By Rochelle Maruch Miller
When it came to choosing a theme for celebrating her bat mitzvah, Naomi Wiener knew it would involve helping the people of Israel. “After watching the news last summer and seeing how people have only a few seconds to run into a safe place when the alarm sounds, I started thinking about what might happen to someone who couldn’t run that quickly. That thought made me very scared,” Naomi recalled.
The 11-year-old HALB student, whose impressive chesed résumé includes volunteering at Yad Eliezer’s annual bake sale, as well as packing and delivering Tomchei Shabbos boxes before Pesach together with her family, credits her grandparents with helping her find the perfect chesed project for her bat mitzvah during their recent trip to Israel.
“My Bubby and Zaidy visited the Bnai Zion Hospital and showed me a picture of how close the hospital is to the Lebanese border. Dr. Amnon Roffe, the CEO of Bnai Zion in Haifa, told my grandparents that an underground protected emergency room is urgently needed before the next war.”
Despite her tender years, Naomi realized the severity of the situation. “The question is not if, but when, the next war will be. By building this sheltered emergency room, we will surely save thousands of lives,” says Dr. Roffe. Having found her worthy cause, Naomi set out on her mission of chesed and hope, determined to do everything within her power to help raise funds for Bnai Zion’s protected emergency department. To facilitate this goal, she is launching Project H.U.G., a truly inspiring initiative, imbuing her bat mitzvah with mitzvot. Project H.U.G. is the acronym for Hope Under Ground at Bnai Zion hospital.
Bnai Zion is a leading urban hospital that serves the communities of Northern Israel, providing compassionate care without regard to one’s ethnicity, religion, or economic background. More than 64,000 visits are made annually to its emergency department, where all patients, including citizens injured in terror attacks, have received exceptional treatment. The medical center was the frontline hospital during the second Lebanon War in 2006.
History has shown the rockets of Israel’s enemies are aimed at its citizens and Israelis are particularly targeted. Because the emergency room remains vulnerable to attack, building a new, protected underground unit fortified against nuclear, biological, and chemical attack is the priority of the hospital.
This state-of-the-art facility will be designed to hold 30 beds, two trauma rooms, and six professional clinics, as well as a protected hospitalization department for ongoing care with 90 beds and a complete range of services, treatment rooms, doctors’ offices, a pharmacy, and other features, at a cost of $8 million. Helping now means the new protected unit will save lives in the near future.
Described by her family and friends as a kind and compassionate kid who loves to have fun, Naomi is a talented actress who has performed in several Drama for Life productions, including Snow White, where she took center stage. This year, she will perform the lead role in The Snow Queen.
Growing up in a home steeped in Torah values and chesed has impacted greatly on Naomi who cites her grandfather as her role model. “My Zaidy, Stephen Savitsky, has been involved in many Jewish organizations,” she says with unabashed pride. “He spends countless hours working for the good of KlalYisrael. He was president and chairman of the board of the OU and got to see firsthand some of the needs of our brothers and sisters in Israel.”
Combining her sterling middot and sparkling personality, Naomi is an exemplar of chesed. Following in her family tradition, she is prioritizing the needs of our brothers and sisters in Israel. She has decided to launch Project H.U.G. in lieu of a fun party and all the gifts that accompany it. Instead, Naomi has created a series of FUNdraising events to enjoy with her friends and help her reach her goal. As the culmination of this lofty initiative, Naomi will present her gift to Bnai Zion and join them on their float with family and friends at the Salute to Israel Parade for an unforgettable experience.
Please join and be a part of the celebration in any way you can.
Bake sale. From delicious cakes to cookies to challahs, shop for all your Purim seudah needs at the Wiener home, 332 Island Avenue in Woodmere on Tuesday, March 3, 9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Bring your friends. Bakers are needed and greatly appreciated.
Purim cards. Send these cheerful cards to your friends and relatives in lieu of mishloachmanot and help Naomi reach her goal at the same time. Order at www.project-hug.org. Cards will be express-shipped directly to your home.
Wash for Pesach. Bring your car to Majestic Auto Spa anytime between Purim and Pesach. Mention code word “Naomi,” and a portion of your car wash payment will go to Bnai Zion. 1250 West Broadway in Hewlett. 516-569-3970.
Give a HUG. Can’t join any of these events? Tax-deductible donations can be made online at www.project-hug.org. Checks can be made out to Bnai Zion Foundation, 136 East 39th Street, New York, NY 10016. Bnai Zion is a 501(c)(3) foundation.
Naomi enthusiastically recommends initiating and becoming involved in chesed endeavors. “Find a project that you believe in,” she advises. “Don’t be shy to ask people to help.”
Judging from her own experience, Naomi’s advice certainly rings true. Even prior to the official launch of Project H.U.G., the initiative had already been generating a great deal of buzz. “Everyone I have spoken to is very excited to get involved and help me reach my goal. The response has been super positive. Rabbi Plotkin, my principal, told me how proud he is of this project.”
“What a perfect way to enter your accepting of mitzvot by helping others join together to give tzedakah, perform chesed, and do mitzvot. We are so proud of you,” Rabbi Plotkin told Naomi.
Throughout our community, the excitement and enthusiasm for Project H.U.G. is palpable. “What a great and creative way to educate batmitzvah girls,” said Mrs. Estee Lightstone, educational technology coordinator at HALB.
“Naomi and her sales force were amazing!” says Mrs. Debbie Eisenberg, director of district support services at HALB.
“We need your help,” exclaims Penina Wiener, Naomi’s mom, who resides in Woodmere together with her husband Tzvi and their lovely family. “Please come to the bake sale, buy Purim cards, get a car wash. Support us in any way that you can. Together we can make a difference.” Penina adds, “We would like to express our appreciation to Jeremy Joszef; Print on Point; Ed Long from Majestic Auto Spa; Logan Family of Guardian Bus Corp.; Brooke, Cheryl, and Jack from Bnai Zion; Rabbi Plotkin and Richie Hagler from HALB; Gitti Allman; and Benjy and Alan from the bakery at Brach’s for their gracious generosity and assistance.” v