This Scarsdale Resident Traveled to Israel to Lend a Helping Hand

An 88-year-old Scarsdale resident traveled to Israel soon after the October 7 attacks to help in any way he could.

The people of Israel have long been close to Dr. Norman Weiss’ heart, an 88-year-old Scarsdale resident who has been traveling to the country since 1955 when he was 19 years old. But after the October 7 attacks, Weiss knew he needed to help the country he loves, in whatever way he could.

“It occurred to me about 15 years ago that it was not enough to be a passive observer, and not enough to be just intellectually involved with what was going on,” says Weiss. “I felt it was time to do something, and that’s when I began working with the Jewish National Fund.” So, when Weiss’ daughter, Jackie, told him she wanted to help Israel after the recent attacks, he jumped at the prospect. “In December, she called me and said she wanted to go as a volunteer to Israel,” says Weiss. “Upon hearing that, without thinking, I said, ‘me too!’”

“It occurred to me about 15 years ago that it was not enough to be a passive observer, and not enough to be just intellectually involved with what was going on.”
— Dr. Norman Weiss

And yet, Weiss, who is a practicing psychiatrist and plays the banjo in a Dixieland jazz band, was realistic about his age. “The requirement was being able to physically work six hours a day, and having not thought seriously about what it would require for a person of my age to be working that many hours … I got a bit nervous,” says Weiss. “But when we finally got there, I was very excited and what pleased me to no end was that I was able to keep up with everybody.”

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From January 21 to 25, Weiss and his daughter pitched in to help a needy farmer, refurbish a school, and prepare warm meals. “The whole group, nearly 50 people, picked oranges for a farmer who had lost his Thai workers,” says Weiss, adding that the group picked an estimated seven tons of fruit. “I was able, except for one short break, to stay there the entire time,” says Weiss.

Norman Weiss
Photo courtesy of Norman Weiss

Weiss and his daughter also joined the group to wash and paint the walls of a school that had been evacuated after the attacks. “Kids were supposed to be returning to that school in a few days and it really needed some attention,” he says. “Because I had a bad back, I painted the tops and Jackie painted the bottoms [of the walls]. We were doing work any way we could, and the day after that, we were cooking chicken for 400 soldiers.”

“When they asked for volunteers for the grill, which was smoky and hot, my dad’s hand shot up,” says Jackie of the day they spent cooking. Another worker suggested Weiss apply stickers to boxes, but Weiss held firm, working for hours to cook roughly 154 pounds of chicken thighs. “It was a feat,” says Jackie.

For Weiss, it’s all part of his greater need to help others. “If there is a message to be had, the message is: To be more than a passive observer is what life is all about,” he says. “To be actively involved, as I was and as Jackie was, and now thousands of other people [are] too, leaves you with memories that last a lifetime.”

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