Blue Jew Bear Find Homes
by Rabbi Claire Ginsburg Goldstein
Blue Jew Bear peaked over the rim of Claire bear’s artful rugsack in anticipation of what was yet to come. He was about to fly to Israel with Claire Bear’s for a trial run to consider the possibility of making teddy bear aliyah. Blue Bear would have hoped to make Nefesh Bear Nefesh ( a term determined by RYNJ students who collected stuffed toys for our project before), but he had missed the deadline to submit his paw prints and legal teddy bear documents. He had to follow Claire Bear’s suggestion and fly with her on her JWRP/Project Inspire Reconnect Mission 2017.
They were seated in the waiting area for over one hour. Claire bear noticed that there were two women who came to sit in her section as well. One sat two seats away from them. She happened to mention JWRP sisters and Claire Bear’s mouth dropped open. Could it be that these two women were going to Israel and become of their JWRP trip as well? She just had to know. She turned to one woman and questioned hesitantly, “ Are you part of the Reconnect Mission with JWRP?” Was it too good to be true? Carol Beckler Drucker nodded. Carol turned to Claire bear and asked in return, “ You too?” Claire bear nodded. Shari Casson Reisch shouted, “Sisters! JWRP sisters!” The three smiled. Claire bear announced, “How about a selfie with Blue Jew bear? He is my mascot on this trip. He would love a selfie with us three.” Claire bear attempted three times to capture the three of them, plus Blue Jew bear to capture the before and then hopefully, the after.
He found himself shaking. He didn’t quite understand why. He attributed his shaking to his nerves. Could he trust Claire bear’s way of handling the flight? What if he fell out of the rugsack by accident? Would she notice that he was missing? Would he be comfortable squished inside the rugsack for the 10 ½ hour flight to Israel, even if he didn’t fall out? What if he suddenly was in need of a hug? Would she understand and stop what she was doing to give him one?
So many questions. All Blue Jew bear could do was sigh a bear sigh.
He felt so misunderstood. If only Claire bear’s could speak his teddy bear-ese. If only…
No such luck.
He shook his head and swayed. He was about to begin to pout.
Claire bear’s poked her head into the rugsack to make sure that he was secure.
His countenance brightened immediately. That was all that it took.
They were boarding! Wait, they stopped Claire bear’s and didn’t allow her to board. The security agent left his post to get clearance. What was wrong with her passport picture? Oh, oh. Did Blue Jew need a picture and passport as well? He hoped not! The security agent, who had cleared her at check in, nodded her approval and remarked, “It’s her, the teddy bear lady, the one and the same. Let the teddy bear lady board.” The security agent at the gate, nodded and shortly Claire bear’s and Blue Jew bear were striding into the vestibule to board.
Blue Jew bear was anxious again. Where would they sit? Would he have to stay curled into a fluff ball on the cold, dark floor? Couldn’t he watch a movie to pass the time? What was for snacks? Those crunchy salt free pretzel bites? What was for dinner? His tummy rumbled. Oops, he hoped that no one heard him. His face reddened.
Hey where was Claire bear? He felt himself being lowered onto the floor. It was too dark and dank for him. It was going to be a LONG flight after all.
Chayim,a stand by flight attendant, sank into the seat next to Claire bear’s. He was chatting away. Blue Jew forgot about feeling nervous and perked up to listen to his stories.
Oh oh, he was being told that they needed his seat for a paying passenger.
Bye bye Chayim. He was out of his seat in seconds. But he left behind his Business class carry on that stewards get for free.
Claire’s bear nodded her thanks. Blue Jew was suddenly so curious that he forgot to be anxious. Claire’s bear teased Blue Jew with an aerosol spray. She sprayed around her seat and into the rugsack. Blue Jew chuckled. The flight was going to be just fine, he smiled reassuringly to himself.
Blue Jew must have dozed off. Soon, it was breakfast time. He could smell the egg omelettes being reheated and the coffee being prepared.
Yum, he thought to himself. This was going to be a great start to the day! Hopefully, Claire’s bear would be feeling the same. But wait,
She was still sleeping! Should he wake her? What if she missed breakfast?
He watched her as she stirred herself awake.
She awoke as the stewardess began to work herself down the aisle toward them, to serve them breakfast.
Blue Jew exhaled deliberately.
They were in the home stretch, almost in Israel.
As the jet prepared to land, 25 minutes late, Blue Jew wondered if Miri would be there to greet them. It was too close to Shabbat.
What were the religious passengers going to do about getting to their destinations before Shabbat?
Blue Jew would rather worry about the other passengers than worry about finding his personal luggage.
Wait! What does a Blue Jew bear need? Isn’t he just a teddy bear? Ah, Blue Jew bear needs to have his coat brushed up to freshen up. He needs to look bright and shiny, as if someone had just purchased him.
Would he pass for brand new or almost new? Now he was worried again.
Miri had SMSed them to take a taxi, that she was very sorry but they would arrive too close to Shabbat and she just couldn’t chance it. She hoped that they understood.
Claire’s bears shrugged. She understood. She wasn’t Shomeret Shabbat like Miri and her family were, not yet anyways.
To take a taxi, it was. But where to find a safe one? Now, Claire’s bears was nervous.
She didn’t want to get into the wrong taxi.
The Jewish taxi driver from Southern Russia, looked her up and down. Claire bear’s felt that she was being checked out for deformities or mistakes. She later realized that the driver was wondering how would her duffel of teddy bears, her duffel of clothes, her carry on and all the remaining carry ons were going to fit into his trunk. It had nothing to do with in the way that Claire bear or Blue Jew appeared.
The ride took 50 minutes.
They were lost, once they drove down the winding road, inside the Moshav. The clock was ticking. Would they make it before Shabbat or spend Shabbat inside the driver’s taxi?
D1 answered when Claire’s bear phoned him. He was able to get them to his front door, two minutes before candle lighting.
If that wasn’t cutting it close, what was?
Claire bear’s was relieved. She would be able to give out her teddy bears in peace and quiet. She would be able to find a comfortable space for Blue Jew to rest over Shabbat until it would be time to introduce him to everyone in the family and the community.
After all, Claire bear had heard that Blue Jew was some celebrity. Everyone wanted to come to meet him. It would be their first teddy bear making aliya on their moshav. They were ecstatic.
They were all curious how it felt to be the first Blue Jew teddy bear to make that giant step forward for all teddy bears. They were all going to find out soon enough, after Shabbat ended of course.
Claire’s bears, or Bears from Bergenfield have been sending stuffed toy donations, mostly used but much loved teddy bears to Israel for the past 15 years. In wanting to show respect to her son, Sam, and his hesed project to help Israeli children in need of comfort, she was willing to pull out all stops to get the toys delivered and even personally delivered to Israel. “Show you care; share a bear” is their slogan that they utilized to jump start their successful teddy bear campaign.
Now, 175,000 stuffed toys and almost 15 years later, Claire bear’s is looking to widen her catchment area and expand the program. She envisions inviting others from the Diaspora to help send stuffed toys to the following locations on her list:
- Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba
- Bayit Cham in Nahariya
- Tel Hashomer Hospital at Sheba
- One Family Fund
- Matnas in Gilo
- Miklat bat Melech and Nigunim
- Emunah Sara Herzog Children’s Center in Afula
- Migdal Ohr in Migdal ha- Emek
- Neve Shalom near LaTroun Armed Corps
- Emunah' s Achuzat Sarah in Bnei Barak
- Emunah's Maon in Ramleh
- No 2 Violence in Hertziliya
- Where would you like to send the toys?
If you send the duffel of toys via El Al with a paying passenger $100, then the El Al office needs to be notified ahead of time, that you are carrying Claire’s bears on board.
Rabbi Claire Ginsburg Goldstein has been the camp Rabbi for 18 years at Surprise Lake Camp, a Jewish Federation funded camp. We bing in 15-20 Israeli counselors each summer so that our campers can learn to love Israel. She has been married to Larry Goldstein for 34+ years and they have four children, Sam, Shira, Seth and Sarah Rose.