Standing Together

Filling requests as quickly as he gets them, Rabbi Shai Graucher looks to help anywhere he can

In daily videos, Graucher and his ‘Beyachad Nenatzeach’ initiative tries to show the Israelis affected by the war in Gaza that he and his donors care 

In one video, Rabbi Shai Graucher is seen pulling up with an 18-wheeler hauling washing machines and dryers to an army base so soldiers can launder their uniforms. In another, he hands out iPads and AirPods in a hospital to victims of the Oct. 7 attacks. In a third, he is handing out pizza to kids from families that have been displaced by the fighting at a party featuring face-painting, magic shows and games. 

“We’re helping nonstop with everything — mamesh everything. Everything you can dream about,” Graucher told eJewishPhilanthropy, using the Yiddish/Hebrew word for “truly.”

Graucher is the son of famed Hasidic singer Dedi Graucher, who died in September at age 62, and was a close associate of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the leading Haredi rabbi in Israel until his death last March. 

Immediately following the Oct. 7 attacks, Graucher got to work, raising money and distributing it to the survivors, to their families, to displaced people, to soldiers, police officers and to the families of reservists. He created a registered nonprofit in Israel — Chessed v’Rachamim, meaning Grace and Mercy — and an affiliated 501(c)3 in the United States (TK). Though these are the names of the organizations, the initiative itself is known in Hebrew as Beyachad Nenatze’ach, meaning “together we will win,” and in  English as “Standing Together.”

“We’re helping people who lost their loved ones with financial support. We’re helping families whose houses were broken to fix them. We’re helping soldiers with equipment… We’re doing barbecues with the army,” Graucher said. “We are helping the families who are in [evacuee] hotels. We’re sending [presents to the wives of reservists] who are home for three, four weeks without their husband. We’re helping [displaced people] with winter clothes. We’re helping women who gave birth and their husband is in the army. We have kitchens that are open 24-7, sending food, Shabbat meals, special things.”

Graucher tracks his efforts with high-energy daily videos posted to social media, always beginning with “this is what we did today,” as well as weekly summaries.

“What’s so special about the videos is that you could actually see what he’s doing on a daily basis and the impact of your money, which is amazing,” Kirschenbaum said.

In addition to providing food, entertainment, clothes, gifts and, in some cases, stipends, Graucher’s organization has also provided hundreds of sets of tefillin and distributed thousands of copies of the Gemara — first a copy of the Tractate of Kiddushin, now the Tractate of Bava Kamma — to IDF soldiers. The latter is made possible due to his close relationship with ArtScroll publisher Rabbi Gedaliah Zlotowitz and the Schottenstein family, perhaps best known for an eponymous edition of the Babylonian Talmud published by ArtScroll.

In addition to Schottenstein and Zlotowitz, whose son Ahron runs the WhatsApp group where Graucher’s daily videos are posted, the initiative is also supported by a number of other large donors who often give to Orthodox causes, including the Wolfson family, the Klein and Jaffa families, the Schron family, the Murray & Sydell Rosenberg Foundation, as well as Robert Book. He has also received thousands of smaller donations through the Israeli nonprofit’s crowdfunding page.

In total, Gaucher has raised over $4.25 million toward his projects, according to Daniel Kirschenbaum, a Delaware-based attorney who is helping Gaucher with the effort.

Approximately $2.5 million of that has gone toward multipurpose funds — for the barbecues and truck rentals and pizza parties — while another $1.75 million has gone toward a victims’ fund with the hope of giving each victim’s family $2,500, Kirschenbaum said. 

The aim is not necessarily to provide the basic needs for the recipients but to make them feel seen and appreciated — not to make sure that they are just fed, but to make sure that they are fed well.

“I was on the border with Gaza. [The soldiers] are eating bread, only bread,” he said. So he and his team put on a barbecue with “meat, like you never saw in your life.”

“[We’re trying] to show the people that we are really thinking about them,” Graucher said. “We are the hands and we are the heart of those people that are giving the money. I’m just the shaliach (emissary). So we’re trying to make them feel the best.”

His efforts are a bit frenetic, driven not by a top-down plan of action but by requests, from individuals, from mayors, from religious leaders, from military and police commanders, as well as opportunities, like when Graucher was offered a truckload of children’s clothing at a deeply discounted rate.

“He gets thousands of requests, literally. The more popular that he gets, the more requests that he gets,” Kirschenbaum said. “He’s just a doer…. There’s no red tape. There’s no delay. He gets the money and he does it.”

Graucher said that he and his team vet every request before filling it. “Every single thing by us, we check,” he said. “It’s a lot of money. We have to be careful. It’s not our money.”

According to Kirschenbaum, the name of the organization — Standing Together — is reflective of Gaucher’s “overarching goal.”

“He really wants to unite everyone. That’s his main goal, uniting everyone – Haredim and hilonim,” Kirschenbaum said, using the Hebrew word for secular people.

Graucher said that once the war ends, he plans to focus his attention on the children whose parents were murdered in the Oct. 7 attacks.

“This is going to be the main project after this war, taking care of those children who lost their parents. We need to take care of them and give them support, love, bar mitzvahs, get them psychologists, take care of their schools. This is my main goal,” he said.

Graucher said he planned to focus on the orphaned children in honor of his father, who lost both of his parents at a relatively young age.

“My father, who passed away a month and a half ago, he got married with no parents…  I’m going to call the foundation: Dedi’s Children. And that’s what I want to be focused on, taking care of those kids,” he said. “It’s going to take a few months, and we need the money for everything, but this is the main thing I want to do… I want to have a center for them and speak to them and for them to understand that they’re not alone… This is what my father was about. Children who didn’t have parents was a big thing for him. So this is what I want to do. This is my vision. I’m working on it, and it’s going to be very big.”