Novato resident launches fundraising drive for lone soldiers

Lena Elkins could no longer passively watch the news. She had to do something to support Israel while it battled Hamas. For the Novato native, the war is personal: Her sister serves in the Israeli army.

Elkins, 22, launched a fundraising drive for the Lone Soldier Center, a nonprofit formed in 2009 in memory of Michael Levin, an American-born IDF soldier who died in the 2006 Lebanon War.

Lena Elkins

Two American lone soldiers in the IDF, one from California, the other from Texas, were killed in combat last month.

Elkins set a fundraising target of $2,000, with the money to be turned over to the center to purchase food, housing, Shabbat meals, clothing and more for lone soldiers. She has nearly reached her goal.

“It’s a simple fundraiser,” Elkins said. “I thought it would be good to get the whole Marin Jewish community in on this. It’s rare to have them in unity.”

To that end, she enlisted the help of area synagogues Congregation Rodef Shalom of San Rafael and Congregation Kol Shofar of Tiburon, as well as Chabad centers in Novato and Mill Valley. Those institutions have sent out email blasts to congregants, urging donations.

Elkins also created a donation page called “Help our Heroes” on The site also explains her mission to help the 6,000 lone soldiers serving in the Israeli military.

Elkins’ 20-year-old sister Madeleine is one of them. After a post-high school gap year in Israel, Madi (as she is known) made aliyah. She joined the Israel Air Force, specializing in training bomb-detecting dogs. Once the war broke out, she was reassigned to guard an Iron Dome battery.

“That’s as Zionist as it gets,” Lena said.

Both sisters were Diller Teen fellows, and Lena is a graduate of the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco. In addition to her sister, she knows many lone soldiers. At a 2012 Israeli Independence Day picnic in Jerusalem, she ran into several Bay Area friends who had joined the IDF.

Elkins herself will soon make aliyah. The University of Oregon graduate said she will depart for Israel in a few weeks. After ulpan, she hopes to find work in her chosen field of journalism.

How do her parents feel about having both their daughters moving to Israel? “They’re proud of us,” Elkins said. “They raised proud Jewish kids.”

For more information, visit or email Elkins at [email protected]


Related stories:

Proud but worried: Anxious times for Bay Area parents with kids in IDF

On border with Gaza, S.F. surgeon lends his expertise

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.