By Deb Silverthorn
The Michael Levin Base is, from Pesach prep to virtual painting parties and from Shabbat meals to sharing everyday experiences, a home away from home in Israel. The organization helps IDF “lone” soldiers and b’not sherut (women in voluntary national service for religious or other reasons), ensuring that “lone” doesn’t mean “alone.”
“We’re committed to outreach for olim (immigrants) who have come to serve here without any benefit of family in Israel and in our first year we helped 600 individuals,” said Melissa Kurtzer, The Base board member and former Dallas resident whose family made aliyah in 2018. “The pandemic has made for many challenges, but The Base has met them in ways we couldn’t imagine.”
The Base, headquartered in Jerusalem, opened just weeks before COVID-19 spread around the globe. It offers to-go Shabbat and holiday meals; laundry facilities; spaces to work and socialize; counseling services; a support group for parents and, for those recently released of their service, assistance in coordinating higher education and employment opportunities.
The Base is supported by private donations and a grant from the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Foundation which honors the lone soldier who was killed at 22. Last year, assistance was provided to 20 women whose apartments suffered a fire, to those who were quarantined for COVID-19 and even to couples marrying in this time without their families able to be present.
Frieda Katz, the daughter of Ceci and Travis and sister of Avi, Shayna and Elliot, is a 2018 Akiba Yavneh Academy graduate who decided to spend a gap year in Israel late in her senior year. Landing in Israel, with no thought of making aliyah. After myriad experiences at Bar Ilan University, “forever in Israel,” became her plan. Her first step was voluntary national service through Sherut Leumi.
“I’ve always loved Israel and, while I hadn’t considered aliyah before, through many conversations my parents supported me completely,” said Katz. “It was definitely the best time of my life to make this commitment.”
Katz spent her first year as a lone bat sherut at Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s department of oral surgery and, since August, she has worked for Gush Etzion Tourism, providing marketing and communications services.
“The Base ‘appeared’ at the right time. Just before Purim and Pesach when we had to be on our own for sederim, something most of us have never hosted let alone had by ourselves,” said Katz. “We had everything we needed from food and disposables to seder plates. Shabbat meals from local families feel like food from home and it’s appreciated in many ways. I hope someday to be on the other side of this to help the olim.”
In addition to being appreciative of the food and supplies, Katz is interested in building personal connections with wanting to learn about the experience of the lone soldiers or lone b’not sherut.
“Our Shabbat program alone feeds between 80 and 120 young people and we’re proud that despite the pandemic making fundraising and programming difficult, our important work has gone on,” said Richard Corman, The Base’s founding chairman of the board. “These young people are living within the constraints of budgets — and now like all of us — in the pandemic’s unusual circumstances. We’re here to share our appreciation by helping and easing their experiences.”
For more information visit www.themichaellevinbase.org.il. To request a lone soldier or lone bat sherut to speak to your organization, email firstname.lastname@example.org