Friday, February 26, 2021

This past week, as awareness of Shira Shatzkes’ medical emergency spread primarily via social media, the local community quickly responded with immediacy and purpose, expanding like a beacon, reaching across the globe, and creating a tangible sense of unity and focus.

WhatsApp chat groups formed to initiate Tehillim groups: A first round, then another, increasing exponentially; all day and all night, in multiple time zones. The outpouring of offerings of assistance to the family was abundant and instantaneous, and quickly transformed from being family-focused to global.

Shira’s husband, Dr. Joey Shatzkes, sent a message of gratitude, informing everyone that the family had everything they needed; and primarily to please just continue davening. Shatzkes, a cardiologist, has been at the forefront of the
Teaneck-Bergenfield community’s response to the COVID crisis, dedicating his efforts to saving countless lives. The impact of the Shatzkes family’s dedication and selflessness was now boomeranging back to them, as the mindset of friends and extended family shifted to dedicating mitzvot, tefillah and chesed projects in Shira’s name.

Creativity reigned as a mitzvah campaign chat emerged: #doitforShira as a hashtag began to circulate. Hundreds of chat members and their families worldwide now not only turned thought into action, they added actions to their thoughts, all as a zechut for Shira’s recovery, and shared those thoughts and ideas in the chat. Everyone took strength and encouragement from what others were taking on and doing.

Small chesed projects and larger efforts, all with the intention of the mitzvot done on Shira’s behalf, began to form. Challah-baking groups emerged. People not only baked in advance of last Shabbat, but made larger batch sizes that required taking challah with a bracha, and dedicated it to Shira’s refuah. But that’s not all: They also sold, donated or delivered many of the loaves, giving any money earned to tzedakah.

As New Jersey and the East Coast got slammed with a blizzard that left more than a foot of snow in its wake, disrupting mobility and the supply chain, the #doitforShira mitzvah campaign saw this as an opportunity to further expand their mitzvot and chesed.

Soon the chats were filled with people describing the mitzvot and chesed acts they were pledging, or reporting what they and their family members had already done, all for Shira. These included shoveling snow for neighbors and seniors, shopping and delivering food, reaching out to help with shidduchim, ordering an Uber for a store clerk who had missed her bus, helping seniors arrange for their COVID vaccine, parent-child learning dedications and more.

Heichal HaTorah dedicated the learning of the entire student body and faculty to Shira’s recovery. Zoom shiurim were presented and dedicated along with Tehillim as a klal. The list goes on, and there isn’t space for the thousands of mitzvot and chesed efforts enacted on Shira’s behalf.

The family and close friends have been strengthened and heartened by the boundless support of the global community. On Monday, Zehava Shatzkes, Shira's oldest daughter and a junior at Frisch, broadcast a video on behalf of the family: “Thank you all for the continued tefillot for my mother. It means so much to me to know how many people are supporting me and my family. We really believe that your tefillot are the reason my mom has come this far.”

By Ellie Wolf