Vee are the People: Meet Leah Tonic
Matan Buganim
March 7, 2021

This inspiring interview with Leah Tonic, who spoke with us a bit about starting an independent social initiative in times of a worldwide pandemic, tells the story of how a movement of mutual aid takes a stand against oppression and injustice by standing by communities.

What brought you to the "Culture of Solidarity”?

"Early in March, when the confusion from the Coronavirus was at its worst, I was exposed to a post by Alma Beck and Daniel Kantor about saving leftovers from closing hotels and restaurants and cooking foods for the elderly.

I consider myself a good cook, so I reacted. I was thinking about the quarantine and being single in a big city, so I wanted to do something.

After saving so much food, they soon realized that it would be too much for a private kitchen, so they started packing them in crates and giving them that way."

How did it work?

"On March 16th, as lockdown started, we put out our first food basket distribution for our first 50 seniors. One week later, over 400 people have received baskets, and many families and mentally disabled individuals have joined the elderly.

In that dark period, Alma and Daniel excelled at their jobs, and I was drawn into helping them manage this thing that hadn't been named and had no financial backing but a tremendous desire to do good deeds.  

We started with food baskets. But today, the "Culture of Solidarity" has become much more. We provide food supplies and donations, and we offer renovations, help with closing debts and saving vegetables and fruits from the wholesale market in Tzrifin. We established more sister communities in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Beit Shemesh."

Packing food baskets for people in need

Wow, it's great! How did you manage to do that?

"In the first week of quarantine, we were still working on lists in manual tables to figure out how we manage and refine our doing. We realized we needed more women to keep this thing with us. Yula, my friend, wanted to help and started to manage the community of the elderly. She took the task very seriously.

We were inspired by it and recruited women to run communities and departments. As a result, we now have 4000 volunteers who take part. Our main task is to recruit more managers, women willing to put in their time and fully contribute to our doing."

What are the challenges you face?

"The real difficulty in a social organization like ours is that it is neither an association nor an organization. It has absolute reliance on community resources - That's the magic, and that's the difficulty. We rely on the generosity of people to be able to give to others."

Hundreds of boxes of food were shipped to vulnerable individuals

How do you keep your volunteers happy and motivated?

"The focus of our work is mainly on the volunteers and not the people we support.

We admire the number of young people who want to be active in making this space a better place for everyone. We act from the standpoint of those who do and the meaning of their doing.

Since the beginning, our managers have engaged in group therapy together. We are trying to find things in common to develop learning or discourse, and every two weeks, we post an interview with one of the volunteers."

What tips can you give to others trying to help?

"Mutual responsibility is the key to everything.

Looking outside and endeavoring to understand: Where can I make a difference, even a little?"

Has working in the organization changed you?

"I changed from end to end. I came to this work without the mileage of activism. If, at first, all I had hoped for was that the pandemic would end so I could get back to my life quickly, day by day, it is more evident to me - that we are here to stay.

What I built together on Alma and Didi and countless good women is my near future and the future I want to see for this country. There is no need to turn a blind eye to processes or be frustrated at the fundamental dishonesty that exists in our environment.

I have the ability to change, I have the ability to do things. And together, the heavens are the limit of the ability to dismantle existing mechanisms and creatively establish such beneficiaries."

The food packing facility

Tell about a special event that happened while volunteering.

"Since there are countless events, I chose the happiest thing that happened yesterday.

One of our volunteers wrote:

An Argentine older woman I knew on the street did not feel well, and I sat with her for a while and asked her all sorts of questions. Her husband died recently, and she discovered they were broke. Their home was sold and moved into a Jaffa nursing home with all Russian residents (nothing against them, just not what she was used to). They have a piano at the nursing home, and she had been dreaming her whole life of knowing how to play it.

I posted an ad to see if anyone could help her with her piano lessons.

This cute guy answered me that he is Argentine, both a piano teacher and lives in Jaffa!"

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