Every year, Ron Brodkey of Omaha donates to Goodfellows in the name of his grandson.
Ari Brodkey isn't here to see this year's entry on the donor list, perhaps because he's heeding lessons in service from his grandfather: The younger man is a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, living in quarters on a kibbutz.
The donations to The World- Herald's charity were all about instilling an attitude of responsibility and social justice in his grandson, said the senior Brodkey, a retired Omaha jeweler who operated a widely known store with other family members.
“I've told him, 'When I'm not around, you need to remember to do it,' ” said Brodkey, 77.
Right now, it's 21-year-old Ari who's not around. After graduating from Omaha Central High School, he went to Israel for his freshman year in college. He obtained dual citizenship and was conscripted into the Israeli Army. He's finishing his first year with the force and, after serving another couple of years, he'll go into the reserves.
The army will pay for Ari's education as long as he keeps his grades up, Ron Brodkey said.
Ron typically gives $18 to Goodfellows, which has significance in the Jewish faith. Each Hebrew letter has a numerical value. The number 10 is the letter Yud. The number eight is the letter Ches (Chet). Ches-Yud spells the word Chai, which means “living” or “life.”
Because of that, many Jews consider $18 donations to be a good omen.
Beyond the number, however, is the sentiment, Brodkey said: “Giving to Goodfellows is the right thing to do.”
The fund provides one-time emergency aid and holiday meal certificates to needy people in the Omaha area.
Brodkey also volunteers as an adoption counselor at the Nebraska Humane Society, as an organ donor recruiter and as a board member of the First Responders Critical Support Foundation, a group that helps firefighters and police officers buy equipment that's not in department budgets.
As a member of that board, he's the force behind the Thumbs Up initiative encouraging kids and their families to express appreciation to fire and police personnel.
He's proud that his grandson is serving, too, though he worries. Ari's an infantry soldier, so he would be in the thick of things if fighting occurred, Brodkey said.
He's committed to Israel, however.
“He plans to make it his home,” his grandfather said.