Yonah Dokarker and Pamela Bondy met in Kiryat Gat in 1998. They met while Bondy was part of a JUF mission to Israel celebrating the state's 50th anniversary of independence, while Dokarker, now a programmer at JUF, was teaching computer science at the city's high schools.
The pair married a year after they met and moved to Chicago.
Dokarker's connection to Kiryat Gat, part of JUF's Partnership Together region, runs deep: he was born in India and made aliyah , moving to Kiryat Gat with his family in 1968. After college, he returned to his hometown as a teacher, working 12-hour days to ensure every student had a chance to learn.
Despite living thousands of miles away, Dokarker and Bondy both remain connected to the city that brought them together. The couple donated $50,000 to help schools open five new computer labs.
"We are in 2018 and some schools in Israel don't have computers," said Dokarker, who is JUF's Web Team Supervisor. "There's one science class at a school in Kiryat Gat where the students won awards at the national level, and they didn't have computers. How do you do science today without computers? How can you do research?"
Three labs have been opened, and two more will open this winter.
Dokarker dedicated and named each lab after someone who has passed away that he wanted to memorialize. The first lab was named after his father, Moses, who Dokarker says was his biggest role model.
Dokarker named the second lab after a close friend's mother, Malka Yehuda, who dedicated her life to bettering Kiryat Gat.
The third lab, housed in an elementary school reaching many Ethiopian children, is named for his uncle Moses Ellis Bamnolkar who died in World War II and has no grave.
The fourth lab will be named after an observant Jewish Indian young woman, Goldin Penker, who joined the air force and was killed in a military drill.
The fifth one will be named after Shahaf Samson, a young Israeli soldier who died during his service in the Israel Defense Forces.
Opening the labs has brought Dokarker great joy. "If I can give the money to those who are really in need, it brings me joy that I can help someone," he said. "Education is the solution for many of Israel's problems, and whatever I can do to support and help Israel is in my blood."