This past Friday Night, Chabad at the Shore in New Jersey, hosted a Friday Night Dinner to honor members of the community who served in the Israel Defense Forces.
16 individuals from the Greater Atlantic City area were honored by Chabad and more than 120 participated in the event.
Program Coordinator, Ella Rapoport, said the dinner theme had been chosen months ahead of time in May. However, with all that is happening currently in Israel, there could not be a better time.
With tables full of homemade Israeli food, the evening began with a heartfelt welcome from Rabbi Avroham Rapoport, followed by a burst of Israeli songs and vodka shots in true Friday Night Dinner form. Each soldier was recognized, accompanied by a warm round of applause and acknowledgement of the year he or she served.
The amazing spectrum of soldiers present was most impressive, from a Holocaust survivor who spoke of his fight in the 1948 War of Independence, to the courageous men and women who fought in 1967 and 1972, to a group of recently released soldiers.
A prayer was recited for the soldiers who have just a day earlier entered Gaza.
“Something awakens within when over 120 voices recite the same exact words of prayer with strength, sincerity, and passion,” said Zoe Shine, a New Jersey native who recently made Aliyah.
She was back home visiting family and decided to join the special Shabbos Dinner.
“Having felt alone, filled with worry and frustration with the way Israel is unjustly depicted by American media time and time again, I was genuinely surprised and touched at the energy and affection towards Israel and its soldiers. And I realized that I wasn’t alone. Every single person in that room felt what I felt, and had their own connection to Israel,” said Shine.
The dinner lasted for hours, and ended on an inspiring note from Shlucha Tova Rapoport. She quoted the Rebbe, comparing the Jewish community to a rope – “if you tug on one end, there’s bound to be movement on the other end.” In other words, “when you do a mitzvah in Margate, it provides protection to those who need it most in our land of Israel.”