Imagine if hitting the restaurants was a mitzvah. For one day, at least, it will be. Finally, the guilt-free excuse to overeat you've been looking for. On May 4, the Sunday before Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day), Eat-4-Israel, a campaign created by yeshiva high schoolers, will do just that -- encourage people to patronize participating kosher restaurants. The restaurants will donate 10 percent of the day's gross receipts to their choice of seven Israel-based humanitarian organizations that are endorsed by the campaign: Hatzolah, Bet Ashanti, Ezer Mizion, Save Our Soldiers, Yad Eliezer, Yad Sarah and ZAKA.
Eat-4-Israel was the brainchild of Monique Grunberger, a high school senior at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, who developed the idea with two local Yeshiva University of Los Angeles students, Yitz Novak and Zvi Smith.
"I was getting fed up," said Grunberger, who in March was frustrated by the underwhelming response to a pro-Israel letter-writing campaign she aimed at senators on Capitol Hill.
In two months time, the trio of 18-year-olds enlisted a roster of North American restaurants, mostly Los Angeles-based businesses, including Pico-Robertson area destinations -- Jeff's Gourmet, Nagila Pizza and Chick 'N Chow -- and Pizza World and Mr. Pickles Deli in greater Los Angeles.
The high schoolers partnered with several organizations -- including StandWithUs, UCLA Hillel, the Zionist Organization of America, Far West United Synagogue Youth, West Coast National Council of Synagogue Youth, HaBonim Dror and the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-AMCHA -- to promote the event. Smith also noted that the Bureau of Jewish Education, a Jewish Federation beneficiary agency, will contribute a $1,000 Israel Teen Leadership Seminar Grant, which will go toward advertising costs.
Grunberger, Novak and Smith -- all of whom will be studying together in Israel next year -- have short-term and long-term goals for Eat-4-Israel.
"Other than raising at least $10,000 for Israel," Grunberger said, "I would like to see Jewish communities where this event is taking place come together, no matter what denomination, to help Israel. I would like to see this as an annual event."
"The most basic reward of putting this together has been the experience of working with the community," Smith added. "But it's also very fulfilling to represent Israel. It's nice to see that no matter where we are, we can stand with Israel."
Eat-4-Israel will take place on Sunday, May 4. For a complete list of participating restaurants, go to www.mobilize4israel.org/eat4israel .