Cotton States sends Books to IsraelBy Emily Trotz (Memphis, TN)


Last year, I applied for the Regional Sh’licha Chairwoman (Jewish Heritage, Social Action, and Community Service VP). After finding out that I had been the one chosen for the position, I was ecstatic. I could not wait to spread my love for Judaism and Community Service throughout my region, Cotton States, in BBYO [Bnai Brith Youth Organization]. I did not, however, realize that my efforts would be felt in another country.

I began searching on the internet for interesting things I could tell each sh’licha from each city (Birmingham, AL; Memphis, TN; Knoxville, TN; Nashville, TN; and New Orleans, LA). After a while, I came across the Books for Israel Project.

Due to the high security situation in Israel, most of the money that was used to buy English books for Israeli children in schools has been cut. These children are in desperate need of English books because they have no other way to practice their English. This situation is not only affecting Jewish children, but all children attending Israeli schools – Jews, Christians, Druze, Bedouins, Bahai’s, and Muslims. The Books for Israel Project promotes the need for English language literacy and supports communications abroad. Volunteers familiar with the project help coordinate local efforts to run successful book drives and collect money.

I began emailing Michael Quint who immediately contacted me and gave me all of the information I needed. Everything had to be so particular- I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. We talked about the shipping, the collecting, writing…. basically everything. I then contacted the sh’lichot from each city to tell them about the project that we were about to embark on. Most seemed extremely excited and some just felt like it was going to be too much work. I told them that the reward of collecting books for children who would otherwise not have any would be worth the effort being put in to collecting the actual books.

Boxes were set up throughout the Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana. Boxes were put in Jewish Community Centers, schools, synagogues- you name it. Flyers were sent out, phone calls were made, and we were well on our way to collecting as many books as we could. Within a few short months, Cotton States collected almost 1,600 books to be sent to Israel.

Collecting the books was not very hard. We collected boxes, put them in public areas, sent out flyers and then it somewhat took care of itself. Shipping was definitely the hardest. Sending multiple boxes overseas is very tricky. We had to label each book that we sent, count how many books were in each box, fill out numerous amounts of paperwork, obtain M-Bags from the Post Office and basically make sure that everything was perfect so that it would pass through the customs office. It took a very long time but it was so worth the reward.

Being involved in this project gave me the opportunity to speak with teachers in Israel and really understand the importance of this project. I now have a greater understanding of what is going on with children in Israel and know that what we have done will help the future generations and the prosperity of Israel. This project also showed me how strong the Jewish communities are in each city that this project took place in. Without the help of them, this project would have gone nowhere. The Jewish communities in which we live are strong and we need never to forget that.

The children in Israel needed our help and they still do. This project is incredible in that you know that what you are doing will secure the future of children living in Israel. The Books for Israel project is strictly interested in bettering the lives of children living in Israel. Participant, Maya Rabinovich (Memphis, TN), says, “Education is the gift of a lifetime. By participating in this project, I felt like I was giving this gift to a child. Even in a time of great conflict, it is important for the children of Israel to know that kids thousands of miles away are thinking of them.” Another participant, Debbie Bitran (Birmingham, AL) says that “parts of the project were very strenuous and tedious but the end result made it all worth the while. I really think this project was something that brought the whole chapter together; everyone contributed and when I sent all the books in the end, the chapter, as a whole, was so excited and proud. Those countless hours laboring over tape, books, labels, and boxes were worth every single second, because I knew that those books were going to children who truly needed them.”

If you are interested in helping children all over Israel, please contact Michael Quint. He will help you get started.

Emily Trotz is 15 years old, and she lives in Memphis, TN. She is the Regional Secretary of Cotton States Region BBYO and enjoys dancing.