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Following tragedy, Jewish Federation hires community security director

Following tragedy, Jewish Federation hires community security director

Blair Hawkins It’s been said that from all bad things come something good. In the Jewish community, 155 days after the tragedy on April 13 in which three people were murdered in the parking lots of... Read more...

Two KCUSY alums running Nativ gap year program in Israel

Two KCUSY alums running Nativ gap year program in Israel

Elana Goldberg David Helfand For the first time ever, two people from Kansas City’s USY chapter — Elana Goldberg and David Helfand — are serving as the American leaders of Nativ in Israel. Both... Read more...

Listening Post

BORTNICK HERE TONIGHT — Ethan Bortnick will be performing a live concert at 6 p.m. tonight, Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Folley Theater. As of Monday tickets were still available. You may remember he was... Read more...

Rabbi recounts irony of Susan Choucroun’s murder

This photo was taken at Congregation Ohev Sholom on Labor Day, after the morning minyan, the day before Susan Choucroun was murdered. Choucroun is standing on the right, dressed in the dark pink shirt... Read more...

KU Chabad launches first ever Torah-writing project for Lawrence

Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel opened the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Lawrence, Kan., along with his wife and co-director Nechama, eight years ago. During that time KU Chabad has never had its own Torah, always... Read more...

Beans&Greens Program a win-win for farmers, low-income families

As part of the Beans&Greens program, low-income families can take their SNAP debit cards to participating farmers markets, where they receive tokens to purchase SNAP-eligible food. We live in the... Read more...

Amy Shapiro to be honored with Federation Young Leadership Award

Amy Shapiro When it comes to Jewish Federation leadership, Amy Shapiro’s actions speak volumes. She’s been through local leadership development programs, attended national conferences and international... Read more...

Local adviser celebrates 60 years in finance

Seymour Krinsky Seymour Krinsky likes to joke that he made a career transition from “spiritual wealth to material wealth.”  Read more...

As Yom Kippur approaches, it’s time to think about the need to get even

“Payback: The Case for Revenge,” by Thane Rosenbaum. University of Chicago Press, 2013. With Ferguson in the news, the horrendous murders in South Kansas City, and the execution of Steven Sotloff,... Read more...

Listening Post

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has become so popular even young children have gotten into the act at the Beth Shalom Rose Family Early Childhood Education Center. The preschool teaches Jewish Values as a... Read more...

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Letters to the Editor

Both sides suffer (Editor’s note: This letter to the editor, originally  published in the Aug. 28 issue, is reprinted in its entirety with corrections.) The latest issue of The Chronicle features... Read more...

Five days of ‘wow’ at the national Sinai Scholars Retreat

Five days of ‘wow’ at the national Sinai Scholars Retreat

KU’s Sinai Scholars recently attended the Sinai Scholars Retreat in Chicago. Shown are Arie Mello (top row, from left), Rebeka Luttinger, Ethan King, Nechama Tiechtel, Betsy Jacob and Sammy Katz. Bottom... Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Article omitted facts  As president of the Missouri Kansas chapter of Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, I am disappointed that Grandmothers Against Gun Violence was not mentioned in the article published... Read more...

Shabbat in Jamaica: ‘Out of many, one people’

Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan: A Jewish reggae artist came to play at the synagogue, offering a taste spiritual and uniquely Jamaican Jewish experience to the community. Many of us think of Israel as the melting... Read more...

Show wounded Israeli soldiers we stand by their sides

Major General (res) Yoav Gallant, head of Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization, shakes the hand of a wounded IDF soldier. Also in the room visiting the soldier are wounded veterans from Operation Cast... Read more...

Letters to the Editor

Irresponsible comparison to Holocaust On Saturday, Aug. 23, the New York Times published an ad signed by about 300 Holocaust survivors, their direct Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Interfaith Council needs to despise anti-Semitism In response to the letter written by Sheila Sonnenschein and Rev. Mary McCoy of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council (Aug. 14), I wonder if it... Read more...

The structure of racism: Change begins with all of us

For decades, structures have existed that created and sustained Ferguson, Missouri’s, damaged relationship with its police. They have quietly worked their magic, and brought about the shooting of Michael... Read more...

Letters to the Editor

Israel is the victim I can’t help but find a correlation between Muslim migration into Europe and other non-Muslim countries and the rising clamor of anti-Semitism in those countries. Hamas instigated... Read more...

The spiritual journey of a lifetime

Ten local women participated in the 2014 Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project trip to Israel last month. Posing for this photo at the Decks in Tiberious are Stacy Wright (back row, from left), Patricia... Read more...

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Fehsenfeld Birth

Fehsenfeld Birth

Wes and Emily Fehsenfeld announce the birth June 25 of a daughter, Caro Elizabeth. Grandparents are Elizabeth and Paul Uhlmann III, Joseph Fehsenfeld of Delavan, Wisc., and Debra Davis of Charleston,... Read more...

Gorodetzky-Sanditen Engagement

Gorodetzky-Sanditen Engagement

Dr. and Mrs. Charles Gorodetzky announce the engagement of their son, David Gorodetzky, to Lynne Sanditen, daughter of Dean Sanditen and the late Patricia Sanditen. Lynne is a graduate of the University... Read more...

Rosenberg Bat Mitzvah

Natalie and Steve Rosenberg announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Meredith at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. Read more...

Lebovitz-Meklir Engagement

Allen and Susan Lebovitz announce the engagement of their daughter, Sara Francis, to Derek Meklir, son of Sam Meklir of Detroit and the late Linda Meklir. Read more...

Brudoley Bar Mitzvah

The Bar Mitzvah of Avi Brudoley, son of Sherri and Jonathan Jacobs and Jacob Brudoley, took place at the Kotel in Jerusalem on June 30. Read more...

Mendel Bar Mitzvah

William and Doris Mendel announce the Bar Mitzvah of their son, James Reid Mendel, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. Read more...

Deutch-Perilstein Engagement

Judy and Larry Deutch, Des Moines, Iowa, announce the engagement of their daughter Lisa Deutch, to Ari Perilstein son of Robin Daynes of Cairns, Australia, and Sam Perilstein of Margate, N.J. Read more...

Krigel Birth

Beth and Ari Krigel of Chicago announce the birth Aug. 18 of a son, Everett Robert (Hebrew name Asher Reuven). Read more...

Chopp Birth

Elizabeth and Isaac Chopp announce the birth June 4 of a daughter, Stella Rose Chopp. Read more...

Buchbinder Birth

Baree Nottberg and Scott Buchbinder of Overland Park announce the birth June 27 of a son, Theo Everett Read more...

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Harding, Dorothy

Harding, Dorothy

Dorothy Harding, of Kansas City, Mo., died Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, at Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park. Read more...

Eberman, Steve

Eberman, Steve

Steve took his final victory lap on earth Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, and passed peacefully at Garden Terrace. Read more...

Friedlander, Judy

Judy Friedlander, 74, of Las Vegas, passed away Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, after a six-month battle with cancer. Read more...

Orlovick, Marvin

Marvin Orlovick, 91, of Kansas City, Mo., passed away Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Read more...

Steinhardt, Barbara Lois

Barbara Lois Steinhardt, 83, died Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, at Delmar Gardens of Overland Park. Read more...

Choucroun, Susan

Susan Choucroun, 69, passed away on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. Read more...

Matzdorff, Ralph G.

Ralph G. Matzdorff, 87, of Overland Park, Kan., passed away peacefully at home on Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Read more...

Pener, David

David Pener, 60, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Read more...

Blumenthal, Amy

Amy Michelle Blumenthal passed away suddenly on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, at her residence in New York City at the age of 47. Read more...

Eberman, Steve

Steve took his final victory lap on earth on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, and passed peacefully at Garden Terrace. Read more...

IDFWO helps widows and children cope and thrive after tragedy in Israel

By Barbara Bayer



Those who know Harvey Bodker understand that he can get very emotional about the causes he deeply believes in. His newest cause is the IDF Widows & Orphans Organization (IDFWO), and he learned about it by chance on an airplane last summer.

It all started in August when Bodker, who is an active alumnus of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, was on his way to the fraternity’s 100th anniversary celebration. His plane to New York was delayed for several reasons, one being that a group of foreign students was stuck in security.

“As it turned out, there were 42 youngsters and 10 adults from the Israel Defense Forces Widows & Orphans Organization,” he said.

During the flight he chatted with two of the young Israelis and one of the leaders. The group had been at a Jewish summer camp in the Wisconsin Dells and were planning to spend the remainder of their trip in the New York area.

Coincidentally, or maybe more appropriately luckily for the IDFWO, that group was also invited to attend AEPi’s Shabbos dinner event on the USS Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier now a museum in New York. 

When Bodker first met some members of the group on the plane, he didn’t know that all the teens on the trip were orphans, in the Israeli translation of the word. That means these teens had lost one parent — usually a father — who died while protecting Israel. 

“I went to pieces, when I heard that,” Bodker said. “From then on I was bound and determined I was going to get to know them and their cause better.”

Meeting these young people, was “mind-boggling and life-changing” for Bodker. It was such a moving experience that he brought a fundraiser and an “orphan” — Daniel Tuksar, director of resource development, and Roi Schiffenbauer — here to get the word out about their organization and help them raise money. He arranged speeches at Congregation Beth Shalom, Kehilath Israel Synagogue and with the ROMEOS (a group of retired Jewish men) and organized a private event for friends to hear their story.

Tuksar was thrilled to be here, saying “it’s not every day you meet a Zionist like Harvey.” He pointed out that during the beginning, the IDFWO was a part of the Israeli government, but since 1991 it has been independently run and funded completely by private donations.

Tuksar explained IDFWO works with more than 5,000 widows and about 3,000 boys and girls who are left without a parent. Only seven professionals run the organization along with a voluntary chairwoman — a widow herself who is democratically elected by her peers.

“The bottom line for the organization is for the widows to spend time together,” Tuksar said. “This is important to them, so it’s important to us. When they get together they are able to talk, to relate to each other, cry, laugh, hug and embrace each other. We do our best to keep them connected.”

IDFWO takes women on retreats, sends presents to the widows on Rosh Hashanah, connects widows with each other, offers classes and provides emergency medical and financial assistance.

“It’s just a warm, second home to them,” Tuksar said.

But the majority of the work IDFWO does is with the children. The children continue to live with their surviving parent.

“We are there for them whenever the father is supposed to be with them,” Tuksar explained. These times include the beginning of first grade — providing them with backpacks full of school supplies — Bar-Bat Mitzvah trip to North America to Jewish communities (this is where Bodker met the kids) and a Bar-Bat Mitzvah celebration at the Western Wall attended by Israeli dignitaries who embrace the children. Camps are also held during various times during the year especially Chanukah, Sukkot and Passover vacations. The camps are for kids between the ages of 12 to 18 from all over Israel.

“We do fun stuff but we also have therapy sessions,” Tuksar said. “They are usually the only kids in their schools who have lost a parent so you can imagine how important it is to spend time with each other.”

IDFWO also presents scholarships and wedding gifts to these now-grownup teens.

Roi was almost 13 when his father was killed in a helicopter training accident in Romania. He’s now a junior in high school and will join the IDF following his high school graduation. He was featured in story that aired on Israeli television, which was shown to those attending the private event. He spoke about his father, what it was like when the family heard about the accident, and why the IDFWO is important to him and his family.

“The only people that can understand my loss are the people who have experienced the same loss as me. So we have the same things in common and we can talk about our loss. It’s very nice to see someone who can understand you,” said Roi, who lives on Moshav Kidron, an area he described as “a very nice neighborhood near Tel Aviv.”

Roi explained that the organization’s activities for the widows, especially the vacations and camps for the children, are very important to them.

“It’s very hard for my mother to handle three kids during this vacation,” he said, explaining that while he and his older brother were on IDFWO-sponsored trips and activities, she could rest and care for only one child.

Roi’s older brother is now in the IDF. His younger brother just turned 12, making him eligible for IDFWO camps and trips.

“He can take the Passover trip and then the Bar and Bat Mitzvah trip to the USA,” Roi explained.

This is the second time Roi has been to the United States, the first time he came was on an IDFWO Bar-Bat Mitzvah trip. This fundraising trip lasted 10 days and took him to Key West, Fla., where they experienced “nice weather,” and here.

Roi said it was very generous of Bodker to host the Israelis in his home and called him a “very nice man.” They had a very busy few days here, visiting the Harry S. Truman Library, eating Jack’s Stack barbecue, and attending the Kansas City Symphony as well as making the four presentations. 

“This organization is very important for me and my friends. I hope people understand my needs because it’s very hard without our fathers and this organization really serves as a second home for us. It’s very, very nice to be there with my friends,” Roi said.

Tuksar pointed out that taking care of kids like Roi and their families takes money. For instance it costs $300 for first-grade supplies per child, $1,200 per child for the Bar-Bat Mitzvah celebration in Israel and $900 for the three annual retreats per child.

“If we don’t support them, who will,” Bodker notes.

Tax deductible donations may be sent to P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, Inc., 317 Madison Ave, Suite 607, New York, NY 10017. Make checks payable to: P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, stating in the memo section the donation is for IDFWO.