When Bracha Rosenblum first heard that Hizbullah missiles were driving families with children into shelters, she immediately realized that they were going to need toys and games to keep themselves occupied. Of course, she often thinks about toys and games - she is the creator and owner of www.toystore.co.il, which markets toys and games via the Internet.
"As soon as it became clear that the missiles were not going to stop immediately, I sent an email to my customer lists asking them to help me raise funds to send toys to the children in the shelters We delivered about $20,000 worth of excellent puzzles and thinking games - the kind that keep kids and adults occupied for hours - to the North on July 22," she said.
"I know toys, I know kids and I know most of the toy importers in Israel. I just wanted to help with what I know how to do, " added Rosenblum, who besides running a toy business, is a pianist and teacher and the mother of six children and grandmother of two. "This was a team effort. One of my customers works in the Prime Minister's Office, and she arranged a donation of $10,000 from a wealthy donor who wanted to help.
"When I went to my suppliers and told them what I was doing, they said they wanted to help too. and they provided toys far below normal wholesale prices, basically just covering costs. We found drivers willing to travel to the war zone, arranged drop-off points and delivered toys to community organizers."
Though Rosenblum had prayed that the missile attacks would be over quickly, they have continued. Every day, she receives calls from the North, where there is still a desperate need of ways to keep kids amused. Since many families have relocated to temporary shelters in the South, she is now receiving calls from all over the country. She is also receiving calls from those who want to help by taking toys directly to the children.
"Ilana Shoshan Diamant, film producer and former Miss Israel, called me, as did the Tel Aviv University Student Association," she said.
"Ilana is raising money among her friends [see http://israel.outline.co.il] and I helped arrange for her to take toys to children in shelters in the North and community centers in the South. We also sent boxes and boxes of toys with the Tel Aviv University students. They told me how kids' eyes lit up when they went to meet them with these gifts and how much they appreciated the opportunity to be involved in this mitzva."
Since many of Rosenblum's customers are North Americans and Europeans who buy gifts for family or friends in Israel on her Web site, she has received donations from all over the world.
"The most touching donation," she said, "was from two little children, seven and five, staying in a bungalow colony in the Catskills who took time off from swimming and playing to go around collecting. They sent in a donation of $268.
"So far, we have sent over $50,000 in toys, puzzles and games to children all over Israel. I am directly in touch with those who need the toys most, and I have been trying to send them the types of toys that they can use and get them there as quickly as possible. I am donating all my time and effort to this project right now, basically just covering my costs. Unfortunately, I have had to turn some people down because I just don't have enough funds."
If you would like to contribute to this toy drive for displaced children in the North and in the South, visit Rosenblum's Web site, www.toystore.co.il, or call (08) 976-6597 in Israel or (718) 301-5932 in North America.