Honorable Menschen: Ivan Sacks and Hillel Rodin

The good delivering the goods

Pliyah Cirt of Thank You Israel Soldiers helped coordinate the dissemination of items that Hillel Rodin (left) and Ivan Sacks brought to Israel in December 2023. (Photo: Courtesy Hillel Rodin and Ivan Sacks)

By Deb Silverthorn

Ain od milvado — there is nothing but Hashem.” This is the life motto of Dallas’ Ivan Sacks. He and Hillel Rodin have returned after 13 days in Israel, having brought to Israel 16 duffel bags of supplies, more than 850 handmade cards, thousands of dollars of support and the best wishes of the Dallas Jewish community. A second trip is planned soon.

“We were sent to serve the people of Israel by the generous people of our community. With everything we gave, we remembered those who helped us,” said Sacks. “We were just the messengers but proud to be so.

“The whole way home all I could do was cry,” added Sacks, an investment advisor at Kingsley Advisor by day and mitzvah man at all times. “For nearly 24 hours each day we were on the go, we were fulfilled and we were grateful to the men and women on the ground keeping Israel safe and to their families. All of them have given up so much.”

Because there’s a limit of 10 bags per person by the airline, Sacks asked Rodin if he’d like to join him.

“I couldn’t answer ‘yes’ fast enough,” said Rodin, an intensive care unit nurse at Medical City Dallas. “It was a privilege, an honor and the opportunity of a lifetime.

“The highs and lows were beyond description and the levels of chesed were magnificent,” he said. “From witnessing a soldier coming out of the ICU to light the menorah, to a random conversation with someone on a bus, I’ll carry every moment the rest of my life.”

Rodin and Sacks visited Israel Defense Forces soldiers and citizens as well as some who were hospitalized. They gave out letters and cards written by children of Dallas-area Jewish day schools, clothing for evacuees, sleeping bags, blankets, knee pads and more. They bought gift cards for meals and coffee and delivered dozens of sufganiyot.

“We collected a lot so we had a lot to share but it wasn’t always so easy,” said Sacks, “In the hospital coffee shop, where I wanted to buy gift cards for some patients, the person working there covered the tab instead. Everywhere, everyone is giving to one another. They don’t all have what to give and it’s heart-wrenching.”

The duo rented an Airbnb and used a rental car to drive from one end of the country to the other. They traveled by convoy with car lights off and safety vests on. They hosted barbecue dinners for IDF soldiers in Ashkelon and near the Lebanese border. At the first, a sign posted read “To the friends and family of the Dallas Jewish community, thank you for giving us strength to win for the State of Israel.”

Rodin and Sacks were presented with certificates of appreciation for their “contribution and generosity in providing tasty and nutritious meals including Shabbat meals.” The certificates also contained the wording, “Thank you for the military gear you acquired and for the concern to enable us to have secure sleeping arrangements in the institutions of Chabad Ashkelon. Together we will be victorious.”

Among the now more than 150,000 Israeli soldiers, and the more than 350,000 reservists who were called to duty, is sharpshooter Matan Dadoun, in the Golani Brigade. Dadoun is a graduate of Torah Day School of Dallas whose mother, Nathalie, taught at Ann and Nate Levine Academy. It was a memorable moment for Rodin to see Dadoun again and for Sacks to hold him close.

Ivan Sacks delivered more than 850 cards from children of Dallas-area Jewish day schools to soldiers, patients and Israeli citizens Dec. 11, 2023. (Photo: Courtesy Hillel Rodin and Ivan Sacks)

“Matan grew up at Ohev Shalom and now he’s G.I. Joe in the deepest part of danger,” said Rodin. “It was amazing, scary and heart-wrenching and we were proud all at once.”

The goods taken to Israel started with a collection by Ayelet Haviv, who, with her husband, Liran, owns Element Moving and Storage. Ayelet’s WhatsApp campaign had collected much more than she expected at about the time she heard Sacks, her neighbor, was planning a trip.

“We had enough to fill 16 duffels, 50 pounds each, but it wasn’t enough to ship as we had been,” she said. “But G-d’s hand is in everything and Ivan figured it out. Because you can only take 10 bags per person, he asked Hillel and together they got everything there.”

Once in Israel, many helped Rodin and Sacks coordinate their efforts. Nitza Levy, Ayelet Haviv’s sister, arranged for transportation; Pliyah Cirt, who works with Thank You Israel Soldiers, assisted in distributing many of the items; countless others made connections.

Part of the thousands of dollars donated in Dallas went to host barbecues for IDF soldiers
in Ashkelon and near the Lebanese border Dec. 11, 2023. (Photo: Courtesy Hillel Rodin and Ivan Sacks)

While there, Rodin and Sacks were interviewed by former Dallas resident Liora Lurie, who had made aliyah.

“I followed Ivan’s journey on WhatsApp. I wanted to spread the word of what he’s doing,” said Lurie. “We met for 45 minutes and I’m glad I could share his story.

“We go from funeral to funeral, from one chesed project to another and do what we can just to get through the daily must-do lists,” she said. “This country is running on miracles but no one can take away the spirit of the Jewish people.”

There is an Amazon site that is continually updated with needs that, once ordered, are sent to Element’s warehouse. To help IDF soldiers who are facing winter weather, they’ve posted 500 sleeping bags; 1,000 pairs of gloves and hand warmers; and 300 snowsuits.

Sacks, like Rodin a member of Congregation Ohev Shalom, has always walked with G-d leading the way, but since beating cancer three times his fervor is more intense than ever.

“This is why my life was saved,” he said, “to matter in how I act and what I do.”

To connect with Sacks, to join his WhatsApp group, to make a donation or to offer other support, email ivan@ivansacks.com. To order from the Amazon link, visit tinyurl.com/389ztt94.

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