There is a serious problem with American Jewish youths’ perception about Israel. Unfortunately, the Palestinians and the BDS movement are winning the publicity game, even though much of what they say or teach are untruths. I recently heard a college-aged, Jewish student refer to Israel as an apartheid state. As responsible Jewish adults, we must make it our mission to educate our youth about the history of Israel, how it was for Jews to live in this world before there was a State of Israel and how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more complex than it might seem.
We need more American Jews doing things to benefit Israel and letting our children know why they are doing these things. We need more people like Cory and Rachel Harow. I recently had the pleasure of learning about their journey as proud Zionists.
Cory, an emergency medicine physician, and his wife Rachel, live in Boca Raton, Florida. Like me, they both grew up as Americans, in love with all things Israel. Cory grew up in a family of Zionists, with 3 brothers who all went to Religious Zionist summer camps. Two of his brothers made Aliyah with their young families, while in their 20’s. Rachel Harow went to a Ramah summer camp for 12 years, including a teen Israel summer tour, which added to her love of Israel, and made it one of her core values. Cory spent nearly every spare moment he had in Israel. He staffed 3 separate Israel teen tours, spent another summer doing chemistry research at Tel Aviv University, and constantly looked-for opportunities to serve Israel and help keep the Jewish homeland thriving and safe.
As part of this goal, at age 19, Cory Harow left Tel Aviv University and joined the Israel Defense Force, serving in the Gavati Infantry Brigade.
I am constantly awed by the young men and women who choose to serve in Israel’s Army despite growing up in another country. It takes discipline, it takes dedication and it takes drive. These volunteers are called Lone Soldiers, because they lack the local support systems (family) that Israeli soldiers have. Being a Lone Soldier is very difficult, but it also provides a heightened sense of accomplishment, and the knowledge that you stood up for your values in a consequential way.
After his Army service, Cory Harow returned to the US for college and medical school- though his love for Israel never waned. He was hooked.
Cory and Rachel Harow pooled their meager resources when they first got married and made their first purchase together as a couple- an apartment in the town of Modiin, Israel, where they have visited nearly every year since.
Having experienced the challenges of being an Israeli soldier, Cory has done significant philanthropic work in support of Israel and the men and women who serve in her armed forces. Cory and Rachel have been donors and supporters of the Friends of the IDF, a non-profit organization that funds educational, recreational, cultural, and social service programs and facilities for Israel’s protectors. One of the FIDF’s signature programs is its scholarship program. The FIDF provides soldiers who cannot afford university tuition, with a full scholarship. In fact, the FIDF has sent 1000’s of soldiers to a university, and Cory and Rachel were ecstatic when one of the soldiers whose tuition they personally paid for, was able to join them at the Kotel in Jerusalem last year, for their son’s Bar Mitzvah.
Cory and Rachel also contribute to many other Israel charities including Yashar Lechayal, Standing Together, the Helping Israel Fund and JNF. Through these organizations, they have been able to supplement the standard army supplies and provide warm, winter gear and other items to hundreds of soldiers. It is important to remember that when we are warm and cozy in the winter, that the men and women who protect Israel might not be.
As amazed as I am by the Harow’s generosity, I was even more astonished that Cory has still found ways to count himself as a protector of Israel. Cory is now active in the Israeli Army Reserves and has attained the rank of Seren, or Captain. Cory, who I should really be calling, Dr. Harow, spent 5 weeks last summer, away from his family, at a training course held by the Army for Israeli doctors; though he does not live in Israel, he was able to participate in the course, because he signed a 5-year commitment to active Reserve status.
He will return to Israel to care for Israeli soldiers for 2-4 weeks every year, and will be attached to his unit should hostilities seriously flare. Dr. Harow has expressed his hope to see more American doctors who are former IDF members participate in this course, because the Israeli Army needs doctors. It was at this training course, at a closed military base, where Dr. Harow had the privilege of working out at a magnificent, new, three-story athletic facility emblazoned with the message “Donated by the FIDF”.
Rachel Harow has been a tremendous partner in the Harow’s support for Israel. Every year, dozens of female participants in “Sherut Leumi”, Israel’s national service program, are sent overseas to work with diaspora communities and to bring a taste of Israel to Jews around the world. These 18-19-year-old women have never been away from home, and are no less “Lone Soldiers” than their male counterparts in the IDF. Rachel has enthusiastically embraced the role of official “foster mother” for these young Israelis. Every August, two new, young and idealistic women meet Rachel as they get off their El Al flight in Florida, and they immediately join the Harow family. Rachel often cooks for them, shops with them, arranges doctors’ appointments and ensures that they have an invitation to community families for every Sabbath and holiday meal.
At times, they ask to “just stay at home” but by that, they mean they often prefer to just relax at the Harow’s. Through Bar Mitzvah’s and hurricanes and everything in between, the Harow guest bedroom has been occupied by the women of Sherut Leumi nearly every weekend for the past 5 years.
While Rachel is incredibly busy, raising four active children, she has gladly assumed a number of community responsibilities. She was president of her synagogue’s sisterhood, is the president of her HOA, and will soon become president of her school PTA. Yet she continues to focus on her love for Israel, which is now expressed, in part, through her love and care for Sherut Leumi, “her girls”.
Not every person or family has to do as much for the Jewish community or Israel as the Harows do, but if every one of us finds just one way to be a role model in support of Israel and a positive influence on today’s Jewish youth, think how much brighter the future of the Jewish people would be.
Zachary Silver is a committed pro-Israel activist from West Hartford, Connecticut. A graduate of Brandeis University, Silver is the founder of Brandeis’ Tamid Israel Investment club chapter. He is involved in various communal engagements seeking to promote the State of Israel.