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Friday, September 17, 2021
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Rabbi Ephraim Simon of the Chabad of Teaneck is excited to establish the Teaneck branch of My Extended Family (MYEF), a program that offers support and empowerment to children in single-parent families. Inspired by Dan and Ronit Rubinoff, whom Rabbi Simon calls his partners in bringing this initiative to our area, the concept, while quite simple, has the potential to be immensely powerful.

When Dan shared what inspired him to bring MYEF to Teaneck, he spoke about the tremendous loss the community experienced over the last year and a half, including the loss of his father-in-law, Alex Klein, z”l. “I recall sitting with my wife after watching the levaya for Donny Morris, a”h, and asking myself what I could do to make a difference. I know that sounds clichéd, but I decided on that day to work on bringing MYEF to Teaneck.”

The Rubinoffs have known Rabbi and Rebbetzin Vigler, the founders of MYEF, from their time living as a young married couple in Brooklyn, witnessing firsthand the powerful impact the organization had on the children there. “In the Teaneck community, Chabad’s Rabbi Ephraim and Nechamy Simon are among the most caring and compassionate people I know,” said Dan. “My wife Ronit and I view them not only as spiritual mentors, but also as friends. Their involvement with the MYEF program in Bergen County will undoubtedly be welcomed by many, and I look forward to watching our local branch flourish, as it provides support to single parents and their children, bringing comfort, assistance and joy.”

The program offers a variety of activities and services for members of our community that he feels are “under-serviced.” Some of those services include a clinical department with access to a network of mental health professionals for both parents and children, weekly “club meetings” where kids are paired up with big sisters and brothers, seasonal trips, family events, Yom Tov assistance and even parenting workshops.

Originally founded in Flatbush, the program quickly gained traction, adding new branches in communities from the Five Towns and Far Rockaway to Crown Heights and Monsey. But the goal remains the same: to enrich the lives of children in single-parent homes. Geared towards kids between the ages of 6-12, Rabbi Simon said, “I really want to create this program to empower these kids and give them the services and the opportunities that perhaps they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

He explained that there are many people in our community who find themselves in this unique set of circumstances with unique needs. This program will help these kids by giving them access to a big brother or sister who could help them with their homework and then participate together in a fun activity. It also helps the parents, if even for just a few hours once a week. “So that’s the idea behind it. I feel like it would be great for the children. It will be great for the parents. It will be great for the big brothers and the big sisters who are giving back to our community. To me it is a win-win.”

With plans to begin after the Yomim Tovim, Rabbi Simon has assembled a staff he describes as “incredible, young people from our community” and that the common denominator that runs through the staff is their desire to do chesed and make children’s lives better. “I really look at our staff as being a blessing from Hashem.”

Amy Birman, a licensed clinical social worker and high school guidance counselor, will serve as the social worker overseeing the program. “Helping my community has always brought me tremendous joy and satisfaction, both in my personal and professional life,” she said. “When Rabbi and Rebbetzin Simon contacted me and described the invaluable role that My Extended Family plays in the lives of single-parent families, I knew immediately that this was an organization I wanted to be involved in.”

Birman will run the weekly meetings and make sure everyone’s social and emotional needs are met. “She is wonderful, and I am thrilled to be working with someone of her character, professionalism and care for the children of our community,” said Rabbi Simon. Birman will assist the parents with various needs and help them get whatever resources they require. The program provides access to a network of mental health professionals, and she will be there to help them navigate that, as well.

Avigayil Kaminetsky has been tapped as the girls program director. Having spent this past summer working at Camp HASC, shel is currently in her junior year at Queens College pursuing a degree in psychology with plans to get a PhD in neuropsychology. But it was her reputation for chesed and her gift for working with children that makes her perfect for this role. Rabbi Simon described her as someone who always wants to help and improve people’s lives and, indeed, she is looking to do just that in her new role. “Our goal is to create a welcoming, warm and fun program for young girls. We plan to have many entertaining activities and our ‘big sisters’ from the area will create an environment where girls can relax and just be themselves,” he said. As of now, the girls program is set to run out of the Teaneck Chabad House.

The boys program will take place at Heichal HaTorah at the Jewish Center of Teaneck and will be headed by Rabbi Avi Rosalimsky, a beloved rebbe and teacher at Yeshivat Noam, and staff member of the Bergen County Flag Football League. Rabbi Simon sings his praises and said he reached out to him because his reputation for chesed precedes him. Of course, it also helps that he’s fantastic with kids.

Rabbi Rosalimsky said: “I was very excited when Rabbi Simon asked me to join the team at My Extended Family. I can’t think of a better way to make a difference in the lives of the kids in our community who come from single-parent homes. That being said, as much as I look forward to helping these children (and their families) throughout the year, I am confident that I will gain much more from them than they will possibly gain from me.

“All of our staff are in this for one reason—they all love chesed and they all want to help people in our community. … I think that is the key to making this program a success and making the lives of the children who will enroll here better.”

The cost for the program is absolutely 100% free and it is open to everyone and every family who is part of a single-parent family regardless of income. “All that really matters is that the children could benefit from this type of program. That is really all we care about.” Rabbi Simon sincerely hopes that as more and more people hear about the program, they will remember people who are in a similar situation and direct them towards the program.

Rabbi Simon said that they are currently looking for 11-12th grade volunteers to be big brothers and sisters. If you would like to volunteer, please contact
[email protected]

There will be an open house on Sunday, October 3, at 4 p.m., at the Teaneck Chabad House located at 513 Kenwood Place. All are invited to learn about the program and meet the staff.

To learn more about My Extended Family visit www.myef.org

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