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A 15-year legacy: Jay Lewis leaves his mark of excellence at KU Hillel; now shares his wisdom with other campus Hillels

A 15-year legacy: Jay Lewis leaves his mark of excellence at KU Hillel; now shares his wisdom with other campus Hillels

Jay Lewis, former executive director of KU Hillel, will be honored at Rock Chalk Shabbat on Nov. 3 at the Kansas Memorial Union in Lawrence. Read more...

‘BIG SONIA’ to make KC-area theatrical debut Dec. 1 at Glenwood Arts Theater

‘BIG SONIA’ to make KC-area theatrical debut  Dec. 1 at Glenwood Arts Theater

Sonia Warshawski The documentary film “BIG SONIA” is scheduled for its first Kansas City-area theatrical release Dec. 1 at the Glenwood Arts Theater in Overland Park. Read more...

Renaissance man: Gordon dives deeply into music, blogging, painting and physics

Ric Gordon’s Zuni measures 24 inches by 30 inches. Ric Gordon doesn’t stand still for long. Read more...

Berg returns to twinkle the ivories at Grand Givers

Neil Berg You might know Neil Berg from his show recounting a century of Broadway. This time, he’s sticking with 100 years but taking his audience to Tinseltown when he performs Nov. 4 at Kehilath Israel... Read more...

Listening Post

Our friend Rod Minkin, who has helped us out over the years with a variety of photos, celebrated his birthday recently. During a Sukkot gathering at the home of Ace Allen and Donna Oberstein, Allen, chair... Read more...

Sukkah vandalized at K-State: Police investigating as possible anti-Semitic act

This photo of the mangled sukkah at Kansas State University was taken after it was moved from the parking lot where it was found back to campus grounds. Read more...

B’nai Jehudah’s Rabbi Kirzane leaving congregation in June

Rabbi Daniel Kirzane

Sherry, Levitt to receive awards from MainStream Education Foundation

Judy Sherry

Kol Ami’s Rabbi Alpert to receive civil rights award from NAACP’s KC branch

Rabbi Doug Alpert

Listening Post

Mitzvah Garden KC probably set the official record for the most sweet potatoes harvested by hand, 447.6 pounds, within one hour on Oct. 8, 2017. The record will need to be verified by Guinness World Records... Read more...

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Letters to the Editor

Let’s fight anti-Semitism together I am responding to the letter published last week (“One-sided blind opposition,” Oct. 12, 2017), by Sam Devinki. As I know Sam to be a strong supporter of the... Read more...

Empathy in vulnerability: resisting racism and anti-Semitism

Empathy in vulnerability: resisting racism and anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism in America is on the rise. In the past year, Jewish cemeteries were desecrated in Philadelphia, Rochester and St. Louis; my rabbinical school was vandalized with a swastika, targeted for... Read more...

Embracing Houston’s Jewish community

“We would have drowned.” My previous experience with the Houston Jewish community was in September 2005 as they heroically responded to Hurricane Katrina. Read more...

Letter to the Editor

One-sided blind opposition I have struggled for two weeks as to whether or not to write this letter. I really don’t like writing letters to The Chronicle. Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Letter writer misunderstands intent of article I believe that Sandy Meyer’s comments (Letters to the Editor, Sept. 28) about Rabbi Londy’s article in the Rabbinic Wisdom section of The Chronicle’s... Read more...

Letter to the Editor - Holiday spirit still exists in Orthodoxy

Cheer up Rabbi Londy! It’s a new year! And your article in the Rabbinic Wisdom section of The Chronicle’s annual Rosh Hashanah magazine was a real downer. It read like a bad report card. Read more...

Kata Kata Mutiara

Kata Kata Motivasi Hal yang sangat menyedihkan adalah saat kau jujur pada temanmu, dia berdusta padamu Saat dia telah berjanji padamu, dia mengingkarinya Saat kau memberikan perhatian, dia tidak menghargainya... Read more...

Kata Mutiara

Kata Kata Motivasi Kata-kata yang Inspiratif buat Memotivasi hidup- dipostingan kali ini saya sudah mengumpulkan Kata kata motivasi hidup terbaru, kata kata bijak hidup terbaru, kata kata bijak motivasi... Read more...

Letters to the Editor

American fascism Trump’s flirtation with fascism dismays many people, but we should not be surprised. The United States has a tradition of fascism, with and without populism. Read more...

Sometimes we must interfere

“Today, the entire world is looking to America for enlightened leadership to peace and progress. Such a leadership requires vision, courage and tolerance. It can be provided only by a united nation... Read more...

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Wagner Bar Mitzvah

Wagner Bar Mitzvah

Jack Wagner Susan and Adam Wagner announce the Bar Mitzvah of their son, Jack Robert Wagner, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. Read more...

Fine Bar Mitzvah

Fine Bar Mitzvah

Benjamin Fine Steve and Beatrice Fine announce the Bar Mitzvah of their son, Benjamin Matthew Fine, at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at Congregation Beth Shalom. Read more...

Helzberg Bar Mitzvah

Eli Helzberg Jennifer and Barnett C. Helzberg III announce the Bar Mitzvah of their son, Elias Shakley Helzberg, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley, Massachusetts. Read more...

Brofsky Corson Engagement

Jenna Brofsky and Ethan Corson Judy and Niles Corson of Overland Park announce the engagement of their son, Ethan Jared Corson, to Jenna Paige Brofsky, daughter of Laurie and Joseph Brofsky of Lynbrook,... Read more...

Clauer Bat Mitzvah

Aviva Clauer

Fulford Bat Mitzvah

Gabrielle Rebecca Fulford

Bell 80th Birthday

Judy Bell

Luetje Bar Mitzvah

Chad Luetje

Garcia-Lipoff Birth

Tess Eleanor Garcia-Lipoff

Katz Bar Mitzvah

Roman Katz Paul and Lisa Katz announce the Bar Mitzvah of their son, Roman Katz, on Saturday, Sept. 16, at Congregation Beth Torah. Read more...

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Becker, Rolfe

Becker, Rolfe

Rolfe Becker, age 87, passed away peacefully from complications related to colon cancer on Oct. 12, 2017. Rolfe is survived by his daughter Erica Morin, son-in-law Thom Morin, son Bryan Becker, daughter-in-law... Read more...

Brill, Marian Melcher

Brill, Marian Melcher

Marian Brill, 86, of Fox Point, Wisconsin, formerly of Kansas City, Missouri, passed away surrounded by her loving family on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Funeral services were held Monday, Sept. 18, at... Read more...

Horowitz, Esther Polsky

Esther Polsky Horowitz, 91, of Overland Park, Kansas, passed from this life on Oct. 17, 2017, in her home at Village Shalom of natural causes. Funeral services were planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct.... Read more...

Rydell, Maury J.

Maury J. Rydell of Overland Park, Kansas, passed away on Oct. 15, 2017, at Menorah Medical Center surrounded by his loving family. Graveside services were held Oct. 17 at Mount Carmel Cemetery. Read more...

Winer, Richard

Richard Winer, 89, of Kansas City, Missouri, passed away Oct. 16, 2017, at The Community of the Good Shepherd where he was a resident for the last 45 years of his life. Read more...

Bernstein, Ida R.

Ida Rubinstein Bernstein, 95, of Kansas City, Missouri, passed away Oct. 4, 2017. Graveside services were held Oct. 8 at Kehilath Israel Blue Ridge Cemetery. Read more...

Ginden, Jerry

Jerry Ginden, age 75, passed away on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, at Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park, Kansas. He was born on April 30, 1942, in Kansas City to Sam and Ellen Ginden. Read more...

Greenberg, Lionel H.

Lionel H. Greenberg, 92, of Overland Park, Kansas, died Oct. 2, 2017, at Menorah Medical Center. Funeral services were held Oct. 4 at The Louis Memorial Chapel, with burial following at Mount Carmel... Read more...

Becker, Sylvia

Sylvia Becker, age 89, passed away peacefully from complications related to a stroke on Sept. 22, 2017. Read more...

Cohen, Lawrence S. M.D.

Lawrence S. Cohen M.D. passed away peacefully on Sept. 27, 2017, at the age of 81 in Leawood, Kansas. Born and raised in Irvington, New Jersey, along with his twin sister Marilyn, by Ellis and Louise... 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.