In the aftermath of the horrific tragedies that took place in Israel on October 7th, the collective shock and horror quickly turned to action. Jewish communities around the world rolled up their sleeves to help and the Baltimore community was no exception.
Within days, Baltimore Israel Relief Initiative (BIRI) was launched. Under the guidance of Rabbi Shmuel Silber of Suburban Orthodox Torah Chaim in Pikesville, BIRI’s leadership worked tirelessly to identify the immediate needs on the ground in, and securing the appropriate supplies to ship over to Israel. Meticulous planning went into collaborating with organizations on the ground and coordinating directly with Israeli government officials to secure necessary approvals and permits for customs.
As the needs of the IDF and Tzevet Hatzalah quickly became more apparent, swift action was taken to engage the broader community in efforts to provide support. Modeling after the incredibly successful supply drive of the Flatbush Community Fund, BIRI launched a community- wide initiative involving shuls (synagogues) across Baltimore. The concept was simple. Each shul would receive one specific item that was pre-approved by IDF liaisons to procure on behalf of their respective shul. Representatives from each shul were tasked with spreading the word amongst all congregants, keeping the momentum going, and gathering and packaging their selected items in duffel bags for rapid shipment.
What started as a hope to engage a dozen shuls in Baltimore quickly grew to over 30 participating shuls from across the various religious spectrums and reaching as far as Denver! Rabbis spoke about the mission from the podium, representatives organized events for kids to decorate cards to send along in shipments, and items for shipment kept pouring in. In one week, we collected over 20,000 critical items to send to the front lines, and it is only continuing to grow!
While we pray for a quick end to the war and the safe return of our hostages, BIRI plans to continue with its mission to provide vial support to our brothers and sisters in Israel during these trying times. The next phase of BIRI’s efforts will be focusing on the dire and time sensitive needs of the displaced families, as the Winter season quickly approaches. As one BIRI representative stated, “The most powerful response to hatred and tragedy is being able to put differences aside and unite in chesed.” Stay tuned for details and stay involved!