“Tomorrow it will be a week. A week since my husband was recruited. A week that my children have been without their daddy. My five-and-a-half-year-old son goes to bed every night asking when Daddy will come home. My one-and-a-half-year-old daughter wakes up every morning searching for her daddy. And in between, I don’t have a spare moment to take care of myself. It has been almost a week without a proper meal for my family. No time, no energy. But today, I finally was able to catch my breath. Today I received a specially ordered takeaway. You took the time to listen to me, to hear what I need, and you made it happen. I really cannot thank you enough. What you are doing is beyond amazing! From the bottom of my heart, thank you all!”
Written by a grateful army wife, this heartfelt letter is representative of the many received by Eishet Chayal, a recently launched project providing support and succor to the unsung heroines—the selfless wives of the brave IDF soldiers who are truly each an akeres habayis, taking care of their children and running their households as their husbands risk their lives to defend Am Yisrael.
Created to support the army wives as soon as Operation Protective Edge began calling up 30,000 soldiers, Eishet Chayal offers the wives and children left back home services such as take-out meals, babysitting, and cleaning, as well as an empathetic and warm “listening ear.”
Racheli Kiffel Stewart is one of Eishet Chayal’s founders. In this interview with the 5TJT, Racheli discusses the unique project that is helping the wives whose reality is a daily struggle to maintain a semblance of normalcy while they live in constant fear for the safety of their husbands.
RMM: Tell us about yourselves.
RS: We are a group of seven girls who grew up in Israel: Yehudeet Hier Counine, Miriam Ray, Racheli Kiffel Stewart, Nachomi Wachstock, Rachel Garber Yakubov, Rachel Gold Feinstein, and Shoshana Ben Shlomo. We’ve all been friends since our days at Rappaport High School and are now all 24 years old. Now we are living all across the globe: Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, Moscow, Jerusalem, and RBS. We stay in touch via a Whatsapp group that we are all on together.
RMM: Racheli, what inspired all of you to launch Eishet Chayal?
RS: On Tuesday, July 9, our friend Shoshana sent us a message that her husband had just received the call to come in. A few hours later, he was gone! They were worried and nervous. What inspired us to actually start the project is that we saw how much our friend was struggling with her kids and household duties and we just wanted to show her that we support her and care, even from far away.
It is a scary time and sending your husband off to war is terrifying. And so we each picked a night to send money to her PayPal account so that she can order dinner every night and not have to worry about it and know that we are all there for her at her time of need. After that, we got to thinking—why not start an entire organization to help all the families of reservists as they are all going through a terrible time right now.
RMM: How did you bring Eishet Chayal to fruition?
RS: Finding families is simple. We started with my friend’s husband’s whole unit of 12. We posted on an Israeli mommy Facebook group. We told our friends and neighbors, and people started referring names. We started a fund on gofundme.com and started sharing that on Facebook. We contacted as many people as we know to donate and baruch Hashem, the response has been amazing.
RMM: What services does Eishet Chayal provide?
RS: We offer one night of takeout and four hours of babysitting as well as cleaning. We have many people helping us with this project. We divided most of our helpers into groups, each of which is comprised of a supervisor, helpers who make the phone calls, and an order-placer.
My friend, Rachel Feinstein of L.A., is in charge of delegating the family names to our supervisor every night (American time). The supervisors will then divide their names and distribute their names to the helpers, who will then call the families and introduce themselves and let them know what we are doing. Besides for just helping them with necessary help, we try to be an empathetic, listening ear and let them know we care about them and appreciate what they are sacrificing for us.
The helpers will then ask the families if they are interested in having their dinner. If they are, the helper will ask them the name of their favorite restaurant, take their order as well as the time they would like for it to arrive, and then e-mail them a form to fill out if they are interested in receiving babysitting and cleaning. At the conclusion of the call, the helper will write all the information in her folder, including the dinner order, if there is one. By 3:00 p.m. Israeli time, the supervisor will check her groups, compile a list of all the dinner orders, and send it to her order-placers who will then place the orders.
RMM: How does the babysitting and cleaning process work?
RS: The families use their own babysitters and cleaners whom they know and trust, and we reimburse them for it afterwards.
RMM: Racheli, what response has your project elicited?
RS: The army wives and their husbands are incredibly grateful. Their letters of appreciation bring tears to our eyes. They are constantly thanking us and appreciate that we are thinking of them—the wives and children of the soldiers. It is the wives—the Neshei Chayal—who are holding down the fort alone and are often forgotten. They cannot believe we remembered them.
RMM: What is the biggest challenge facing the army wives and how do you help them to overcome these challenges?
RS: The greatest challenge they face is their fear for the safety of their husbands and the lack of clarity. Many of these women have not heard from their husbands in days, and they are completely unaware of their situation. From us they get the feeling that they are not alone. They feel that we are all connected, no matter how far away we may be. They are deeply touched and grateful to the response of the global Jewish community; the wives feel we all care about them and appreciate what they are sacrificing for us.
RMM: What is the most rewarding aspect of this project?
RS: The difference we are making in these women’s lives, their voices when we call them, their disbelief and appreciation.
RMM: What makes Eishet Chayal unique?
RS: The personal touch, the wife-to-wife, mother-to-mother conversation. We did this because we know how difficult running a house without help can be, and we cannot imagine the stress of having a husband in constant danger. We are also the only organization that helps the wives.
RMM: How much money has Eishet Chayal raised?
RS: As of August 1, we raised $22,346.
RMM: What message would you like to convey to our readers?
RS: When you see an average Israeli family walking down the street, it’s hard to imagine the husband/father in a uniform with a painted face, fighting a war. But that is their reality and their sacrifice for all of us. They deserve all of Hashem’s blessings and our heartfelt appreciation.
The unity and achdus this has generated brings great hope for the safety of our soldiers and brethren in Israel. This gives us all an opportunity to actively support the soldiers and their families and not merely be bystanders to the crisis that has fallen upon all of us. Knowing they have a strong support group from across the globe gives them the strength to carry on. Am Yisrael Chai!
Please stand by the army wives and their children by supporting Eishet Chayal in their mission. To donate and make a difference, visit www.gofundme.com/b8155c. Tizku l’mitzvos! ϖ