April 8, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chaverim’s Sol Itzkowitz Named ‘Hometown Hero’

On July 25, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) held his Fifth District Hometown Heroes ceremony, honoring the community service and kind actions of good people across his district in Northern New Jersey. During the awards ceremony, Solomon Itzkowitz of Teaneck, coordinator of Chaverim of Bergen County, was recognized for the incredible work that he did revitalizing and leading the organization to where it is today.

Held in the Hackensack Performing Arts Center, this biannual event drew scores of people to congratulate the generous souls it honored. After a light reception in one of the art galleries, everyone moved to the theater upstairs for the ceremony. After being welcomed by the mayor of Hackensack, John Labrosse, everyone stood for the Pledge of Allegiance.

After the national anthem was sung by Mia Sanchez, Gottheimer thanked the HACPAC director and talked about the importance of kindness and unity in these times consumed by division and animosity. “In a time fueled by hyper-partisanship, our Hometown Heroes don’t get caught up in the nastiness,” he said. “We all should work to live up to their example.” Gottheimer then introduced the Hometown Heroes one by one, describing the work they have done, and still do, for the North Jersey community.

When he got to Itzkowitz, Gottheimer began with the founding of Chaverim of Teaneck, and then addressed the leader’s contributions.

Chaverim is a collection of numerous volunteer organizations around the world that provide roadside assistance and non-medical emergency responses, first founded in Rockland County, New York in 1999. The chapter in Teaneck, Chaverim of Teaneck, was started in 2009 by Yehuda Feig, David Roberts and Leib Kohn, and while it of course provided assistance to many in need, it was relatively limited. There were only around two dozen volunteers, and less than 70 calls per year.

In 2020, Itzkowitz revitalized the organization as Chaverim of Bergen County, with help from Micky Cohen and Yitz Stern, and expanded its capabilities, range and efficiency. In addition to enhanced equipment and training, the number of volunteers more than doubled, and the organization even answered more calls in its first new year than in all of its prior years combined. Since then, Chaverim has only grown more, now with almost 100 volunteers and over 3,000 calls to which it has responded.

Gottheimer went on to describe how under Itzkowitz’s leadership, the organization has been able to help more people in all kinds of ways. These include impromptu autobody services, like assisting with flat tires, empty gas tanks or dead car batteries. They’ve reunited families with children who were lost or locked inside of a house or car, and they’ve helped people both evacuate and rebuild after flooding. “The organization is there 24/7/365, answering calls within minutes, at no charge to those in need,” the congressman said. “‘Chaverim’ comes from the Hebrew word for ‘friend,’ and it’s clear that under Solomon’s leadership, the organization has been a friend to all.” Gottheimer’s speech was met with applause and cheers.

Of course, Itzkowitz was not the only one to be recognized that day. He was the second to be honored in the ceremony, and there were more than 20 people after him to be recognized for their service in all areas of life, and a dozen more who were not able to attend. These include all kinds of people, from first responders to veterans, teachers, therapists, activists for all sorts of causes, and charity and community organizers.

Itzkowitz was first nominated for this honor by Karen and Eric Orgen, who are involved in the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps. In their letter, the couple described some of the heroic things that Chaverim has done under Itzkowitz’s guidance. For example, earlier this year, during mass power outages after a fire in a local power station, Chaverim delivered dozens of generators to help people keep their homes and lives up and running. Also, last year, they participated in a massive search operation involving the police and ambulance corps from both Teaneck and Bergenfield, supplying dozens of volunteers and helping to safely find a 4-year-old child who was missing.

Itzkowitz continues a proud family tradition of chesed. In the 1970s, his grandfather R’ Moshe Hoffman, zt’l was one of the founders of Shomrim, a volunteer organization similar to Chaverim, but focused more on community security. Additionally, his brothers have founded and run Chaverim in Kiryas Joel, Williamsburg, and Borough Park, and his mother is involved in Hatzalah. Itzkowitz has also participated in Hatzalah on the Lower East Side, and is currently a Shomrim volunteer himself in addition to the work he does as Chaverim. However, Itzkowitz said that the best part is really seeing the good come out in everyone else. “It’s great to see, once you start putting out that you need volunteers, how much people want to join and help you.”


Eitan Nissel is an intern at The Jewish Link. He is looking forward to returning to Yeshivat Har Etzion next year for shana bet.

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