The ACHI team (L–R): Lynda Zentman, Suzanne Weilgus, Tova Taragin, Gloria Gordon, and Rochelle Zupnik
The ACHI team (L—R): Lynda Zentman, Suzanne Weilgus, Tova Taragin,
Gloria Gordon, and Rochelle Zupnik

By Rochelle Maruch Miller

From Baltimore to Baton Rouge, from the Five Towns to Fairbanks, The Klee  has become a powerful unifying display of support for Israel.

The Klee is an initiative that urges Jewish families to bring or make some sort of vessel or dish, display it prominently in the home, and keep it filled with products such as candies and nuts (or in the bathroom to hold Dead Sea or other skincare products). It should be refilled with Israeli products whenever it is empty.

“Just as most Jewish families have at least a mezuzah, a menorah, and Shabbos, with the Klee card, which was designed and donated by an Israeli graphic artist, the klee will also be used in a meaningful way,” Suzanne Weilgus, founder of the Achi/The Klee told the 5TJT. “Klee is the Hebrew word for vessel. It is a designated dish for Israeli products; you can indicate a dish, platter, or any container which can hold food or other items. Klee [spelled in Hebrew] is also the acronym for Kohen, Levi, and Yisrael, representing the totality of the Jewish nation. We are all in this together. The Klee is the only new category of Judaica in over a century and it is the only one that actually helps Israel.”

Suzanne added, “You can use a dish of your choice as a klee, although an Israeli-made klee would enhance the display. Indeed, several acclaimed Israeli artists have designed exquisite ‘keilim’ (see photos), while many a gorgeous klee has been created using a wide variety of art media such as ceramic, glass, and wood. Students in several schools and camps have designed their own klee as an art project, often with the word ‘klee’ written on them. The youngsters bring home the completed project.”

An economic response to the growing BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement that seeks to isolate and weaken Israel, The Klee is a visual reminder about our connection to our “Israeli side” of the family. In addition to helping Israeli manufacturers and vendors, it is hoped that this initiative will lead to greater unity.

It was during the second intifada 13 years ago when Suzanne, passionate about her love for Israel, found herself struggling to find a way to support Israel. “It would have to be something that everyone could do. I knew the last thing the world needed was another organization seeking funds,” she says. Working in tandem with several close friends, they founded American Communities Helping Israel (ACHI) and launched an initiative called The Klee: Enjoy Israel on Your Table. ACHI, which is also the Hebrew word for “my brother,” promotes the need to help our brothers and sisters in Israel and aims to unify all Jews towards this goal. Comprising volunteers of all ages, ACHI’s goal is to share the critical concept of supporting Israel by implementing easy ways of doing so. “We are making a lateral change,” Suzanne says.

RYNJ 5th-graders making projects for The Klee initiative

They began with the children. “We felt it would be best to have the children connect to Israel.” The ACHI team approached the Board of Jewish Education in New York (BJENY), which responded enthusiastically, inviting them to speak to over 600 educators. ACHI became a resource for helping teachers in the classroom. At first, they visited schools individually with lesson plans that inculcated the children with ahavas Yisrael. It soon became apparent that a more effective method was needed to facilitate serving as a resource to an ever-increasing educational community. A volunteer built them a website (achi613.org), entirely pro bono. An outstanding resource tool, the ACHI website posts lesson plans, resource ideas, and class projects. Additionally, it allows educators to post their own ideas online.

“The children were so excited,” says Gloria Gordon, a founder of ACHI and member of the ACHI team. “It was children helping children.” They became actively involved in activities to support Israel, creating concepts that were age-and grade-appropriate, including math projects, creating an advertisement for ACHI, as well as other innovative initiatives. Many younger children who are the “Guest of Honor” at a birthday party love the idea of filling the loot bags with Israeli nosh products (and their guests love receiving them as well!).

ACHI is a not-for-profit organization encouraging people throughout the nation to use Israeli products as part of a campaign known as Think Israel, Buy Israel. They say, “Fill your klee with Israeli products you enjoy and use. If you are buying pretzels, for example, purchase B&B instead of Bachman; Israeli-made soap instead of Dove; Israeli chocolates instead of Hershey. We are asking you to make filling your klee with Israeli products a lifetime commitment. It’s so simple. What we are really trying to say now is let us all change ‘BDS’ to ‘buy, display, and support’ Israel. Once you get used to it, you always do it.”

Intended to be proudly displayed in every home, synagogue, classroom, dorm room, and office, the klee is creating a nationwide buzz, fast becoming the “must-have Judaica object”–enhancing one’s home while expressing a lifetime commitment to support Israel.

To that end, ACHI is launching The Klee Commitment through Klee Shabbat–an initiative that will be held throughout this summer at synagogues throughout the United States and Canada. “A designated Klee Shabbat will be selected by each rabbi, who will introduce the Klee Project during the sermon, asking every family to dedicate a klee filled with Israeli products in their home,” Suzanne explained. “At the Kiddush/collation, there will be a table with klees filled with products from Israel for the guests to enjoy.”

Thus far, Klee Shabbat has enjoyed success in Baltimore, Maryland, and Skokie, Illinois.

“ACHI is run entirely by volunteers,” says Suzanne. “We want to empower everyone of any age, everywhere, to support Israel. We believe that a committed child grows up to be a committed adult. Our goal is to obtain a million Klee commitments across the nation throughout this year. We are encouraging people to ‘Double Your Mitzvah’ each month. In Adar, fill your mishloach manot with Israeli products. We can make a difference.”

For further information about Klee Shabbat, The Klee, or ACHI, or to volunteer as an “ambassador” for this wonderful organization, please e‑mail ACHI613@yahoo.com or visit www.ACHI613.org or www.theklee.org.

Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative-media consultant, educator, and lecturer who writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. The author welcomes your comments at Rochellemiller04@aol.com.

 

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