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Wednesday, October 21, 2020
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(Courtesy of Friendship Circle) More than 1,000 people in Livingston and West Orange participated in one of 18 public shofar blowings conducted by Friendship Circle and Chabad of Livingston on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

This year’s particularly large turnout was due in part to the worldwide pandemic, as many people could not gather at their houses of worship. All attendees wore masks, and the shofars were blown loudly so that everyone could hear while keeping their social distance.

People were very appreciative of the opportunity to celebrate the Jewish New Year in a safe way. One of those who came out to hear the public shofar blowing said in an email after the holiday, “These are unusual times, which give birth to unusual ideas. I loved standing outside, seeing all the other Jewish people, and non-Jewish people, in the neighborhood coming out to hear the shofar being blown. I hope this can be an annual event!”

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From the Livingston Town Center to the Oval, from Brandywine Senior Living to the Pointe, and from backyards to front stoops across town, the sound of the shofar echoed to groups large and small. Among those blowing shofar were: Rabbi Mendy Solomon of Chabad at Short Hills; Rabbi Yisroel Rosenblum, Rabbi Levi Grossbaum and Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum of Friendship Circle, and Dror Frommer.

While Rosh Hashanah was busy with the sounding the shofar, the lead-up to the holiday was also particularly hectic as Friendship Circle hosted an outdoor Shofar Factory and online cooking demonstrations, and arranged for the delivery of more than 400 holiday food packages to the homebound. The delivery was the latest “Chicken Soup for the Quarantined Soul” food distribution, and it was one of the largest.

Some of the foodstuffs were baked and packaged by cousins Gittel Grossbaum and Chaya Grossbaum in honor of their upcoming bat mitzvahs. Gittel is the daughter of Friendship Circle CEO and executive director Rabbi Zalman and Toba Grossbaum. Chaya is the daughter of Rabbi Levi and Esty Grossbaum, Friendship Circle’s director of operations and junior programming director.

Before the pandemic hit, the girls would go each week to deliver Shabbat kits (with challah, grape juice and Shabbat candles) to seniors at a senior home. The experience was cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak, but the girls knew they wanted to continue to help those who were homebound. Over the past six months they have been helping with the many Shabbat kit distributions, and with their bat mitzvahs fast approaching, the girls (with a little help from their mothers) came up with the idea of giving out food packages for Rosh Hashanah.

Though initially Gittel and Chaya planned for just a few packs, the idea snowballed quickly. With requests for food pouring in, the girls ended up preparing more than 400 containers of homemade chicken soup, honey muffins and more.

“We missed being able to go to see the people every week and we wanted to let them know we were thinking about them,” said Gittel.

Added Chaya, “We hope that they were happy to get the Rosh Hashanah packages, and when the pandemic is over, we want to go back and visit again.”

The sixth-graders both said they were motivated and inspired by the works and teaching of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of blessed memory.

Remarking on the last few days, Rabbi Grossbaum said, “So many people feel so isolated this year. We hope that these gestures—a shofar blowing, a food package filled with special holiday delicacies—make things a bit easier for them and remind them that they are not alone.”

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