My parents taught me from an early age the importance of giving charity, but they emphasized that the most important donation I could give is my time.
Despite my father running his own business, he spent weekends and free time visiting nursing homes and hospitals, taking elderly community members to movies and plays, visiting public schools and churches to teach about the Holocaust, and even assistant coaching a little league team. My mother had 5 kids in 8 years — or as she’d correct me, 7¾ years — yet always volunteered in classrooms and offered her occupational therapy skills to children in our community who needed help but whose parents couldn’t afford it.
So when I received a call from Rochelle Zupnick, the sister of my mom’s childhood friend, asking if I’d be willing to donate my time to help a pro-Israel organization she was working with, I immediately said yes.
ACHI (American Communities Helping Israel) is an online market where 150+ Israel-based vendors can connect with new customers the world over. The nonprofit acts as a counterpunch to the BDS movement with a slogan that says it all:
Think Israel. Buy Israeli.
Suzanne Weilgus founded ACHI in 2004 after the Second Intifada. She had organized “Ben Yehuda Fairs” in New York and New Jersey to help Israeli merchants whose businesses were suffering from the lack of tourism. Vendors who traveled to the U.S. to sell their products at those fairs told her they sold more in four hours there than they had in two years.
Suzanne recruited friends Rochelle Zupnik, Gloria Gordon, Tova Taragin, Dr. Lynda Zentman and Marcia Wagner, who found her inspiration contagious — not that they had any choice in the matter. Through ACHI, they promoted Israeli products in stores, synagogues and all over the community. Their goal was to instill a love of Israel in the hearts and minds of this and future generations.
When COVID-19 hit, they saw that Israeli businesses were suffering once again. That’s when ACHI went virtual.
The team enlisted the help of website designer Stephen Plotsker to create the ACHI Market, which enables customers to support Israeli businesses even if they can’t physically travel there.
That’s around the time Rochelle reached out to me. They needed help with strategy, marketing, social media — spreading word about the online market.
She told me about another part of the ACHI initiative, the KLEE Campaign. KLEE stands for Klee L’ezrat Yisroel, a vessel to help Israel. The idea is to encourage people to have a dedicated vessel filled with products from Israel. The ACHI team runs events in schools and synagogues to encourage children to make their own dedicated plate, bowl or platter to fill with Israeli goods. It’s a constant reminder in every home of an easy and practical way to support Israel.
What I love about ACHI — and what made it so easy to say yes to Zupnik’s request — is that they’re providing practical ways for people to support Israel. Through ACHI, you’re not giving charity, but acquiring items you actually want.
The current ACHI Market categories include Judaica, art, cosmetics, fashion, food, gift stores, jewelry, photos, toys and wines of Israel. One section offers customers the option to purchase Israeli goods online to be delivered to friends and family living in Israel.
Volunteering? I’ve been taught from a young age. Shopping? I’ve been training for that my whole life. Volunteering to help people worldwide shop to support Israel? That’s something I was born to do.
And it’s now something you can do too:
Think Israel. Buy Israeli.
Any vendor based in Israel who sells a product online and is interested in being included in the ACHI Market can email the team at contact@ACHI613.org. All vendors need to join the market is an e-commerce website in English and the ability to ship goods to customers in the U.S and Canada.
Elianna Mintz Perez resides in Miami, Florida after spending the past year and a half traveling the world during the pandemic. A former CBS News producer, Elianna currently volunteers for ACHI and runs her own travel planning and production business, Elianna Mintz Productions. She can be reached on instagram @aroundtheworldincoronadays or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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