The Jews of Lawrence-Cedarhurst NY are no strangers when it comes to IDF support. There are tens of Lone soldiers who are currently serving in the IDF from that area. That is why it was no surprise that the Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst (YILC) made a very generous donation and asked Standing Together to help a specific unit in which one of their congregants has a nephew serving.
We made contact with the officer of the Elite Egoz unit and after a month of preparations we scheduled a day to meet them on base and give them the gear that was sponsoerd by YILC.
As we drove onto the base it was hard not to notice the smiles on the soldiers’ faces.
The Egoz unit is a “Sayeret”(Elite) unit and they have now been on base for over 3 weeks in an intense training course. Their phones have been confiscated and I cannot tell you details of their training regimen, but I can tell you that they are completely cut off from the outside world and they are working hard, VERY HARD!
As we unloaded the water packs, dry-fit clothing, Leatherman utility tools and personalized gear backpacks to give out to the soldiers, we could hear the bursting excitement from the soldiers.
“Oh my God! WOW! Where is this from? Are you serious?! YEEESSHHH! (Yeah baby in Hebrew)”
The truth is, if the day would have ended right there, it would have been sufficient – a perfect day, but nothing prepared me for what happened next! I asked the guys if there was someone who spoke English as we were looking for a soldier in order to send a video message back to the Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst. They all immediately pointed to a specific Kipah wearing soldier and as I walked over to introduce myself he stood up to shake my hand and say thank you.
I have met many Lone soldiers and the first thing any respectable Jew does is play Jewish geography, so I asked him where he is from. When he answered Borough Park, sure that I heard wrong, I asked again, “Did you say Borough Park”?! The Lone soldier smiled and repeated it again, Borough Park. Being a prominent Chassidic community in NY, Borough Park does not have many kids drafting into the IDF so my curiosity was piqued. I asked the soldier for his name and when he responded, Chaim Meisels, my knees buckled.
Chaim Meisels is no ordinary Lone soldier. Chaim Meisels is the great grandson of the Satmar Rebbe!
(I will pause here a little for those of you who just fell off your chair or spilled your drink.)
You read this correctly – Chaim Meisels is the great grandson of the Beirach Moshe, better known as the Satmar Rebbe.
What is he doing in Sayeret Egoz?
I had the same exact question and before I knew it, I was in a deep discussion with this very special Lone soldier.
One can understand if Chaim would have been angry or bitter towards Satmar, as they have completely shunned him since he left, but that is simply not the case. As much as I tried not to speak about politics and hashkafa, it is a little difficult when speaking to the Satmar Rebbe’s great grandson who happens to also be wearing an IDF uniform and serving in one of the IDF’s Elite units, but he was very careful not to say a negative word about anyone.
“I love my parents dearly and have only love and respect for them.” That is the way Chaim answered my question about his family’s reaction to his decision to join the IDF.
It’s not that I was looking for something negative to report, I just wanted to understand the hardships Chaim had to go through to get to where he is now. No matter how many questions I asked, Chaim had only positive things to say.
I cannot imagine the amount of personal strength and courage that was needed for Chaim to do what he did. What I do know is that while supplying Chaim and his unit with gear, I sensed a tremendous feeling of unity. This post could have taken a negative voice, but a young IDF soldier by the name of Chaim Meisels taught me, in his modest and Menchlechkite way, that telling a beautiful story is more powerful than anything else.
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Standing Together is non-profit organization whose IDF support campaigns are funded completely by private donors from across the world. If you would like to sponsor a soldier or an entire IDF unit you can visit our website at: https://www.stogether.org/keeping-idf-soldiers-cool/.
Standing Together’s Assistant Director, Ari Fuld, will be in the States from June 23rd-29th speaking in different communities and meeting with people in order to raise funds for Standing Together’s IDF campaigns. If you would like to set up a community IDF project or sponsor any or some of Standing Together’s activities, contact Ari Fuld at firstname.lastname@example.org.