Abe Wasserberger, the Jewish Agency For Israel’s vice president for Israel and global philanthropy, recently made a presentation to the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island on JAFI programs that the Alliance supports through its Annual Campaign.
Wasserberger was accompanied by Tony Raichler, a former Israel Defense Forces soldier who received help from JAFI’s “Wings” program, which assists lone soldiers in making the transition to civilian life after service in the IDF. A lone soldier is defined as a serviceman or woman without immediate family in Israel.
In the 2015-2016 program year alone, Wings helped 551 lone soldiers with financial support, counseling and many other services. JAFI also places lone soldiers with sponsor families so they have a safe, friendly place to observe Shabbat and spend weekends.
“We are given an instant family when there is not one. I am very grateful,” Raichler said.
“I was all alone when I arrived in Israel,” he added. “JAFI helped support me making aliyah and offered me programs so I could learn Hebrew.”
Raichler was placed on a kibbutz, which helped him make friends and transition into Israeli life.
At just 20 years old, Raichler had witnessed his commander lose all four limbs while fighting. He also lost three friends in his unit during combat.
“I’ve seen a lot – too much,” he said, while adding, “I am very proud to be Jewish, and to have served Israel and the Jewish people.”
Raichler, 25, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, grew up in a Conservative Jewish home.
“My parents wanted a life for me far better than what Venezuela could offer,” he said of his decision to make aliyah.
Raichler served in the Golani Brigade – the frontlines of the IDF – and is now studying international trade and diplomacy at Bar Ilan University. He will graduate in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Without programs such as Wings, many lone soldiers are forced to return home after their service to Israel. Raichler was one of the lucky ones.
Wings provides immigrants with information on benefits, entitlements and legal rights when they leave the Israeli Army, in addition to guidance on careers and academics; job-seeking skills; counseling to transition from traumatic events and develop emotional strength; and personal financial management support so they can become self-sufficient.
“Because of Wings and JAFI, Tony has been given the support to strengthen his skill sets well beyond his studies. He is just one of the brave lone soldiers working to bolster the Jewish people of Israel and around the world,” Wasserberger said in his presentation to the Alliance’s Board of Directors.
JAFI has worked for over 85 years securing a Jewish future with a strong Israel at its center, and was instrumental in founding and building the state of Israel, as well as companies such as Zim International Navigation and El Al airlines. Today, JAFI serves as the link between the Jewish state and Jewish communities worldwide, bringing Jews to Israel and Israel to Jews.
“Because of the grants from the Jewish Alliance, JAFI is able to serve a range of ages and meet needs in Israel, Poland, Ukraine, Cuba and many other [nations]. We work hard to leverage those funds to assure Jews are taken care of around the world,” Wasserberger said.
In addition to Wings, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island supports many other JAFI programs, as well as unrestricted core funding to meet the needs of Jews around the world.
To contribute to the Jewish Alliance’s Annual Campaign, contact Michele Gallagher, senior campaign operations manager, at 401-421-4111, ext. 165, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JENNIFER ZWIRN (email@example.com) works in allocations and endowment for the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. She is also AccessJewishRI vocational services contact.