Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Chabad of Hackensack is going high impact, to share a message of positivity with thousands of highway drivers every day: “Think good, it will be good.”

This message can be found on a Route 80 billboard, and will alternate on both sides of the digital sign near River Street, in Hackensack. Seven miles from the George Washington Bridge, the Bergen County seat is bordered by Paramus, River Edge and Teaneck, in addition to eight other small Bergen County towns.

Rabbi Mendy Kaminker of the Chabad of Hackensack was inspired to spread awareness of the common chasidic adage in order to boost people’s emotional wellness during this period of unease. Rabbi Kaminker, who established Hackensack’s first Chabad house two years ago with the help of Rabbi Ephraim Simon of the Chabad of Teaneck, moved his family from South Jersey to take up the post. He and his wife, Rebbetzin Shterna Kaminker, have worked tirelessly since Rosh Hashanah 2018 to bring Jewish life back to a community with a rich Jewish history that had aged and shrunk in recent years.


While the physical needs of many are currently met—volunteers and organizations are
distributing face masks and food, and providing other services to people in need—there are increasing anxieties among people who listen to the news about upticks in COVID-19 cases and another likely period of quarantine, as well as economic and racial tensions.

“When you are being bombarded with negative news, you feel small. You feel unimportant,” Rabbi Kaminker said. “Especially when you feel that there’s not much you can do to change the situation. That’s what makes people feel anxious and concerned.”

That’s where the power of thought comes into play.

The phrase “Think good, it will be good” is a quote from the third Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, and was repeated many times by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, z”tl, otherwise known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The Rebbe explained that Hashem runs the world in two ways––by nature or by miracle. People can either feel subject to nature’s whims, or they can elevate their consciousness by recognizing the miracles Hashem performs in their daily lives and taking advantage of the opportunity to perform miracles of their own.

Most importantly, by trusting that Hashem is looking out for them, people can feel less worried about what is out of their control, and can instead focus on what they can do to help others.

The power of positivity can be contagious, explained Rabbi Kaminker. Those who radiate positivity, whether it be through conversations with friends and family or with strangers or acquaintances, can in turn help others feel more optimistic.

In addition to the billboard, the Chabad of Hackensack has distributed masks that say “Think good and it will be good,” with an accompanying letter that explains the power behind the message, and reminds people to be aware of the emotional needs of themselves and others.

According to Rabbi Kaminker, Chabad in other states, such as Florida, Kansas, California and Maryland, are considering putting up billboards as well.

In addition to this campaign, Chabad of Hackensack continues to serve the community during the pandemic. Volunteers have been going grocery shopping for seniors and families, have helped arrange burials and Zoom funerals that abide by Jewish customs and have been visiting the sick at Hackensack University Medical Center. In recognition of their service to the community, Rabbi Kaminker, as well as Chabad of Northwest Bergen County’s Rabbi Chanoch Kaplan, were recently named “Fifth District Hometown Heroes” by Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

“This pandemic has been taking a tremendous emotional toll on us,” Rabbi Kaminker said. “When you feel you have the power to change what is happening for the better, you feel optimistic. You feel empowered.”

A full-service shul and communal center, Chabad Hackensack operates in the former Temple Beth El, on Summit Avenue, a location that, decades ago, merged various congregations including the Hackensack Hebrew Institute and Hasbrouck Heights Jewish Community Center. Records of Orthodox life in Hackensack go back to 1908.

Intern Ora Gutfreund contributed to this report.

By Elizabeth Zakaim