It was last Wednesday afternoon on our deadline day when I heard the terrible news that Shira Shatzkes, a young Teaneck mother of five, had suffered a brain aneurysm and was in critical condition, which is where she still remains as I write this on our deadline day once again. I made the decision then not to put anything into last week’s paper about Shira’s condition because hardly any information was available in those early hours before we went to print.
But what’s happened in the past week is pretty amazing. I don’t know Shira that well, but I certainly know her husband, Dr. Joey Shatzkes, well. She and her husband are well known and respected in our local Orthodox community for their involvement in many, many good organizations such as New Jersey Yachad, which recently honored them at their annual dinner, as well as Yeshivat Noam, Congregation Rinat Yisrael, Camp Mesorah and many other special important causes. Their generosity and kindness are well known.
But I am not really writing about how special the Shatzkes family is, although they certainly are. (Just a quick personal and telling anecdote: Despite all that is going on with his wife over this past week, Dr. Joey is still texting my wife to make sure that our son Zev gets the vaccine this week … my wife and I were flabbergasted that he would still be on top of this very small detail. We are not even patients of his! Thank you Joey!)
Rather, I write to let you know how I have just been blown away by the rapid responses and galvanization online of our community, well beyond our immediate neighborhoods and coverage areas, and just how many chesed efforts and mitzvah campaigns have been launched online and even in-person on Shira’s behalf.
Last night I participated in one of the nightly Zoom Tehillim sessions coordinated by Yeshivat Noam. In addition to saying Tehillim together with nearly 500 people, the session was enhanced by an engaging shiur on Megillat Esther by Jason Cyrulnik, a good friend of the Shatzkes family from Teaneck. I understand the numbers were even bigger on the first nights.
By last Thursday, the hashtag #DoItForShira had begun trending on our social media pages and that’s exactly what’s been happening. Literally thousands of people throughout the world, many with little connection to Shira and her family, are “doing” something for Shira. People are learning, davening, doing mitzvot and chesed, giving tzedakah and more, all in her name. My wife tells me that many of her friends in the Five Towns and Israel are talking about Shira and doing things on her behalf. (Read about the many initiatives being undertaken on Shira’s behalf in our cover article by Ellie Wolf.)
This unique chesed initiative, informally called DoItForShira Bzchut Shira bat Devorah Leah, now has its own logo and Instagram account (@doitforshira) with over 1,000 followers —and has seemingly taken on a life of its own. The Shatzkes family is asking that all consider thinking about what you can do to help others and then post your act of kindness on your Instagram or Facebook account and make sure to use the #doitforshira tag. I repeat that message here as well.
I have also been reading and watching the posts by Dr. Joey and his daughter Zehava, updating the world on Shira’s condition and although her recovery is not assured at all, I was both struck and uplifted at the same time by their upbeat and positive tone, to which I almost completely attribute to the fact that they feel the impact of having thousands of people pulling for their wife and mother. They even say this themselves.
Joey wrote this past Tuesday night: “... I believe with all my heart that we are only in this place because of your prayers and good deeds. Please know how thankful we are and how important it is that everyone keep praying for Shira as she remains in critical condition. Your prayers and deeds continue to give our family inspiration and strength. #doitforshira.”
I am asking our full Jewish Link readership and community to get behind this and consider doing something on Shira’s behalf and daven for a complete refuah sheleima for Shira bat Devorah Leah.
To stay on top of Shira’s condition and see and read updates from her family, visit: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/shirabatdevorahleah.
By Moshe Kinderlehrer/
Co-Publisher, The Jewish Link