Little did Teaneck resident Daniel Rothner, founder and director of Areyvut, anticipate that 18 years after founding his chesed organization its name would become the motto for combatting a worldwide pandemic. The Hebrew translation of “areyvut” is connectedness or responsibility, but the word also incorporates the root “arev,” meaning “sweet.” The connection can be drawn that being responsible for one another brings sweetness and joy to both sides, which is so needed in these challenging times.
In a regular year, Areyvut is busy around the clock providing ideas and planning opportunities for individuals, shuls, schools and communities. During the COVID-19 crisis, this activity has only intensified. Projects range from providing meals and artwork to frontline health providers to delineating numerous opportunities for generating kindness toward others and sustaining calm and health for oneself.
As of May 18, Areyvut had arranged for over 2,750 meals to be delivered to medical staff on the frontlines of healthcare in and around Bergen County. The “Meals for Heroes” program was suggested by Charlie Weisinger, whose son Zev in Jerusalem was looking to organize a meal donation program for doctors and healthcare workers in Israel. Debbie Ross, senior clinical informatics specialist at Holy Name, was instrumental in getting the effort started.
Areyvut piloted the effort and absorbed the costs of the first few meals. After seeing the success and impact, Rothner reached out to local community members for sponsorships. To date, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center has received over 415 meals; Holy Name Hospital over 1,950 meals; Valley Hospital and Medical Center, 115; and Hackensack Hospital, 140. Also included were the volunteers at the Bergenfield, Englewood and Teaneck Volunteer Corps. The food deliveries, which were sent directly to specific recipients at the health facilities, have been provided by Chopstix, Doghouse, Dougies, EJ’s, Five Star Caterers, Humble Toast, Hummus Elite, Menagerie, Noah’s Ark, Poppy’s, Sababa Grill, Sender’s Smoke Joint and Yalla. A video of the “Meals for Heroes” was prepared by Ezra Hiller of Take One Video and to date has received more than 1,000 views. To donate to “Meals for Heroes,” go to https://www.areyvut.org/donate/ and select Other and write in Meals for Heroes.
Of the many notes of gratitude received in response to Areyvut’s “Meals for Heroes,” Dr. Shira Hochberg of Teaneck shared the following: “When my brother was hospitalized due to COVID-19, we were feeling hopeless and isolated. We were helpless since we were unable to visit him in the hospital and felt isolated from our family who needed our support. During this stressful time, we were reassured by the wonderful care that he received from healthcare heroes: doctors, nurses, therapists. Donating to Areyvut’s “Meals for Heroes” gave us the opportunity to say thank you to the selfless individuals who were so instrumental in my brother’s care and recovery.”
An ongoing COVID-19 Areyvut project is the “Canvases for Heroes.” Young, budding artists are asked to create inspirational canvases to be hung in medical offices and hospital corridors throughout the county. Some have been completed and brought to Holy Name Hospital where, thanks to Ross, they are now hanging in the cafeteria. Efforts are underway to provide canvases for Englewood, Hackensack and Valley Hospitals.
Areyvut has also created a delivery flyer that thanks those who have been bringing necessary food and medical items to the homebound. These signs placed on windows or on front porches greet the deliverers and thank them for their diligence and fortitude.
Areyvut has consistently provided online coronavirus resources and infographics. With over 45 crucial points, these tips have helped the community stay focused and calm. Pointers include sanity-saving tips on working from home, tips on how to be more thankful, tips on how to organize the home, tips on how to stay strong, ways in which to make kindness the norm, tips on how to stay calm when stressed and tips for coping with feeling alone. They can be accessed at http://bit.ly/2wU5CTS.
The intent of Areyvut’s new Kindness Club is to teach and model acts of kindness to youngsters as well as seniors. In normal times, Kindness Clubs meet weekly at nursing homes, senior centers and assisted living centers and utilize the resources provided through Areyvut. Currently Areyvut is offering these resources, containing a broad range of craft activities that encourage participants to actively spread kindness, free of charge. Thanks go to Shira Hammerman, Rena Ray and Talia Rapps for their efforts in bringing this project to fruition. A grateful recipient of the Kindness Club resources, Dr. Michal Agus has shared, “Kindness is one of the most important values we can model for our children, as well as teach them directly. It is great to talk about kindness, but even better to practice it. I am so pleased that Areyvut is increasing opportunities for kindness and actively teaching kindness through their Kindness Club.” Ideas for projects for parents and educators are available at https://bit.ly/KC42020.
The 16th Annual National Mitzvah Day was planned for March 29. Unfortunately, all in-person events were canceled due to COVID-19. But this disappointment did not deter Rothner and his team from participating in the annual international Good Deeds Day. Inspired by Hammerman, a list of 100 suggestions was created and disseminated to be used not only on Mitzvah Day but every day whenever possible. Different areas of mitzvah performance were suggested, including among many others, accepting help, active listening, birthday calls, bless your child, be calm, choose wisely, eat well, empower, show empathy, send flowers, help isolated seniors, make a call, pray, speak kindness, send thank-you notes, and remember to think before you speak. These ideas and more can be accessed at https://bit.ly/3dx89qE.
In addition to National Mitzvah Day activities, Areyvut has provided virtual mitzvah opportunities. These activities such as hakarat hatov, being grateful, shmirat haguf, protecting one’s health, shmirat halashon, resisting gossip, and scores of others can be practiced daily even during a pandemic. Now these programs are being dedicated to the cherished memories of those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19 or are struggling to recover. The mitzvot are also being practiced in honor of the first responders, whose courage, dedication and commitment have saved scores of lives during this pandemic. Areyvut invites the community to learn of these virtual mitzvah opportunities by visiting www.areyvut.org/past-events.
Rothner emphasized, “As the future evolves and we are more informed of what our community will look like as we slowly emerge from our isolation, be assured that the Areyvut team will be alert to the needs of adults and children during the summer months and will try to provide meaningful outlets and programs. Stay safe and well.”
By Pearl Markovitz