By Rochelle Maruch Miller
Over just a few short weeks, an inspiring project has spurred thousands of people to help outfit more than 10,000 Israeli soldiers with high-tech T‑shirts emblazoned with the slogan, “Thank You, IDF,” with a heart for the “o” and a tefillah for Divine protection inside. David Kramer launched the NU Campaign to deliver Dri-Fit T‑shirts to the soldiers battling Hamas during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, helping cool the troops in the brutal desert heat while offering emotional and spiritual support.
David’s goal is to provide one T‑shirt to every IDF soldier in Operation Protective Edge. Though the IDF has withdrawn from Gaza, soldiers are still outside its borders and the T‑shirts are being delivered to them in a package, along with socks, underwear, letters of support, and healthy snacks and energy bars.
In this exclusive interview, David discusses his motivation for launching the NU Campaign and the “Thank You, IDF” Project.
RMM: David, please tell us about yourself.
DK: I made aliyah 12 years ago from South Africa. Since then, I have served as a combat soldier in the IDF and worked in various start-up ventures and not-for-profit organizations before founding and directing NU Campaign in 2009. I live in Jerusalem with my wife Tova and our four boys.
RMM: What inspired you to launch the NU Campaign?
DK: In 2009, when close to 10,000 terror rockets had already landed in the Southern city of S’derot since 2000, I was troubled by how the international media had completely overlooked the story of the residents of S’derot. At the time, 97% of the kids in the city were suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and business and daily life was in total disarray from daily attacks. I then learned of the story of young Ella Abekasis, an 11-year-old girl who was tragically killed saving her brother’s life from an impending attack by laying him down on the ground, in the middle of the street, and covering him with her body—such an extraordinary act, facing such extreme circumstances. I felt compelled to do something, to bring this story to light to the international community, to try in some way to tell our side of the narrative.
After much research, I came up with the idea of designing a “15 Second” shirt, representing the amount of time the people of S’derot have to run for cover facing an attack, including many statistics, themes, and icons related to the event. However, it was not enough just to make a shirt. I wanted to inspire and empower the person wearing the shirt to become its ambassador. On the inside of the shirt, at the wearer’s heart, I printed Ella’s story, with the aim that you carry it close and be its representative wherever you go! That is how it all started. Now, four years later, I have designed over 50 such shirts, representing positive humanitarian Israeli organizations and causes.
RMM: How did you bring the concept to fruition?
DK: I raised enough money, from family and friends, to print 1,000 shirts, and would meet with student and tourist groups in Israel, giving presentations on our featured shirts and selling them afterward.
Since then, we have launched two websites, opened a retail store in Jerusalem, and worked closely with numerous U.S.-based student organizations, to run high quality Israel programming on campus and run unique design activism workshops and presentations in Israel.
We have just launched what I think is our most exciting project to date: www.nuthreads.org, a crowd-funding T‑shirt platform that allows you to create and launch your own T‑shirt campaign for a cause, charity, project, event, loved one, or anything else of importance to you, incorporating all the unique branding features of NU. This is about passing the buck on and allowing others to use our brand to make a difference in this world!
RMM: I thought the “Thank You, IDF” Campaign was very inspiring. What is the story behind it?
DK: The “Thank You, IDF” Campaign was the brainchild of my mother-in-law, Leah Lurie. After her son Ary (my brother-in-law), was called up for reserve duty, at the start of Operation Protective Edge, and sent into Gaza, she felt a burning urge to do something and give these young soldiers something that would help motivate and protect them. She had the idea of printing a shirt that they could wear in combat, and then, on the inside of the shirt, near their hearts, they would have their own “Iron Dome” protection, from Hashem, as they put their lives on the line to defend their families and country. My mother-in-law felt that since soldiers do not carry any siddurim or tefillin with them in combat, at least they can have a prayer printed on a garment that is close to their bodies.
RMM: How have the T‑shirts contributed to the positive morale and wellbeing of the chayalim?
DK: The following letter arrived from an IDF sergeant in Gaza: “To all the “Thank You, IDF” T‑shirt Team, I speak for the entire Israeli Defense Force—Thank you! You cannot imagine how much your active support encourages and strengthens us—the soldiers—and pushes us to move on despite the danger we face, in order to ensure that you can live in peace and quiet. Kol ha’kavod to you all for the time and effort you put into this. Your acts of kindness make this the greatest hour and most beautiful time for the State of Israel! So, thanks and please continue the good and important work you do. With much appreciation, Aryeh . . . IDF”
RMM: Now that the IDF has withdrawn from Gaza, are you still sending T‑shirts to the soldiers?
DK: There are still many soldiers who are waiting on the border and many more reservists have been called up. Last week I printed an additional 1,000 shirts and we will continue to show our support for as long as we can. Due to the response we have received, we are considering continuing the campaign after the war, to get all the soldiers serving in the IDF a shirt and package.
RMM: How can our readers send T‑shirts to the IDF soldiers?
DK: We have an online campaign, where you can buy the “Thank You, IDF” shirt and send matching shirts to soldiers serving in the South of Israel. Shirts are made of high-quality Dri-FIT material and each shirt comes with the message and prayer on the inside, shipped anywhere in the U.S. To pledge a shirt, visit http://nuthreads.org/
RMM: David, what final thoughts would you like to share with our readers?
DK: When we designed the shirt, we made sure that the front of the shirt would be in English, contrary to what we were being told, to do it in Hebrew—the reason being that we wanted the soldiers to know that the entire Jewish people stand with them and support their work, restoring peace to the State of Israel. Many things go through a soldier’s mind as he goes into combat and people worldwide should know that they can make a big contribution by reaching out and showing their support!
By Rochelle Maruch Miller