Haredi Women Contribute to War Effort
There is a strong tradition of volunteering among Israel’s ultra-Orthodox, or haredi, population. Some of the Jewish state’s largest charitable organizations, such as Yad Sarah for medical and health support and Yad Ezra V’Shulamit for nutritional support, were founded by haredi men.
During Israel’s war with Hamas, volunteering has been at an all-time high, and many haredi women have been spearheading important initiatives. That trend is noteworthy because these women typically are busy raising large families and working outside the home. Two examples are Iron Sisters and the Memory Chain Project.
Social entrepreneur Sarah Tancman founded Iron Sisters to mobilize ultra-Orthodox women to provide an array of services. Members of the group prepare hot meals for soldiers and civilians; lend a friendly ear and, if needed, referrals to mental health professionals; visit the wounded and bereaved; and organize childcare for displaced families and the families of soldiers called up to the reserves.
Working the phones out of donated space in a wig shop, Iron Sisters recruited more than 1,000 volunteers and 150 neighborhood coordinators within the first week of the war. And illustrating how Israel’s haredi Jews are no longer shunning the internet but harnessing its power for constructive purposes, Iron Sisters developed a Google Doc where people in need of their services can register.
Also using an online process, the two haredi women who run Tachshik, a chain of jewelry stores in ultra-Orthodox communities throughout Israel, launched the Memory Chain Project, offering free personalized necklaces for bereaved family members of fallen soldiers.
Chani and Chavi—they prefer to share only their first names—rely on donations to fill orders for a heart, circle, Magen David or map of Israel necklace charm engraved with a likeness of the soldier based on a picture submitted online. Six weeks into the war, the women had made and delivered 1,420 Memory Chains for mothers, sisters, grandmothers and wives. They have brought many directly to a shiva house.
“It’s impossible,” said Chani, “to say no to the mothers and fathers and grandparents of fallen soldiers.”