Grassroots effort brings a slice of home to IDF soldiers

Pizzas bought from money donated to Nusach Hari B’nai Zion synagogue  are delivered to Israeli soldiers on the front lines in southern Israel.


Sometimes it’s the little things that can mean the most. Like a slice of pizza to an Israeli soldier on the front lines in the Israel-Gaza war, who is tired of eating tuna from a can.

“Slices for Soldiers” is an initiative begun by Nusach Hari B’nai Zion in Olivette. Initially, more than $2,200 was raised to send 160 pizzas to Israeli Defense Forces soldiers and families confined to bomb shelters in Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod, three war-torn regions in southern Israel. In the past few days, another $1,000 has been collected, which will go to sending another wave of pizzas; the hope is to keep raising money and sending pizzas for as long as the war continues.

Richard Woolf, chairman of NHBZ’s Israel Committee, explained that the initiative was born after congregants Dr. Ethan Schuman and his wife, Debbie, sent a few pizzas to Israeli troops outside of Gaza. The Schumans let Rabbi Ze’ev Smason and members of the shul’s Israel Committee know that local Jews could order pizzas in Israel for soldiers and families on the front lines, thinking NHBZ might be interested in organizing a congregational effort. 

Around that time, on a Sunday, Woolf and his family were at a barbecue hosted by Emelynn Hasky, a friend in St. Louis, whose brother is in the IDF. Hasky and her brother were texting back and forth when he told her how sick he was of eating tuna out of a can. 

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“That’s when we decided to run with the pizza idea,” said Woolf, “and create an initiative behind it.”

On Monday, July 14, an email was sent to NHBZ congregants explaining that the shul would be ordering and delivery pizzas to troops in Israel. Some then used social media to advertise the effort. 

“I figured we’d get 400 to 500 bucks,” said Woolf. “The first day we had $1,200. The second day $1,800. By the time we ordered the pizzas on that Wednesday, we had more than $2,000.”

With the help of a friend living in Israel, Woolf was able to contact different pizza shops in southern Israel to make sure each could prepare and deliver 50 to 60 pizzas. “These shops are in areas that are being bombarded by rockets,” said Woolf, explaining that their employees are often running to and from bomb shelters to take cover.

Woolf thinks one of the reasons “Slices for Soldiers” has done so well is because of its immediacy. “It has a very palpable, real result,” he said. “The beauty of this is that $10 buys a pizza. We’ve got a lot of $10, $18, $20 donations. Kids have gone into their piggy banks and given $5. A girl who just had her bat mitzvah gave $50 of her gift money.

“What resonates is the ease and ability that people can give. It doesn’t require hundreds of dollars to make a difference. If you figure a pizza has eight slices, two slices per person, with $10 you are essentially helping to feed four people.”

Woolf also notes that 15 to 20 percent of the donations have come from people outside of his congregation. “The word-of-mouth has been tremendous,” he said. “We have been in touch with communities in Guatemala and Panama and Chile that are also organizing and delivering pizzas in Israel. It’s also spreading to other cities in the United States.”

 Anyone interested in donating can do so by sending a check to Nusach Hari B’nai Zion, 650 N. Price Road, St. Louis, Mo. 63132, and earmark “Slices for Soldiers” on the envelope. For more information about the initiative, e-mail [email protected].