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Lifestyle/Community

SA olah feeds family of terror victim

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Thirty-five-year-old Barak Lufan, the head coach of the Israeli national kayak team and father of three, died in April 2022, the day after he was shot by a terrorist on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. Now, 30-year-old South African olah Lili Goldberg is cooking meals for the family he left behind, and has raised funds to ensure they have food on the table as they try to move forward from the tragedy.

Lufan was a coach on Israel’s paralympic team, an athlete, an educator, and a member of the Olympic kayaking team staff. Goldberg also works in health and fitness: coaching clients, selling environmentally-friendly sports equipment, as a personal trainer, and catering kosher, healthy meals. Just like Lufan, she was on Dizengoff Street the night the attack happened. “I walked past the bar about an hour before the attack. It’s on my walk home. I live five minutes from there. It could have been me,” she says.

She spent that evening sheltering in her apartment, and is still affected by the attack. Though she could have crossed paths with Lufan that night, she came into contact with his family only in June. “One of my regular clients is the wife of a man who was injured in battle. He’s blind. When she was ordering, she also ordered a meal for the Lufan family,” Goldberg says. His three children, aged seven months, three years, and six years will grow up without a father.

“When I was cooking the meal, I realised there was so much more I could do for this family. I spoke to Barak’s wife and asked her if she would feel comfortable if I organised more than one meal, and she was happy to accept.”

Goldberg reached out to her network on social media, and in a very short space of time, she managed to raise enough funds to cover the family’s meals for the next month. She hopes to raise even more to cover a longer period.

“I will deliver meals every week for them to enjoy over a few days. My labour for the project is free, so this is just to cover ingredients and delivery,” she says. Donations came from people across the spectrum, from fellow chefs to single twenty-somethings, to mothers with families. “I have strangers contributing, which comes down to the power of social media,” she says.

Goldberg says that every time she speaks to the family, she gets emotional, but she says Lufan’s widow is “strong, positive, and grateful. She’s taking it day by day.” She cooked them a macaroni cheese, chocolate brownies, and a banana loaf with chocolate chips – all food that young children will enjoy.

Her Israeli fiancé is also involved, and delivered the food to the family. The pair got engaged in May, and they plan to move to Jerusalem, to which Goldberg feels a special connection. Their wedding will be in Jerusalem in December.

Goldberg lives a busy life, but says it’s important for her to make time to help others. “I’m part of the 05:00 club!” she quips. “If you want to do something, you make it happen. You wake up earlier, and you get it done. If you’re in a position to help, why not take up that beautiful opportunity?”

She was raised in Cape Town by a single mother who taught her the value of outreach from a young age. “I made aliya seven years ago. My father, who I never knew, was Jewish. My mother wasn’t, and I later converted. I attended St Cyprians School where I focused on ballet and drama, but also put a lot of time into helping others.” She won the community service award when she matriculated in 2010.

“Community service has always been close to my heart. South Africa and the Jewish community taught me to give back, and my mother and school encouraged me even more. My mom moulded me into who I am today.” She also works closely with Telfed, helping new olim – especially the youth – and taking part in various initiatives.

“The Jewish community always helped me and my mom so much. Now it’s my turn to contribute and be thankful for what I have,” she says.

Goldberg sees food as an important way to bring people together and offer comfort, warmth, and support when words aren’t enough. “That’s why my business is called Food for Thought Israel. I want to try to bring about goodness through food – whether it’s giving meals to those in need, cooking, or just buying groceries. Food is associated with family and community, especially in Jewish life.”

Once a year in winter, around Chanukah, she cooks litres of soup, which she sells to raise money for abused mothers and children. It’s just one of many ways she’s quietly making the world a better place, one meal at a time.

Goldberg can speak and understand Hebrew, and is mostly self-taught. “But in community service, we all speak the same language of giving,” she says.

She says South Africa gave her the entrepreneurial spirit to start a number of businesses. She began catering when many of her clients told her that they didn’t have time to cook healthy meals. Olim also said they struggled to read labels and ingredients. Goldberg saw a gap, and believes that Israel “really needs healthy food businesses. Knowledge of health and fitness is only starting out here.”

Now, she caters to about 20 to 50 families a week, including weekday meals and Shabbat dinners. She studied nutritional psychology and personal training, but she’s a “chef by passion” who taught herself how to cook and bake.

Goldberg describes herself as a Zionist, and feels angry that a family has been left without an incredible father and husband because of a senseless act of terrorism. But “Barak leaves a beautiful legacy”, she says. Along with his other achievements, Lufan served as the Israel Canoe Association’s head coach and was considered one of Israel’s leading kayakers. After his death, 40 kayakers sailed down the Yarkon River in honour of him and his personal kayak was placed at the pier to serve as a memorial.

“His children will always hear amazing things about their dad, and Israel as a family will support them,” says Goldberg. “They will need their mother to lead the way, and I can see that she’s doing that. Being open to accepting help is a brave thing to do.”

If South Africans would like to contribute towards meals for the Lufan family, “they’re more than welcome to contact me”, says Goldberg. “I still have a South African bank account, so I’m happy to accept donations there. Contact me on foodforthoughtisrael@gmail.com, on Instagram: @foodforthoughtisrael, or WhatsApp: +972 52 628 38 98. A little goes a long way.”

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