On Tuesday, July 25, Chesed 24/7 is holding the special event “The Bergen Community UNITES to U-Knot” at Congregation Keter Torah at 7:30 p.m. This is a great opportunity to help those in need during the Nine Days.
Chesed 24/7 is well known for the Shabbos Box Project, which provides hospital patients with, well, Shabbos in a box! Complete with a tablecloth to fit a hospital tray, electric candles, a kiddush cup, a challah cover, Shabbos chocolates and havdalah spices, this box allows patients to practice their traditions with ease.
The Bergen County event is being held in memory of Phyllis Savetsky, a”h, and Donny Morris, a”h. Women and girls will help pack boxes and create knotted blankets for the hospital patients. Well-known singer and inspirational speaker Yaffa Palti will make a presentation. Light refreshments will be provided, and there will be many items raffled. All are welcome to come and assist and/or donate to the cause.
Unfortunately, too many people have seen the inside of a hospital, a sterile, liminal space devoid of culture and light. Staying in a hospital, even if the patient has close family, can be an incredibly scary and isolating experience. That’s where Chesed 24/7 comes in. Through a plethora of services, they aim to make Jewish patients’ hospital stays just a little more comfortable.
Founded in 1988 in New Square, New York, Chesed 24/7 has grown over the years to offer many different amenities. In addition to The Shabbos Box Project, the organization has created hospitality rooms and lending libraries. Their services are found in 25 hospitals in and around Bergen County.
Chesed 24/7’s hospitality rooms are complete with a refrigerator, microwave, kosher snacks and phone-charging stations, creating a space for Jewish families to have a reprieve. The lending libraries are chock full of books, DVDs and DVD players for families and patients alike.
Chesed 24/7 has a large network of volunteers who often hold “box parties” to pack Shabbos boxes and other goodies for patients. In addition to the aforementioned services, longtime volunteer Yael Jacoby said that the organization offers drivers to and from appointments, along with apartments near the hospitals where families can stay to be close to their loved ones over Shabbos. “We don’t want [patients] to be worried about anything for Shabbos, but [we want them to know] we’re thinking about [them].
“Chesed 24/7’s own Devorah Adler always says that ‘we should always be on the side of giving,’” Jacoby added. Especially over the last few years, hospital stays have often been getting longer, and Chesed 24/7 wants to “continue to raise money to give this chesed to so many people. We all know somebody who needs it.”
Jacoby started working with the organization by visiting patients at the Columbia and Hackensack hospitals. Another longtime volunteer, Chani Fink, got started in Chesed 24/7 via collecting food and other goods for the organization. Gradually, her involvement grew, and she began creating Shabbos boxes and stocking hospital rooms. Through events, Fink said, “we hope to bring out a lot of Jewish women to support the patients.” She described participating in the organization as “simple.” It does not have to be a huge monetary commitment: “Everyone can be part of Chesed 24/7.”
The July 25 event is particularly poignant for Fink because it is in memory of her own mother, Phyllis Savetsky, a”h, who was a recipient of Chesed 24/7’s care.
Chesed 24/7 volunteer events occur all the time. In the summer of 2020 (during COVID-19), Jacoby and Fink held a box party in Jacoby’s backyard, where they were able to pack 550 boxes together with families, who would pack during different time slots. These women felt that this event was necessary, especially during the pandemic.
Last year, at a single Teaneck box event, volunteers were able to pack 1,000 boxes. Jacoby’s daughter and her friends designed stuffed bears with personalized notes to place in the boxes. At this year’s event, Chesed 24/7 is making blankets for patients, with each volunteer tying a square, thus effectively creating a tangible tapestry of support. Fink implores everyone to come: “You’re with your friends. You pack some boxes. You’ve got a good speaker. You’ve got snacks. It’s a nice thing to do during the nine days.”
Jacoby and Fink are always on the lookout for more volunteers. “There is no shortage of what needs to be done,” Jacoby said. If you would like to get further involved with Chesed 24/7 and join the event, visit uknotted.org.
Dina Shlufman of Tenafly is a Jewish Link summer intern and is a rising freshman at Cornell University.