June 17, 2024
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Menucha Veyeshua Brings Respite to Grieving Families in Israel

Candle lighting: Frum and non-frum individuals all davening together.

Ever since the black Shabbat of October 7, the pages of The Jewish Link as well as other Jewish periodicals across the country have abounded with accounts of chesed projects in Israel, each creating innovative ways of bringing comfort to those most impacted by the ensuing war. Every chesed takes into account the needs of the families who lost loved ones, whose loved ones are defending our nation and whose loved ones are being held hostage or whose whereabouts are unknown.

This past week, The Jewish Link was apprised of yet another remarkable chesed project and met with its director in Teaneck. Mendy Kenig is a Biyana Chasid who resides with his family in Modiin Ilit. A father of five, his oldest and youngest children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Four years ago, his wife, Goldie, was severely injured in a car accident while he was away in Europe. As she was recovering slowly, Kenig realized the enormous efforts needed to prepare a Shabbos for a family beset with special needs. In response, he reached out to a local hotel and arranged for his family to spend a restful Shabbos with all of the amenities provided. Seeing the positive effects of the Shabbos on his family, Kenig saw the need to share this experience with others with similar needs. Thus Menucha Veyeshua was created. Word of his chesed spread quickly throughout charedi communities.

Every month since, Kenig has hosted three families with special needs, such as illness of a spouse or children, recent loss or tragedy. Kenig reached out to hotels around the country, which agreed to host the families at half price. Included in the participating hotels are Kinar and Kinorot in Teverya, Kibbutz Lavi, Galei Sanz in Netanya, the Royal in Yam Hamelach and a host of upscale tzimerim, or rooming houses. Forty-five families impacted by the Meron tragedy were hosted by Menucha Veyeshua.

The bereaved families at an empowering and inspirational speech.

Two years ago, Kenig rented a luxurious home in Caesarea to which he invites families to spend three-day getaways. He shared with The Jewish Link that he prays daily for Hashem to guide him in deciding which families to invite for these precious getaways. In dividing the week into three periods, he is able to accommodate more families. The waiting period for a three-day slot is two to three weeks. The wait for a Shabbos is three to four months.

Following the horrors of October 7, Kenig pivoted his focus to the families of fallen soldiers, parents and siblings, widows and orphans. Word spread quickly beyond the charedi community. New venues were added to his locations, including Shacharit, a resort consisting of 12 family units around a central grassy area, which hosts a beit knesset and dining room overlooking a breathtaking view of the Judean Mountains in Mitzpe Yericho. Yet another picturesque new venue is Kitron, an elegant resort adjacent to Moshav Hoshaya near the archeological park in Tzippori.

Achiya Eliyahu is a rebbe in the boys elementary school in Mitzpeh Yericho. A father of seven, his eldest son, Ariel, HY”D, a hesder student in Yerucham, was one of the first korbanot of October 7. Manning one of two tanks merely 100 yards from the Gaza fence, he and his unit fended off encroaching
terrorists at 7 a.m. on that Shabbos morning. They heroically neutralized the invaders but lost comrades, including Ariel. To date, their commander is missing. The levaya of Ariel Eliyahu was held on Har Herzl on Monday, October 9 at 7:30 p.m. His was one of the first 10 funerals following the outbreak of the war, and he was the fifth soldier to be buried on Har Herzl.

Sivan Rahav Meir giving out her books.

For the Eliyahu family, Fridays were particularly difficult days as Ariel would often surprise them by popping in and spending Shabbos with them. When Achiya saw the advertisement for a Shabbos retreat in Yerushalayim, he quickly applied.

Twelve weeks after losing their oldest son, who would have turned 20 on the day coinciding with his shloshim, the Eliyahu family joined the grieving families of 36 other kedoshim. The new venue was Yirmiyahu 33, a luxury hotel in the Geula section of Yerushalayim. From the moment of their arrival, the families were treated like royalty. From Erev Shabbos through Sunday they were housed in beautiful accommodations and served lavish meals. Top level entertainment was provided throughout their stay. Mendy Kenig had spared no efforts in affording them a luxurious Shabbos.

Even more important than the physical pampering was the spiritual chizuk that Kenig provided.The davening took on special meaning when everyone in the room stood up to recite Kaddish, creating a bond of understanding and commiseration among them. Sessions were held at which participants shared their feelings of sadness and loss, and they received confirmation and comfort from others experiencing the same emotions.

Kenig arranged for special individuals to address the families. On Friday evening, Sivan Rahav- Meir, well-known journalist and motivational speaker, together with her husband, Yedidya, noted journalist and broadcaster, addressed the audience with words of encouragement and suggestions for beneficial coping strategies. On Motzei Shabbos, the group was privileged to be addressed by the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Yosef Lau, who led them in a siyum followed by the recitation of Kaddish and, later, an evening of dancing. Rav Rabinovich of the Kotel offered words of nechama and hope.

Rav Mendy Kenig with one of the bereaved fathers.

The group heard from three outstanding women who have become national icons of strength and courage after losing loved ones. Orit Ettinger, Tehilla Cohen and Jen Airley have shared messages of bravery and encouragement with the families throughout Israel who have sustained losses. Airley’s words encapsulated an important message: “Dear mothers, I am speaking directly to you. We are the akarot ha’bayit. The word akarot stems from the word ikar, meaning key or most important. The whole family revolves around us. If we fall, everyone falls. We must hold up!”

Throughout the Shabbos, participants shared how this special retreat raised their spirits to a point not experienced since the outbreak of the war. One participant shared that she was able to wake up and recite Modeh Ani for the first time since October 7, and greet her day with positivity.

The Shabbat experience was so uplifting for the Eliyahu family that in a gesture of gratitude to Kenig, Achiya Eliyahu volunteered to accompany him on his upcoming fundraising mission to the US. Eliyahu felt that his being fluent in English, as he spent eight years teaching at the Barkai Yeshiva in Flatbush, would be of help to Kenig in reaching out to donors. And so the duo came to Teaneck and other key Jewish communities to help raise funds for the continuation of this very special cause.

Kenig shared that he is hoping to host 10 more shabbatonim with 40 families attending each. At a cost of $100,000 per Shabbos, this is a tall order. Hopefully, the Jewish communities in America will understand the optimism and hope that is being gifted to the mishpachot shakulot, the bereaved families, through the efforts of Menucha Veyeshua, and they will contribute generously.

Rav Blau, who came to inspire the families.

To donate to Menucha Veyeshua and enable them to continue their noble work, please use the following links.

1) Chase Quickpay –

[email protected]

Please note that the donation is for: Menucha Veyeshua / 2973

2) Checks should be written out to:

Congregation Tiferes Yaakov

6 Shoshana Dr.

Lakewood, NJ 08701

Please note it’s for: Menucha Veyeshua / 2973

3) The Donors Fund – Tax ID# 83-4411630

Please note it’s for: Menucha Veyeshua / 2973

4)Bank Wires:

Congregation Tiferes Yaakov

6 Shoshana Dr.

Lakewood NJ 08701

Account # 4392635765

Fedwire # 031201360

Please note it’s for: Menucha Veyeshua / 2973

5) Credit Card Donations: https://secure.cardknox.com/kerenhatzedaka?AmountLocked=0&xCommand=cc%3Asale&xCustom03=Menucha%20Veyeshua%20%2F%20%202973&xCustom04=k0527151169%40gmail.com&xEnableRecurring=0

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