To the Editor:
We are the proud parents of one of the Winter Camp participants referenced in recent JLNJ articles, “Frisch Hosts Friendship Circle Winter Camp” (January 8, 2015) and “A Student’s View of Friendship Circle’s Winter Break Camp” (January 15, 2015). We were delighted to note your focus on the warmth of the exemplary organizers, volunteers, and host schools of the Friendship Circle, and we applaud the tireless efforts of Rabbi and Zeesy Grossbaum, Chani, Chaya, and all the other wonderfully dedicated Friendship Circle staff. Thank you also for your acknowledgment of the efforts of Rabbi Joshua Schulman of the Frisch School whose significant efforts helped provide a warm home to Friendship Circle’s Winter Camp, and a special thank you to Rabbi Mark Staum, formerly of The Frisch School, whom we understand was instrumental in bringing Friendship Circle Winter Camp to Frisch several years ago.
One of the initial challenges of parenting a special needs child can be the sudden, overwhelming feeling of loneliness as a result of life’s sudden limitations. The Friendship Circle’s mission statement refers to one of its critical goals as “supporting parents and members with much-needed respite and support,” citing the Lubavitcher Rebbe z’tl, “whose unconditional love of people knew no bounds” as the source of its organization’s inspiration. We recite in the Haggadah, Shomrim hafked l’ircha, kol hayom v’chol halayla “Place guards over your city, all day and all night.”
Without a doubt, the faithful guardianship provided by The Friendship Circle and its volunteers, the Shomrim/guards, is a legacy of which the Lubavitcher Rebbe, z’tl, would be most proud.
During public school holidays, the strain of caring for children with special needs who thrive so greatly on structure and routine can be challenging for any parent. Friendship Circle’s programs are especially invaluable to families like ours who juggle two working parents. Winter Camp, Sunday Circle, and Yedidainu have proven hugely enjoyable and enriching to our son, and have provided him with a wonderful opportunity to sing and dance to Shabbat and Chanukah songs, bake challah, produce arts and crafts that are inspired by Jewish themes, and enjoy other basic Jewish learning opportunities that are currently lacking in his daily life at public school.
Thank you to all the poised, energetic, and remarkable volunteers and the various schools for hosting Friendship Circle programs. Kol HaKavod to the administrations of: The Frisch School for hosting Winter Camp; the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey for hosting Sunday Circle; Yavneh Academy, The Moriah School, and Yeshivat Noam for hosting Yedidainu over various public school holidays; and the several high schools such as TABC for regularly hosting Friendship Circle events as well.
The fact that our local Jewish schools—and parents—are willing to give up students for significant hours of the school day during public school holidays and for precious weekend hours on an almost weekly basis speaks to their firm commitment to the tenets of chesed and ahavat chinam and to their shared efforts to instill basic kindness within all of their student volunteers.
At this troubled time in the history of Am Yisrael, it is this basic recognition of the importance of these immutable values within Judaism that continues to set our nation apart, and that enables us to assert with one proud, unified, and unmistakably kind voice: Am Yisrael Chai. Thank you, Friendship Circle, for rallying our community to this admirable endeavor, and for nurturing true kindness, goodness—and indeed Jewishness—within the young, developing minds of all our Jewish children, both volunteers and participants.
An Anonymous Parent