In the heart of Jerusalem, on Ben Yehuda Street – the ever-popular pedestrian-mall that’s a hotspot for tourists, yeshiva and seminary students and Israelis alike – there’s a small shop with a big Hebrew Academy connection.  The Muffin Boutique, a bakery/café that serves Montreal-style bagels, salads and shakes, among other fare, is owned by Hebrew Academy alumna Lainie (Dubrow) Richler (’83) and her husband Shmarya, who made aliyah with their children in 1995.

In October, the Richlers, along with other Jerusalem restaurant owners, launched an initiative in support of the Israeli soldiers and first-responders who are working tirelessly to protect and assist civilians during this difficult period. In recognition of these personnel, the Muffin Boutique is offering all on-duty soldiers, police officers and ambulance workers a free sandwich, drink and muffin.

“As a nation, it seems that even in these very trying times many of our ‘friends’ have abandoned us and are even blaming us for the violence of these last few weeks,” wrote Shmarya in an email to family and friends about the campaign. “Our soldiers and security staff are doing an unbelievable job of doing whatever is in their power to diffuse the situation and return a sense of security to all the citizens and visitors. At Muffin Boutique we have thought of what we can do and we are turning to our fellow Jews to help.”

After learning about the project via social media, Hebrew Academy Elementary School Rav Mechanech (Rabbi-Educator) Rabbi Eddie Shostak contacted the Richlers.  “I was looking to find a thoughtful way to connect our students to the difficult situation in Israel,” said Rabbi Shostak.  “Even though we are so far away physically, this campaign is a small, but tangible way to show our appreciation to our soldiers, security forces and first responders who are protecting our people.  In addition, we are able to give a boost, with great pride, to a small business with a Montreal and Hebrew Academy connection.”

Rabbi Shostak spearheaded a Toonie Campaign in Hebrew Academy’s Elementary School. In one week alone, the students raised $658 – enough to provide 76 free meals. Donations are still coming in and the campaign is ongoing.

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the school and community,” said Shmarya. “I cannot say enough how much we appreciate it and the soldiers and emergency personnel who have benefited are very touched by it… It gives us in Israel such encouragement.”


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