For a decade, Rockland County resident Suzanne Weilgus, a lifelong Zionist and health care administrator, has served as a volunteer leader of American Communities Helping Israel, or ACHI, a nonprofit that encourages people to buy Israeli products.
Last year, she started searching for the next big idea to continue her mission.
This week, in Midtown, she unveiled it.
At a celebration Sunday at J. Levine Books & Judaica, Weilgus and other ACHI founders launched “Klee” (Hebrew for vessel), an initiative that urges Jewish families to buy or make some sort of vessel or dish, display it prominently in the home, and keep it filled with Israeli products — probably Israeli food items.
Nearly 200 members of the Jewish community, “and even a few non-Jews,” attended the kickoff event, which featured Israeli wine-tasting, Israeli music and Israeli snacks, Weilgus said. The mood: “festive, inspirational and energetic.”
The Klee (theklee.org) is an economic response to the growing BDS (boycott, disinvestment and sanctions) movement that seeks to isolate and weaken Israel, said Daniel Levine, owner of J. Levine. “This is such a positive reaction.” He calls the Klee the first Jewish ritual object created in a century, since the Jewish National Fund’s ubiquitous tzedakah can (aka “The Blue Box,” this week reintroduced in a new design), which has been a fixture in many a Jewish home since the early 1900s.
“This should be a holy object,” Levine said.
The Klee is the latest project of ACHI (the acronym is Hebrew for “my brother”), which has sponsored such community-wide campaigns as “Think Israel — Buy Israel,” Israeli “All Occasion” cards, and “Israel Snack Day” at several Jewish day schools.
ACHI (achi613.org) plans to hold similar kick-off events in Chicago and Miami in the coming months.
As part of the new campaign, ACHI is also issuing a colorful Klee “commitment” card, which praises participants “for strengthening the bond between Israel and her friends around the world,” and a children’s book, “Caleb and Kayla Create the Klee,” written by ACHI co-founder Rochelle Zupnik, a professional educator.
The book, about a young brother and sister who go on a family trip to Israel, also features arts-and-crafts directions for making Klees, and “Suggestions for filling the Klee.”
The Klee, according to the book, can be a coaster for a bottle of Israeli wine, a platter for Israeli cheese or deli items, a bowl for Israeli pickles or olives, or “a dish in a bathroom filled with Dead Sea soap and skin products.”
The idea has been a success with students at Manhattan Day School, who have been making their own Klee dishes over the past year as part of a pilot program.
“The students are very enthused about personalizing the project and taking it home,” said Rabbi Mordechai Besser, the school’s principal, adding that the serving-dish concept is particularly effective for spreading the idea through word of mouth.
“The project will remain on a table or other surface that will generate comments from family and visitors,” he said.