Harriet Levin is the child of two Holocaust survivors. So, to the mother of three, Israel is more important than anything besides her immediate family.
“We don’t live there. But it’s our home,” the Bucks County resident explained.
Levin’s son, Michael Levin, became a lone soldier for the Israel Defense Forces and died in the Lebanon War in 2006. (A lone soldier is one without parents in Israel.)
But the Levin mother passed the same beliefs down to Michael’s twin, Dara Goldstein. And in the wake of Hamas’ attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, she is stepping up to help the Jewish state in her own way.
Dara Goldstein (born Dara Levin), 39, is collecting blankets, fleece jackets, toiletries, garbage bags, underwear, socks and countless other items for IDF soldiers. On Oct. 19, Amazon delivered 100 packages to her home in Bucks County.
Goldstein and her two children, 11-year-old daughter Jordyn and 7-year-old son Corey, are unpacking boxes and sorting items. They will ship them out to the Michael Levin Base in Jerusalem to be distributed.
The Ohev Shalom of Bucks County member is spreading the word through Facebook, text messages to friends and synagogue newsletters. She has received thousands of dollars worth of donations and items. You can find her wish list by searching Michael Levin Base on amazon.com.
“Teaching my kids to give back is extremely important,” Goldstein said. “If I donate money online, my kids don’t learn anything.”
But the mother also wants to teach her children what her mother taught her. The family visited Israel in April to see Michael Levin’s grave.
“Israel’s very important to my family, and I think it’s very important to help all the soldiers currently fighting,” Goldstein said.
Before school, the Goldsteins unpack items and sort them. After school, they do the same thing.
Goldstein’s older sister, Elisa Mindlin of Elkins Park, is running a Facebook fundraising campaign for the family’s organization, the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Foundation (michaellevinlonesoldierfoundation.org). But Goldstein wanted to do something a little more hands-on, according to her mother.
“She was very close to my parents. She knew how important this was to them,” Harriet Levin said.
She also was close with her twin brother. Growing up, they fought over what to watch on television and what to listen to on the radio. When they were old enough to drive, they shared a car and battled over who got to use it.
As they got older, “he wasn’t very nice to my boyfriends,” Goldstein said. Michael Levin tried to act like her “big older brother” even though she’s two minutes older, the sister added.
At the same time, Harriet Levin swears that the twins communicated in a secret language when they were babies.
Later, Michael Levin had to buy a prom tuxedo and he asked Goldstein to come with him. He knew she would be the only person who would be “100% honest” about how he looked, she recalled. And before Michael Levin went into action in the Lebanon War, he called his sister and left her a voicemail.
“He said it was a war, to be safe and that he loves me,” Goldstein recalled. “And if anything should happen, he’ll miss me and to take care of myself.”
Before Michael Levin died, Goldstein had a premonition. She felt that something was going to happen.
“I knew in my heart and in my head,” she said.
She was working at Ramah Day Camp in Elkins Park when her mom showed up with a rabbi and the deputy to the consul general of Israel. Her older sister was there, too. They pulled Goldstein off the camp fields and into a room.
“They didn’t have to tell me,” the sister said.
“Nothing was going to bring him back,” she said.
Goldstein still gets upset when she thinks about all that Michael Levin is missing. Her wedding, her sister’s wedding, her son, who looks and acts just like her brother.
“My son plays soccer every Saturday. My father literally has called him Michael,” Goldstein said.
She hopes she is helping people like her brother. She feels like she is. And she plans to keep doing it for as long as they need it.
The only trade-off for the homemaker is that she maybe can’t play a game with her kids or check their homework until later. But it’s worth it as the war between Israel and Hamas goes on.
“So many people were called up at the last second and didn’t have time to pack, so they need everything,” Goldstein said. “I’m trying to help as many people as possible.”