Izzy Kaplan, the owner of Israel’s Judaica Centre in Toronto, has passed away.
Yisrael (Izzy) Kaplan, a fierce and devoted fighter for Israel, was laid to rest today in the Land he so loved.
Izzy lived in Toronto, but his real home was here. He lived and breathed the Land of Israel 36 hours a day, sharing in its joys and suffering through its trials and setbacks. His soul was so connected to the Land that he experienced the evacuation from Gush Katif as if he himself had been thrown out of his home. He never recovered from the blow. The betrayal of his beloved Israel, of Hashem’s Holy Land, by his fellow, albeit misguided, Jews, ate him up inside. So much so that, in my humble opinion, it brought upon the illness that toppled him while he was still in his prime.
Izzy helped so many causes in Israel, I doubt that anyone will be able to compile a complete list. Izzy himself wasn’t rich when it came to money in the bank. Much of what he had, he gave away to all sorts of charities, organizations, and political struggles in Israel, and also in Toronto, no doubt. When those funds weren’t enough, he rallied the Jews in Toronto to send substantial financial support wherever he felt it was needed in Israel. For years, he acted as the go-between between the community of Toronto and activists in Israel from Gush Katif to the Golan Heights, helping causes in Jerusalem, Yesha, Hevron, Sederot, Amona, terror victims, Lebanon War reserve soldiers, backing demonstrations, rallies, protests of all sorts, posters, videos, and a wide assortment of campaigns to prevent the sell-out of Eretz Yisrael by Jews who had not yet learned the lessons of the Holocaust.
My first contact with Izzy was two decades ago via a phone call from Toronto. He said his name was Izzy Kaplan, that he ran a Jewish bookstore, and that he wanted to purchase a few dozen copies of a book I had published, “Torat Eretz Yisrael,” on the writings of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. I met him on his next visit to Israel, when he picked up the books on his way back to the airport to shlep them with him on the plane. Each time I wrote a new book, he placed a special order, “To get the word out to the Jews in galut,” he said.
When he discovered that I was active in the struggle against Oslo, he funded a series of posters that filled the streets of Israel and the media all over the world. He raised money for films against Oslo, and then against the Disengagement, which were distributed all over Israel. The travesty of Amona so disturbed him, he helped me produce a video detailing what had happened, which he mass circulated on the Internet, and raised more funds for the distribution of 200,000 CDs that helped weaken Ehud Olmert and the Kadima party before elections.
During the battle over the “Peace House” in Hevron, Izzy sent me a personal check to make four gigantic signs that we hung over the building to get our message across to the world.
I don’t remember all of the projects he helped us with, nor all of the middle-of-the-night phone calls from Toronto to fill him in on the latest developments. All I can say is that my wife became accustomed to my abandoning the comforts of sleep in the wee hours of the night to speak with Izzy.
“Tzvi, we have to stop the evacuation!” he would insist. “Tzvi, we have to do more to help Sederot,” he would urge. “Tzvi, we have to do more to help the refugees from Gush Katif.” Dafka at two o’clock in the morning.
And the help he gave to the projects that I was involved in was just a drop in the bucket compared to all of his efforts, and the generous efforts of his friends, whom he rallied on behalf of Israel.
Hopefully, during the shiva, all of the stories about Izzy will be recorded. I will relate just one that his son told at the funeral. To find out exactly what was happening in Gush Katif before the expulsion, Izzy came on a trip and met with dozens of people. When he returned to Toronto, he entered a Haredi shul on Shabbat, and after the Kiddush, gave them a stirring lecture to arouse them out of their apathy. He started off by telling about a Jew in the Holocaust who had managed to escape from one of the extermination camps. When the man told his traumatic story, no one believed him. They thought he was crazy. “The same thing is happening today in the Holy Land!” Izzy yelled at the crowd. “The Jews of Eretz Yisrael are in danger and we aren’t doing anything at all to help! When will you wake up?! You have to help your fellow Yidden!”
That Shabbat, Izzy went from shul to shul, telling the same story, his voice shattering, and with tears in his eyes.
That was Izzy. The pain over Gush Katif killed him. The missiles falling on the Jews of Sederot ate him up inside. With all that he did to turn the tide, helping wherever he could, the inaction of world Jewry, coupled with the short-sighted recklessness of politicians in Israel, was more than he could bear.
May his memory be for a blessing. His passionate love for Israel and the Jewish People, and his untiring energies on their behalf, are an example for all of us.