In a display of solidarity, 250 Jewish women gathered at New York’s Central Park Zoo last week for a soirée to benefit Israeli soldiers and veterans who have been wounded in action while fighting terrorism.
Organized by Neshek, a New York-based Jewish women’s organization, guests sang, danced and listened as soldiers shared their stories.
Shevy Vigler, one of the organizers, emphasized the unbreakable connection between the women of New York and the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.
“We, women of New York, may be geographically distanced from Israel, but our hearts are connected as one. We embrace our IDF soldiers and veterans who were wounded in action and terror, and with unity and our special power, we give them strength to carry on and rebuild,” she said.
Neshek’s initiative began when Uriel and Shevy Vigler sponsored a group of wounded soldiers for a tour of New York City in 2009. Initially a local endeavor, it quickly grew into a global movement known as Belev Echad, which is Hebrew for “With One Heart.” This grassroots program focuses on helping physically and emotionally scarred IDF veterans reintegrate into civilian life by providing them with support and guidance.
Over the past 14 years, Belev Echad has expanded its reach and developed a well-structured system of support for wounded soldiers. The organization has befriended, mentored and advocated for hundreds of IDF veterans, accompanying them through critical medical, educational, and professional decisions.
The organization also provides financial assistance for prosthetics, experimental treatments and therapies not covered by insurance, advocates for soldiers to ensure they receive all eligible government benefits and compensation, and celebrates veterans’ milestones.
“Together, we celebrate birthdays, marriages and births, provide resources and support through the big decisions, and hold their hands when times are tough,” said Vigler.
But despite Belev Echad’s success, Vigler felt that more could be done, particularly by engaging women in the cause. Thus, she founded Neshek four years ago, which combines her passion for Jewish outreach with her desire to support wounded soldiers. Neshek, which means “weapon” in Hebrew, also represents the acronym “Nerot Shabbos Kodesh,” the Sabbath candles lit by Jewish women.
Neshek’s mission is to increase women’s involvement in supporting Israel and its soldiers. The organization hosts approximately four events each year, but last week’s soiree marked a significant milestone, attracting a large number of new participants.
Vigler also announced the establishment of the Neshek Fund, which will be dedicated to supporting wounded soldiers.