“Mitzvah goreret mitzvah,” one mitzvah promotes another, is an uncontestable reality within our community, especially during trying times such as these. With no predictable end in sight, the needs of our community residents are growing daily. The advent of Pesach is adding to these needs as Pesach is the holiday in the Jewish calendar which requires the most preparation.
The WhatsApp Chesed group of West Orange-Livingston was created last December by Renee Glick as a response to the need for community women to volunteer for overnight shifts comforting a young burn victim at Saint Barnabas hospital in Livingston. Her family was in desperate need of volunteers to sit by her side while they cared for her 11 siblings. This chesed initiative, taken up by more than 20 women, was a natural launching point for the current project in full gear––Passover-in-a-Box.
At the initiation of Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler of West Orange’s Congregation AABJ&D, in coordination with Reuben’s Glatt Spot, the initiative is being spearheaded by its core team of Alisha Blugrind, Renee and Moshe Glick and Larry Rein, of West Orange. Passover-in-a-Box is now in the process of packing more than 50 boxes containing more than 700 prepared meals for distribution the Tuesday before Pesach to local families including the homebound elderly as well as families whose finances have suffered tremendously during this virulent outbreak.
In addition to the delicious prepared meals that will carry the recipients through the entire chag, the boxes include every item needed for celebrating a full Pesach including a seder plate and the symbolic items to be placed upon it.
The boxes will be dropped off outside each home by a fleet of volunteers. The communities of West Orange and Livingston have spontaneously and generously raised $25,000 so far to implement this chesed. A simultaneous project sponsored by the Jewish Relief Agency of MetroWest is providing additional boxes including packed provisions such as matzot, gefilte fish and grape juice. To participate in Passover-in-a-Box and other support services being planned by the West Orange and Livingston communities in anticipation of the soon to follow widespread economic hardships caused by the coronavirus, contact Larry Rein at [email protected]
Another multifaceted chesed project currently in process is being coordinated by The Jewish Home Family’s Jewish Home Foundation. Pesach Meals on Wheels will be delivered to elderly seniors across Bergen County as the organization has provided for many years. The packages this year will be dropped off on doorsteps to maintain social distancing. Needless to say, the recipients will miss the lovely home visits that traditionally accompanied the delivery of the pre-Pesach packages.
A second component of the chesed project has already begun and has been greeted with great success and appreciation. The in-house convenience store at the Jewish Home Family has ordered extra provisions that they are offering at no cost to their overtaxed and overworked staff.
“We know it’s not simple for our staff to find the time to go to a store after a long day of caring for our elders,” said Jewish Home Family’s President and CEO Carol Silver Elliot, “so we brought the store to them. The staff are thrilled and the more we can help people avoid supermarkets, the safer our elders will be in the long run.” Available to the staff are eggs, bread, milk and toilet paper. The Jewish Home hopes to replicate the store on a regular basis, as well as at its assisted living facility.
Other steps taken to help healthcare staff during these trying times are a PTO (paid time off) bank with donated hours from other staff. This service provides extra hours for those who opt for them, additional training for work in other capacities, offers of employment to other family members and telehealth services to staff and their families.
Finally, the children from the Thurnauer School of Music as well as other local children will be sharing performances, cards and kind messages which will be broadcast to the residents of the facilities on in-house channels.
In introducing our third noteworthy chesed initiative, let us refer back to our opening statement of “mitzvah goreret mitzvah.” For the past 11 years, Sharing Seats, founded by Mike Dube and Yoni Greenstein, has been providing outings of joy to youngsters afflicted with serious illnesses. Dube estimates that Sharing Seats has provided tickets to sporting events, concerts and performances of all kinds to more than 1,000 delighted youngsters and their appreciative families. Unfortunately, along with its other devastating effects, the coronavirus has forced the shut-down of all entertainment venues. Determined to find a way to continue providing for others, Dube, along with marketing director Sandy Dube, have reached out through social media to the community to help them provide gratitude and appreciation to those serving as first responders during these critical times. Whether they be EMTs and paramedics, or BLS critical care transporters, whether they serve as policemen/women or firefighters, they are on duty 24/7 protecting our citizens.
As Dube points out, “Acts of chesed are universal and not restricted to one’s religious practice. There is a difference between being human and a human being.” In response to the great efforts put forth daily by our local first responders, Sharing Seats has now taken upon itself the mission of providing these courageous individuals with the care they deserve by providing them with freshly prepared pizzas daily. In addition to the deliveries to the local headquarters every evening at six, a packet of cards and letters composed by the children of the Sharing Seats supporters will be distributed to the first responders, providing them with words of heartfelt understanding and appreciation for placing themselves on the front lines of this perilous plague. Kudos to Lisa Schecter for coordinating the families at Moriah who joined in raising funds and created the meaningful personalized cards presented to the first responders.
According to Dube, “This chesed initiative incorporates a vital ingredient that we must strive for in our community––that of including our children in acts of giving and teaching them the universal values of sharing and caring for others.”
To date, Sharing Seats has visited firehouses and police stations in Englewood. The plan is to move on to Teaneck and surrounding communities in the coming days. To contribute to the efforts of Sharing Seats please make your contributions through PayPal or Zelle through [email protected] or through VENMO at [email protected].
Adding to the list, Bikur Cholim of Bergen County is sending hundreds of packaged sandwiches and snacks to the employees of our local hospitals.
“The health of our community is dependent on the frontline healthcare workers who are working tirelessly day and night on our behalf,” shared Danny Gurell.
Kehillat Kesher of Englewood, under the leadership of Rabbi Akiva Block, is spearheading a combined effort by the Englewood shuls to purchase supplies of PPE to be delivered to local hospitals. These vital items include masks, shields, gloves and suits. As they must be purchased as pallets in large quantities, a substantial sum of money must be collected. To join in on this crucial chesed, please visit https://www.keshernj.com/payment.php and indicate PPE in the memo.
We apologize if we have not reported the chesed you have initiated and are involved in performing. B”H our communities have come out as “am echad b’lev echad,” one nation with one heart, in these most pernicious times.
By Pearl Markovitz