L'CHAIMMarch 2024

Feeding the Forces


By JEWISHcolorado

When JEWISHcolorado Board Member Hirsch Neustein moved to Tel Aviv last April, he could not have predicted how his life was about to change. An attorney with Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck, Neustein had planned to work remotely in Israel for up to a year, at the same time he explored opportunities in real estate. 

On the morning of Simchat Torah, Neustein awakened to the sound of sirens and rockets. When his phone rang, it was a warning call from a friend who had recently retired from an elite IDF unit.

“He told me, ‘Lock your doors and do not go outside,’” Neustein says. “It was then that I knew this was not normal, not just another rocket attack.”

Since October 7, Neustein has spent the last few months flipping burgers and serving hundreds of soldiers at a time, often within earshot of rocket volleys. Now, he is hoping that his experiences will inspire the Colorado community to continue to support JEWISHcolorado’s Israel Emergency Fund and also to find other creative ways to help the war effort.


Serving the Soldiers

The war put a temporary halt to Neustein’s real estate networking. But another established network—the Jewish Federations of North America National Young Leadership Cabinet—served to connect him to a new mission. Neustein has been a member of Cabinet for several years. When Michael Mintz, a New York friend from Cabinet, came to Israel to volunteer, he got in touch with Neustein and the two joined a volunteer project that had been started by a group of Israeli general contractors and appraisers. 

The real estate professionals found their businesses had come to a halt during the war, so they started doing barbecue dinners for active duty IDF units that included their friends and families. They called the project Pinukei Basar—“Meat Treats and Delicacies.” The idea caught on, and they began accommodating requests from other units in both the north and south of Israel. Before long, they were doing multiple barbecues a week, serving 400-500 soldiers at each meal—although they have served as many as 800 soldiers, some of whom may have spent 60 days in Gaza without a day off. 

“When these volunteers started, they didn’t envision it would grow to what it has become,” Neustein says. “They just thought it was a good thing to do, and it has just taken off.”

In some cases, Neustein now finds himself on large military bases serving chicken and burgers. In other cases, he finds himself close to the front lines.
“You can literally feel the boom from artillery shells being fired nearby,” he says. “In Tel Aviv, when you get an alert of an incoming rocket attack, you have 90 seconds to seek shelter. In the north of Israel where Pinukei Basar has done several barbeques, when you get an alert, you take shelter immediately.”


Demonstrating Unity 

The mood at the barbecues is celebratory. Speakers blast music, performers entertain, and sometimes the soldiers sing and dance. In some cases, the volunteers surprise the soldiers by bringing their mothers along.

The volunteers at the barbecues are mostly Israeli, but also include American olim (immigrants) and visitors, including Neustein’s father and uncle. Between the soldiers and the volunteers, the barbecues bring together a true cross section of Israeli society—from secular to religious, liberal to conservative, blue collar and white collar, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Druze.

“At one barbecue, the griller on my left was an oromaxillofacial surgeon and the griller on my right was an ocular plastic surgeon,” Neustein says. “Several of the other volunteers were construction workers. These barbecues are an incredible demonstration of achdut (unity) and Ahavat Yisrael (love of one’s fellow Jew).”

Pinukei Basar is led and staffed by volunteers and has been funded by the volunteers, but as the project has grown in scope, supporters have partnered with an Israeli nonprofit to raise funds to keep the barbecues going. All of the vegetables are donated by a family-owned farm located in central Israel. Each barbecue costs about $3,000 to serve 400-500 soldiers. Donations to the JEWISHcolorado Israel Emergency Fund will help sustain this project as it continues to build morale among IDF soldiers. 

“The soldiers are unbelievably grateful and often call us heroes,” Neustein says. “To me, that sounds totally absurd especially because it is coming from the true heroes of this war.”


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