First it was parents who were asked to give money. Now, their kids are getting involved. Tens of thousands of toiletry kits are being assembled by families throughout the metropolitan area as part of the Kits for Kosovo drive launched here by UJA-Federation to help ethnic Albanian refugees forced by Serbs from their homes in Kosovo.
About 22,000 refugees streamed into Macedonia in the first three days of this week (on top of the 96,000 already there in eight refugee camps) and another 20,000 were reportedly on the way. An additional 150,000 were said to be ready to flee Kosovo soon.
"In our tradition, we respond to evil," said Rabbi Michael Paley, UJA-Federation's executive director of synagogue and community affairs. "It's important as an education for our children and as a witness for the world that at this particular moment we respond."
He said public school districts, in addition to synagogues, day schools and Jewish community centers, have responded to the drive. Among them is the 1,400-family Central Synagogue in Manhattan. Susan Alpert, director of the parenting center and nursery school, said the children "don't understand exactly what's happening, but they understand it's part of tzedakah. And because it involves medication, they can relate to it."
The congregation's spiritual leader, Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, said he hoped his members would assemble 1,000 kits in the next few weeks. He noted that some congregants who were unable to buy the necessary items donated money that was used by the synagogue's young adult group to buy the items and assemble the kits.
"Some of our members have gone to discount stores and bought boxes of the items, and one member got a donation of toothbrushes from her dentist," said the rabbi. "It's important that we give everybody an opportunity to do something manageable in behalf of the refugees."
The kits should be assembled in a one-gallon Ziploc bag. The bag must include a hand towel, two Shabbat candles, an 8-ounce tube of toothpaste, three toothbrushes, a bar of soap, a cardboard box of assorted bandages, and a tube of triple antibiotic cream.
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