Finding solace with stuffed toys is one way to cope with COVID-19. Another way is to join forces with NCSY’s mission leader, Rabbi Ethan J. Katz, and teen troops for another stuffed-toy campaign of giving. Recently, Rabbi Katz invited me to participate in a day of giving to a community in need. I traveled down to the MLK center of Long Beach, New York, to hand out 500 (half of the Bears From Bergenfield’s collection) donated stuffed toys to children and adults in that community in need of a hug. The food givers, teens and I, wearing masks of course, had given out close to 150 when we decided to close up for the day. The next day and the one to follow would just be more days to give.
We gave toys to grandmothers who had 14 grandchildren to give to and to brothers who were watching their sisters die of cancer alone in the hospitals, in need of hugs. We gave to teens celebrating their friend’s 15th birthday with a bang-out blast of a birthday gift—her favorite, a stuffed toy. We gave to businessmen who were entertaining their nephews for the week and wanted their guests to feel that they were thought of. We gave to school bus drivers who stopped by on their lunch break to pick up toys for their nieces. We gave to families of middle school students who weren’t ready to say goodbye to their youth. While we were giving, other teens were in the kitchen preparing salads or helping to build a home for James, the director of the MLK center, via Habitat for Humanity. There was even talk of planting a peace garden, surrounding the house, in the near future.
As I packed up to leave, I told them all that I would be back with the next 500 toys when this first batch of 500 was distributed. I laughed. Who wouldn’t? I never thought that I would be able to distribute teddy bears during COVID-19. The people at the MLK center couldn’t wait to hold and hug a teddy bear.
Feeling inspired once again to reach out to Israeli children in need of relief from Covid, and taking a short break from the MLK's Day of Giving, I found myself and some Cresskill-based Israeli children busily packing up teddy bears that following Sunday morning. I offered the Bears from Bergenfield location to do the packing. The stuffed toys would be destined for Israeli children in need of a teddy bear hug. Once the bag was packed, I rolled it back into my garage for safekeeping. I then packed my car with the rest of the 500 stuffed toys and raced back to continue on with the Day of Giving with NCSY part 2
The children in the picture are Israeli children living here in Cresskill and packing up toys for Israeli children in Israel. My son Seth Goldstein, took the bag to Israel last week, and dropped it off by the Rebbetzin Sharona Halickman in Jerusalem to bring to Beit Hayeled Amit, in Gilo."
You just never know what might happen when you join NCSY together with Bears From Bergenfield on a teddy bear mission. For further information, please contact me at [email protected].
By Rabbi Claire Ginsburg Goldstein