Joan Rimmon and Marsha Roseman have been working with Operation Gratitude for years, packing and mailing goodie boxes to American service members deployed in harm’s way. (Patch was at the Van Nuys armory with hundreds of volunteers when they packed their 600,000th care package.)
About three years ago, Carolyn Blashek, the Jewish attorney who founded Operation Gratitude, approached Rimmon and Roseman with the idea of forming a cadre to focus on Jewish service personnel, to send ritual objects and traditional foods for the three big holidays normally observed with family and community: Passover, Rosh Hashana and Hanukkah. The two women jumped at the chance and Project MOT was born. (MOT stands for Members of the Tribe, a lighthearted reference to Jews, by Jews.)
With 10 volunteers to start with, and the names of personnel forwarded by chaplains deployed with the troops, the group sent off nine Passover boxes of donated items for 27 troops, using Roseman’s home in the valley as warehouse and distribution center. Boxes were addressed to chaplains to prevent recipients from “being singled out” and harassed or harmed.
Nowadays, as the video shows, a couple of dozen energetic volunteers gather in a synagogue basement to pack anywhere from 135 to 275 boxes. While I was filming, they were filling packages designed for Rosh Hashana, with the tradional (dried) apples and honey plus Bit o’ Honey candy (the latter two donated by Adat Ari El Sisterhood), along with Jewish cds, books, puzzles, kosher snacks and squishy dolls.
Rimmon says the most important items are the messages from home, greetings and thank yous written at schools and congregations all over LA including Adat Ari El in Valley Village.
(For info about holiday services throughout the Patch, check out my related .)
Sandi Bloom, who davens at Chabad of North Hollywood, told me in the video about her daughter deployed as a medic in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and how much receiving the MOT box will mean to her.
At age 76, Joan Rimmon is still the balebusta (boss) of the project, along with Roseman and Linda Landau of Valley Village, whom they all agree “was there from the beginning.” While Rimmon is a member of Beth Jacob synagogue in Beverly Hills, where the packing took place, Roseman and Landau both live in the east valley and worship at Adat Ari El.
Rimmon’s crew included three of her daughters and 8-year old granddaughter Anat. Get a load of this kid in the video as she worked on the line filling boxes, at the craft table writing thank you notes, on the bucket brigade shifting boxes to the car, and even in the wayback stacking packages as they were loaded.
The assembly line worked with an efficiency that would have embarrassed Henry Ford, that notorious anti-Semite. The boxes were packed, sealed and labeled in less than two hours.
Next packing day will be Nov. 20 for Hanukkah, when troops will be receiving menorahs and candles for the Festival of Lights. Go to ProjectMot.org to see the whole list of items requested for donation and check out photos and letters from grateful service members who have been on the receiving end of the gifts.