July 14, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 14, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Teaneck’s Shifra Prager Donates Bat Mitzvah Centerpieces to Annual BC Toy Drive

Shifra Prager, seventh grader at Yeshivat Noam and daughter of Sara and Yossi Prager, helped kick off the 26th annual Bergen County Toy Drive by donating her sports equipment centerpieces to the collection. “Sports have been a big part of Shifra’s life, and she would like to share this love with less-privileged children. The toy drive is the kind of chesed in our community that we hope Shifra and her friends emulate as they grow,” said Sara.

Started by Marla Friedman 26 years ago, the Bergen County Chanukah Toy Drive unites the entire Bergen County Jewish community in giving to others and putting smiles on many young faces. Toys and gifts are collected from over 50 Jewish institutions and then distributed to 17 different charities, both Jewish and secular. Heading the drive this year are Dalia Stelzer and Joy Sklar, who lead the 100-percent-volunteer-run effort. It is these volunteers who publicize, shop, sort and pack all the toys for the charities.

The obvious goal of the drive is to give charity to those in need, but an equally important goal is to model for our children, as the Pragers did for Shifra, to think beyond themselves and give to others. When children share what they love with others, the act of giving becomes personal. “I decided to do it because I really like sports and I wanted other kids to have that experience,” said Shifra.

The Pragers’ initiative was especially appreciated as Chanukah is early this year, with the drive kicking off Thursday, November 8, and running until Thanksgiving. It is always a challenge to get people thinking about Chanukah weeks in advance, said the organizers. The charities need to receive the toys at least a week before Chanukah and the drive must receive them a week before that so the items can be sorted and repacked. With 17 different charities, timing is crucial.

Bar and bat mitzvah simcha collections are one way the drive amasses toys. However, most of the toys are collected from the over 50 participating Jewish organizations, each participating in its own way. RYNJ and Moriah are creating excitement this year by giving students a sticker that says “I donated a toy,” which the student can then display on a bulletin board at the school. The children feel great about doing the mitzvah and thinking about others.

Middle school and high school students are encouraged to take more initiative in the gift giving and fundraising. Bake sales and sports clinics have raised money to buy big-ticket items like bikes and dollhouses. The students at Ma’ayanot High School for Girls have created a drive with incentives including getting teachers to dress up in unusual ways; the more gifts collected, the more unusual the dress will be. “I plan on wearing footsie pajamas,” said history teacher and chesed adviser Caryn Keller. The students at TABC are running an intramural tournament to raise money and buy sports equipment for the drive.

Some organizations participate on both the giving and receiving sides. Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, both gives and receives. “Members of their day program come to the collection site and help remove price tags, package jewelry and sort gifts,” said Sklar. Sinai is also involved in all aspects of the drive. Student in the Sinai program, both elementary and high school, come to help sort gifts while the Sinai group home receives on the other end.

Some gifts go to cheer up a child from Chai Lifeline or Tomorrow’s Children at Hackensack Medical Center. Others are distributed by Jewish Family Services to their clients, while Tomchei Shabbos of Bergen County and Project Ezra give the gifts directly to the families. For some, this may be the only gift received throughout the holiday.

Sklar noted that while toys are always appreciated, it is the gifts for the older teenager that are sometimes more desired. “Chai4ever and Ohel are especially appreciative of gift cards and movie tickets for that age group.”

In the spirit of tikun olam, gifts are also donated to the local police toy drives of Bergenfield and Teaneck as well as the Center for Hope and Safety (formerly SOS).

The drive continues its “Mystery Maccabi” wishlist on Amazon, which was a big success last year. Some donors prefer to shop for a specific item on a wishlist, knowing that they are fulfilling a particular local family’s needs. “All names are kept entirely confidential so the mitzvah is b’seter,” said Stelzer.

The drive runs officially runs through November 26, but toys will be accepted until after Chanukah. For further information email [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles