April 8, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

From Our Hearts to Yours: More Than a Decade of Expressing Appreciation to Rebbeim at Chasdei Lev

(Courtesy of Chasdei Lev) With Pesach swiftly approaching, more than 600 volunteers are gearing up for Chasdei Lev’s pre-Yom Tov distribution, a semi-annual event that allows members of the Jewish community to show their hakarat hatov to 3,144 rebbeim who have dedicated their lives to educating the next generation of klal Yisrael.

Chasdei Lev began 11 years ago as an effort to express gratitude to those in chinuch, many of whom worked in institutions that were weeks behind on payroll. Making ends meet, especially during the yomim tovim, was extremely challenging, prompting a small group of individuals to honor rebbeim by providing them with an opportunity to purchase yom tov staples at drastically reduced prices. Chasdei Lev served just one yeshiva that first year, but since then that number has risen dramatically, and the 2018 Pesach distribution will encompass 175 yeshivot in Brooklyn, Lakewood, the Five Towns, Monsey, Staten Island, Queens, South Fallsburg, Edison, Scranton, Florida, Denver, Minneapolis, Montreal and Toronto.

Pesach order forms are distributed in early winter featuring a full list of items acquired from manufacturers and distributors at below wholesale prices. Rebbeim and their yeshivot each pay 25 percent of that extremely discounted cost, with the balance subsidized by Chasdei Lev. Among the items available this year are 40-pound cases of KJ Poultry chicken legs, 6-pound cases of Boro Park Bakery shmura matza, full cases of Kedem wine and a full array of grocery staples, paper goods, foil pans and plasticware. Every eligible family can purchase up to four cases of each item, with the $275 maximum order having an estimated retail value of over $2,500.

Mordy Herzog, CEO of Royal Wine/Kayco, Chasdei Lev’s biggest supplier, considers it a privilege to participate in the program, which includes an impressive array of Kedem and Gefen products.

“So many people appreciate rebbeim and it is no secret that they are highly underpaid,” said Herzog. “When the issue was raised at the 2016 Agudah convention you could tell immediately it resonated with people, and Chasdei Lev is proof that people really want to be involved and to say thank you to our rebbeim. Writing out a check would be easy, but here you see everyone, whether they are regular guys or CEOs of big companies, rolling up their sleeves and becoming warehouse guys, spending the whole night moving pallets, unloading tractor trailers, driving the hi-lows and loading up cars.”

Herzog considers himself privileged to be a part of the Chasdei Lev team.

“We are in the food business, so this made so much sense for us,” said Herzog. “Rebbeim are the elite of our community, the most loved and privileged and special people. We are so honored to be able to play a role in supporting the best of the best.”

Volunteers, many of whom donate hundreds of hours of their time before every distribution, are the lifeblood of Chasdei Lev. Avrumi Lieberman, the owner of Silvercup Scaffolding, has driven trucks for Chasdei Lev in previous years and has done eight-hour Motzei Shabbos stints unpacking over three dozen tractor trailers.

“I enjoy doing something to express my appreciation for rebbeim where the whole family can be involved, something that involves action and not just talking,” explained Lieberman, who has brought his four children, ages 5 through 13, to help with distributions.

“It is the proudest moment of your life when the rebbe pulls up and you feel like you are giving of yourself for someone else,” said Lieberman.

Moti Hellman started with Chasdei Lev four years ago.

“The first night I worked through the night unloading 10 tractor trailers,” recalled Hellman. “It was probably about 35 degrees out and it was pouring. Everybody was doing their part with love and nobody slept a wink. The next day they were out there again, smiling, greeting every rebbe with a gift.”

Hellman has become a Chasdei Lev regular and he took his two sons out of yeshiva last year to take part in the annual distribution, something that he feels is an education in and of itself. This year, both Hellman boys will be on site again, ready to do whatever needs to be done.

“It is about giving back to our rebbeim and expressing our appreciation for everything they do for us,” said Hellman. “My boys came at 9 a.m. last year and they stayed until the very end. They come home wiped, but the smiles on their faces were even bigger than the ones they had on the best vacation we ever took.”

From the moment rebbeim drive up they are treated like royalty, offered a cup of hot coffee, an ice cream and a gift bag and directed to the loading area where their packages await them. Rebbeim are asked to remain in their vehicles instead of helping, enabling others to enjoy the privilege of loading their car with the many cases of goodies that will be the foundation of their Pesach. Last year alone Chasdei Lev distributed 105,115 cases of food, 78 tons of chicken, 17,100 pounds of fresh meat and 44,312 bottles of wine and grape juice.

Naftali Miller, one of Chasdei Lev’s founders, admits that the numbers are staggering, with another 60 yeshivot on a waiting list, hoping to be included in future distributions. Chasdei Lev is run under the auspices of Rav Reuven Feinstein, who is closely involved in every aspect of the distributions.

“Rav Reuven is the secret of our success,” said Miller. “We run every product past him and we speak to him daily. He has guided us on so many decisions and we have seen such siyata dishmaya.”

Chasdei Lev has been inundated with calls, letters and emails from recipients, praising Chasdei Lev not only for the items received but also for its message of hakarat hatov, its efficiency, its attention to detail and the seemingly endless warmth that has been evident at every distribution since day one.

“It’s not only what you give, it’s how you do it,” wrote one rebbe, with another remarking, “I cannot begin to thank you enough and I have no words to show how much I appreciate that you appreciate what we try our best to do.”

To find out more about Chasdei Lev or to volunteer for the Pesach distribution, visit them online at www.chasdeilev.org.

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