Center City’s Jonathan Makar, 33, makes a compelling case for those frustrated on the sidelines watching the war explode in the Mideast to get involved firsthand through humanitarian missions.
After learning that a Philadelphia-area friend working in Israel had started delivering pizzas to soldiers in the South about two weeks ago, “I decided to help, too.”
It all began as an experiment in crowdfunding, Makar explains. The former restaurateur — he was a partner in University City’s Marigold Kitchen and the owner of Rittenhouse Square boite Snackbar — set up an account on teespring.com, a service where anyone can design and sell T-shirts. He designed a shirt that reads “Am Yisrael Chai,” Hebrew for “Long live the nation of Israel,” and added a description explaining that proceeds from the sales would provide hot pizzas to soldiers currently defending the country’s southern region.
“A small gesture, at the right time and place, can make a big difference,” he wrote.
When he first put the fundraising shirts on sale July 14, Makar set a goal of selling 50 in 10 days. A week later, he already had exceeded his goal with more than 95 orders in.
Makar has already deposited the first profits — $8 from each $20 shirt — into the American bank account of his friend in Israel, Benjy Goldberg. The two have been close since 2003, when they shared kitchen duties as campers at Ramah in the Poconos. Goldberg and his boss, Knesset member Dov Lipman, then used the money to purchase pizza and ice cream, which they hand-delivered last Friday to troops stationed near Gaza.
The mitzvah hits home for Makar, now a consultant in the food and beverage industry whose grandfather was a kosher caterer.
“I remember he used to tell me how he would watch from the kitchen as his food was delivered to tables and he saw the joyful faces on the people about to dine,” he says. “Now I know what he was talking about,” after watching videos of the soldiers abroad chomping down on the fast-food delicacies.
Not that there aren’t some critics on the front lines. Makar laughs when recalling one solider, who sized up the Ben and Jerry’s before him and asked, “Do you have Cookie Dough?”
See a video clip of the food deliveries here .