No matter what uniform they wear, all first responders are heroes. From the soot-covered firefighter “yellows” to the EMT “blues,” these uniforms make a statement. When you see them, you know that help is here and more is on the way. However, not all first responders wear the garb we readily recognize. Sometimes the first person on the scene is actually a civilian… your every day “Average Joe” if you will. And like most other “Average Joes” we want to lend a hand, but we just don’t know how or where to begin. Well, that is where Lev Echad-Community Crisis Aid steps in.
Lev Echad is an Israeli organization that was established in 2005. The organization is dedicated to putting volunteers in the right places when it matters most. In fact, it is the only Israeli organization that is entirely devoted to empowering and mobilizing volunteer efforts in times of emergency.
“Many times people want to help, but they just don’t know how to go about it,” says Hemi Banner, the founder of Lev Echad. “If volunteers come into an emergency situation and don’t know where and when it is appropriate to help, they can actually cause more harm than help because they overwhelm the emergency responders that are already on sight. Lev Echad works directly with all the professional agencies involved to plug volunteers in exactly where they are needed most.”
Specifically, Lev Echad collaborates with the regional authorities and with the Home Front Command and the relevant government offices. Since its establishment the organization has operated over 26,000 civilian volunteers. Operation Protective Edge saw 8,000 volunteers alone who helped in many different areas, not all of them expected. For example, during this volatile time there was a blind man who was stuck in his home for several days. He was relatively safe in his home, but due to the chaos outside and the sounds of the sirens, he was unable to get out with his service dog to get provisions. He literally ran out of food and it was the volunteers from Lev Echad that came to his aid.
Lev Echad is now getting a helping hand from the states as well, especially from three very special Orange County residents.
Rabbi Stephen Einstein who is the founding Rabbi and Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley and his wife, Robin, have been to Israel several times. They made six trips with Sharon Haber, a former president and former executive director of Congregation B’nai Tzedek.
Sharon and Robin spent three of those trips in a volunteer capacity and on their recent Operation Protective Edge trip they met a volunteer from Lev Echad. They were motivated to help and continue to do so to this day. They have helped establish a non-profit organization called Friends of Lev Echad. This organization aims to raise funds stateside for the Israeli-based Lev Echad. They are a shining example of how you can still plug in and help, even if you’re more than 5,000 miles away.
For more information on helping Lev Echad, visit www.levechad.org or www.FriendsofLevEchad.org. or make purchases to contribute through www.smileamazon.com or www.igive.com.
Tracey Armstrong Gorsky is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.