05 May Together as One: To Benefit the Israel Covid Relief Fund
This Lag Ba’Omer, EG Productions is teaming up with music Superstars Yaakov Shwekey, Mordechai Ben David, and Ishay Ribo to benefit Migdal Ohr and the poverty stricken in Eretz Yisrael. Ari Hirsch of the Jewish Vues sat down with the administration of Migdal Ohr & Producer Eli Gerstner for an exclusive interview about the current situation in Eretz Yisrael, how Migdal Ohr generally helps the poor of Israel and how they are specifically helping now during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how Eli Gerstner of EG Productions is going to make this Lag Ba’Omer concert both safe and fabulous!
WHAT’S THE CURRENT SITUATION RIGHT NOW IN ERETZ YISRAEL?
In March of 2020, the Corona virus pandemic broke out in Eretz Yisrael and the country entered a special state of emergency. Subsequently, Israeli society was presented with challenges that it has never before faced. The Israeli public was called upon to remain quarantined in their homes, businesses were closed and various restrictions were imposed on the population in order to prevent the spread of the Corona virus pandemic in Israel. The new situation has created a reality in which society’s vulnerable populations have been dealt a mortal blow with regard to the assistance they regularly receive from welfare institutions and designated organizations that assist the needy. The organizations themselves cannot cope with the drastic increase in the demand for food and they cannot supply food to the hundreds of thousands of existing needy and new comers to the needy population. The new reality has put the aid organizations in a position in which they are unable to assist the needy and are currently in danger of actual collapse themselves! Moreover, many Israelis have been put on unpaid leave or have been fired from their place of work, small business owners have been forced to close their businesses, and many have no source of income. This can quickly lead to personal economic decline. The percentage of unemployed in Israel was 3.9% prior to the outbreak of the pandemic; and it is currently estimated at 26%. The significance of this statistic is that one quarter of Israel’s workforce is out of work.
WHAT IS MIGDAL OHR?
The Migdal Ohr Organization, founded by Israel Prize laureate, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, has been in Institutions for 45 years, providing assistance to society’s vulnerable populations and offering humanitarian aid to anyone in need during a time of crisis or state of emergency. The organization, with vast experience in managing complex humanitarian projects, will operate a system to supply food products, toiletries, and hygienic products during Israel’s Corona virus crisis.
HOW BAD IS POVERTY IN ERETZ YISRAEL CURRENTLY?
Based on the statistics of the National Insurance Institute for 2018, there are 469,400 poor families in Israel, which include 1,810,500 persons, of which 841,700 are children (Israel’s Poverty Indices Report, National Insurance Institute, December 2019). Poverty is present in the lives of Israeli adults. In Israel, there are currently 1,017,900 adults over the age of 65. About one- fifth of all families headed by people ages 65 and older are poor families. The elderly also experience high rates of loneliness, which increases with age. In light of this situation and the unemployment rates that are increasing, it is probable that the economic crisis that was caused by the f in Israel, will lead to the collapse of families and an increase in the poverty index.
HOW DID MIGDAL OHR START?
In the beginning of the 1970s, a period in which most of the residents of Migdal Ha’emek were coping with a difficult reality and great hardship, the city’s Chief Rabbi, Yitzchak Dovid Grossman initiated the establishment of an educational project that would be based on fundamental belief that with the help of warmth, love and equal opportunities, children and teenagers can best reach their potential. In 1972, the first educational institution was established to offer an educational framework to 18 pupils ages 11-2, who Rabbi Grossman had gathered from disadvantaged families living in Migdal Ha’emek and the Galilee. Over the years, the institution has grown into a large educational campus that educates thousands of pupils, some from underprivileged families and others from new immigrant families that have recently immigrated to Israel. These pupils benefit both from an educational framework and a warm second home as part of a residential format. Over the years, Migdal Ohr has developed into an educational network that offers preschools, daycare programs, as well as elementary, middle and high schools, dorm facilities and youth villages. Rabbi Grossman’s unique character and his deep-rooted love of Israel have led him to dedicate his life to the education of youth at-risk. Rabbi Grossman has also made a significant contribution to Israeli unity and works diligently in the fields of education, welfare and social issues. For more than 40 years, his activity has garnered great professional commendations; and in 2008, Rabbi Grossman was awarded the Israel Prize for Life Achievement – Special Contribution to Society and the State of Israel. In 2013, Rabbi Grossman and his enterprises were awarded the President’s Award by Israel President, Shimon Peres, of blessed memory.
HOW HAS MIGDAL OHR BEEN WORKING SINCE THE CORONA VIRUS CRISIS?
In light of Rabbi Grossman’s experience and due to a national need as manifested in the enormous increase of needy individuals and the possible collapse of the aid organizations, Migdal Ohr has assumed the responsibility for packing and delivering thousands of emergency packages, including food and hygiene products for the needy and quarantined populations. This is a national campaign, designed to provide tens of thousands of emergency packages to needy families, senior citizens, Holocaust survivors and children in the next three months. This unique aid campaign is being operated with the unique assistance of IDF soldiers, members of youth movements and hundreds of volunteers. For the next three months and depending upon changing circumstance, as long as there is a need.
About The Event:
On Lag Baomer Migdal Ohr is having a special on-line Livestream concert to help the crisis going on in Eretz Yisrael. I know that Eli Gerstner from EG Productions has been working very hard on this concert, because he realizes how much is at stake. Eli, please tell everyone what you have planned for Lag Ba’omer & how you came to work with Migdal Ohr. This all started when I myself had Corona and wasn’t doing too well. As I was recovering, Camp HASC & I connected and said we needed to do something to unite the whole Klal Yisroel in Achdus, and just get them away from all of the negativity and sadness. At the same time, there were other musicians and artists doing basic concerts from their house, in their living room, because of isolation. We needed to figure out a way to put on a show that would be better than that. Visually, it’s important for people to see a big production as much as it is to hear the whole concert, the whole package is important. So I decided the best way is to film at a special studio, in a very controlled, safe environment and put one performer on stage at a time, only a few people in the room, and in between wash down the space. Everyone was wearing masks, gloves, and we were extra careful about safety. Baruch Hashem the show was a great success, and Camp HASC made the money they needed to stay alive. After that, Migdal Ohr, an organization run by the famous tzadik, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, called and wanted to do a show on that level to raise very crucial funds for our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel. Obviously, we needed to do something different then what we just did for HASC, and besides for all the visuals at the show, we decided to ask the biggest superstars in Jewish Music to come together in Achdus (for the very first time) for this amazing cause. Yaakov Shwekey, Ishay Ribo & Mordechai Ben David!! This plan is even better than before. We’re building a new type of world around them. They will be sitting together in a virtual 3D world. Seeing is believing, but this concert is going to be on the highest level. All done in the most safe and responsible way. We will be raising tremendous funds for our brothers in Israel while doing this amazing unprecedented kind of show. The show will be livestreamed, and we are going to be able to get the audience at home to participate in a very cool way. We are specifically not doing it during the day when kids are in (virtual) Yeshiva, so they can focus on learning. We are doing it afterwards (at 5pm EST), so they can have something to look forward to. We have over 3 hours of “premium” entertainment planned. We hope that the show will be a tremendous Kiddush Hashem and show Hakodosh Baruch Hu & the world, our amazing achdus in Klal Yisrael.