By: Tomer Mendler  | 

Why I Want to Start My Own Non-profit

The morning of October 7th was the worst morning I ever woke up to. The inevitable, emotional rollercoaster that has since taken our lives by storm has become a sad routine. The unimaginable horrors unveiled every day, the devastating hostages’ testimonies that don't leave a single listener’s eye dry and rising antisemitism around the globe are keeping us all busy and worried. 

But some unexpected good things happened after that day. The world rediscovered the influence, sense of community and love that the Jewish people have for each other. Joint efforts from Jews and Israel supporters worldwide happened almost seamlessly. Over a billion dollars were raised and donated to various causes in Israel. Countless charities, organizations and philanthropies showed the world what effective and thoughtful communal commitment looks like. Pre-October 7th, citizens of Israel were the most divided over social, political and economic issues that they’ve been since the country’s establishment. Within a day, it was all gone. It is sad that it took a tragedy to take place for us to be reminded of a lesson people seemed to forget — “anashim achim anachnu” — “we are all one family.” 

Not once in the nearly seven years that I have been living in New York have I felt so far and detached from my family and home, and not a single day has passed since that cursed day without me thinking about how I can help in any way possible to the national crisis that is upon us. Fortunately, an organization I am highly involved in called The Brownstone immediately rose to the occasion. An organization whose core agenda is to bring Jewish Israelis and Jewish Americans closer together by hosting Shabbat dinners, holidays and networking events, The Brownstone has since become a full-time donation center flooded with volunteers. I have seized the opportunity to feel somewhat useful and dedicated myself to help anyway I could. 

One thing led to another and I found myself leading the entire logistical operation, which thanks to so many great people was able to send equipment worth over $3 million dollars. We took hundreds of requests from soldiers and units while receiving thousands of packages daily to answer the demand. It was surreal. People of all ages and backgrounds understood the sense of urgency and importance of our mission. We worked as a well-oiled machine while just having a few days of experience. Navigating through the logistical chaos and absurd obstacles placed by Israeli customs and regulations made our operation even more challenging. Being productive and useful during these disastrous days helped fill a hole within me that would have otherwise grown darker. 

Three months later, most of our rivers have dried up. Donations have been cut by over 95%. Unfortunately, the need for certain equipment is still prevalent. This article isn’t about pointing fingers or even how the Israeli government should do better — this is about how individuals can make a difference, only if they care enough about it. 

During the peak of the operation, I was contacted by hundreds of people, requesting different forms of aid. I received dozens of texts from new people daily. While it was difficult to keep track of and answer everyone, I managed to answer every text I received. Now, perhaps the frenzy is behind us, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. Not every soldier has the basic protective gear needed for risking his life in combat. Additionally, since most donation centers in Israel shut down, it is harder for soldiers, first responders and volunteers to get what could be lifesaving gear. Again, due to ridiculously slow procedures and regulations placed by certain governmental entities, many soldiers, mainly in reserve forces, prefer seeking aid through nonprofit organizations because they often operate quicker and more effectively. 

When things started slowing down, I decided it was time to do some homework and analyze what worked and what could’ve made the operation run smoother. I discovered a sad truth. Many soldiers who requested gear a while back haven’t received any or received only parts of what they ordered. Considering the demand, that wasn’t shocking to me. The country had never experienced anything like this before. The really sad truth was the fact that the majority of donation centers were forced to shut down or join forces since they were running low on equipment. This situation resulted in necessary, yet highly difficult decisions to be made. Due to great deficiencies in equipment, we had to prioritize certain requests based on several factors. For example, how urgent the equipment is, how crucial to the mission and the amount of risk the unit is currently in. 

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t mean to critique any blessed effort of individuals or groups dedicated to this incredibly important cause. I only wish people understand this is still far from over. This was a learning experience that redefined what “thrown into deep waters” really means. Discovering this painful truth sprouted an idea that has long been in my mind: starting my own non-profit. Working in an environment where helping others is the main part of my day, has been a lifelong goal of mine. Perhaps an eye-opening, catastrophic event, followed by an immense amount of good, can really show one his true purpose. 

Writing these words, I am aware that starting a non-profit isn’t as simple as writing a piece for the paper. Plenty of challenges are ahead, and while some will reveal themselves to me as I progress, I am sure that if it works out, it will all be worth it.


Photo Caption: Volunteering for a non-profit supporting IDF troops was an eye-opening experience, writes the author.

Photo Credit: Kat Yukawa / Unsplash Sophie Nathan