Last Thursday morning, I had the honor of accompanying my friend and accident survivor Micah Kaufman to the Teaneck Police headquarters. He sponsored and spoke at a lunch for the entire department as part of thanking them for helping to save his life. Teaneck police responded to the late December 2019 accident where he and Shelly Mermelstein, a”h, were hit by a car just outside of Teaneck’s Congregation Bnai Yeshurun.
Micah still has a way to go with his physical recovery, as he still has balance issues and is still not able to read well (I joked with him that we have to save up all of the Jewish Links over the past year that he has missed), but his progress is nothing short of amazing. As I see Micah weekly in shul, I am amazed at how he seems to be getting better and better, in small ways, on a nearly weekly basis. To me, one sign that Micah is well on the road to recovery was his recent powerful quip to me about why he especially likes to connect with and speak with children and also with young adults with developmental disabilities, like my son, Zev, and one or two others from our shul. Micah explained, “I like speaking with them because they don’t treat me special or different today.” Powerful words. When I heard that, I just knew that he is on the way to a full recovery. May his recovery only continue speedily!
As we walked together to the police building, with Teaneck’s Rabbi Sam Frankel, who drove Micah there, we were met by Teaneck police officer Robert Gloria who helped arrange the lunch with Micah. We were quickly led to the assembly room, and all of the officers on shift or not out on duty attended a short presentation led off by Micah, who thanked all of the officers present for what they do every day.
He explained to the officers that he was a kidney donor and that the reason he was attending a different synagogue than usual on the night of his accident was to meet with another prospective kidney donor. He also cracked a joke that got everyone laughing, asking the officers assembled to promise to never arrest him in the future. They promised they wouldn’t.
All kidding aside, many of the officers I saw were visibly touched and moved by Micah’s speech, and one of the senior police officers there mentioned that he and his fellow officers usually only see the worst part of the accidents and difficult situations as they occur. Only rarely do they ever witness good outcomes when survivors recover and are able to rebuild their lives. He thanked Micah for coming and for the lunch, but also for giving the assembled officers a chance to see him recovering and getting better. Teaneck Police Chief Glenn O’Reilly also thanked Micah on behalf of the department for the lunch and for living life by example.
Officer Gloria also arranged for the two officers who had responded to the scene of the accident, Officer Zack Reed and Sergeant William Croonquist, to be present. Micah spoke to both of them privately thanking them for helping to save his life. They were both so happy to see Micah walking and talking to them. They explained that when they arrived at the accident scene, it was a terrible sight to see and they didn’t think Micah had much of a chance. Micah spent a good few minutes with these officers and thanked them over and over again for what they did for him.
And where did Micah go after he finished thanking the Teaneck Police and donating lunch? He went straight to TABC to meet with and speak to the graduating senior class, among them my son, Noam, who told me that Micah spoke well about the need to do as much chesed in this world as possible. Although my son has heard Micah speak before, he told me that he definitely made a powerful impression upon his friends and classmates.
Micah, keep up all that you are doing in teaching us how to say thank you and do chesed, and don’t stop getting better!
By Moshe Kinderlehrer,
Co-Publisher, The Jewish Link