea and are going to come."

The event, which will be held on Aug. 18 at the Women's Club in Hollywood, is purposely not being held in a synagogue. "I did not want to alienate people, and that is why I am doing it in a 'pareve' place that is not affiliated with anything," Eichenblatt said.

While there are no speakers planned for the event -- again, because Eichenblatt did not want to turn it into a political rally -- there are workshops scheduled, with topics such as "Whose Land Is It? A Historical, Biblical and Practical Perspective of Jewish Rights" and "Finding God During a Terrorist Attack." There will also be an opportunity to write Rosh Hashana cards to Israel Defense Forces soldiers and terror victims, and a video presentation prepared by Mimi Baron Jankowitz on her visits with the families of terror victims.

"We are also going to be led in song, we are going to say psalms, we are going to dance and we are preparing a lot of food." Eichenblatt said.

The goal of the event is to form committees of women who will want to continue doing things for terror victims throughout the year, such as sending Purim baskets, Chanukah gelt and, if possible, mezuzot and tefilin. "Mezuzot and tefilin are two things that bring spiritual protection," Eichenblatt said.

She estimates that the event is costing somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000, and so far it has all been funded by credit cards.

"I applied to the Community Foundation for a grant, but they rejected it," she said. "So we are trying to get restaurants to donate food, and all the women are working to get as much support as possible. We are doing this on a limb, but we are putting our energies into making the programs great and getting the people to come, rather than doing a lot of fundraising.

"This year in the Jewish calendar is known as a year of Hakhel -- a year of uniting," she said. "I think that we have a lot of strength when we come together, and I hope that by doing so, we will be able to give hope, healing and courage to those in need."

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