May 28, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

What Would Rabbi Sacks Want Me to Do?

Sometimes a person enters your life due to a particular necessity, and over time has a major impact on you and your entire family. Some 22 years ago, I was a (relatively) young mom with five children, working full time as the clinical manager of an oncology infusion center. My oldest child was in high school, and my youngest son, Yosef, was in a special education program run by Montclair State College. Like most working mothers, I understood that one of the most important elements of managing your home/work life is finding excellent childcare. I had been very lucky in this area—until I was not. At the time, Yosef exhibited extremely challenging behavior and the childcare workers whom I engaged would leave shortly after being hired. Due to the nature of my job, I had to go to work daily; taking days off regularly was simply not an option.

It was a very difficult time for our family, but then we met Monica. She was able to work through Yosef’s difficult behavior and truly love him at the same time. She stayed. She helped me raise Yosef and my other children and she now babysits for my grandchildren! She and I have maintained a close relationship and she is in many ways part of our family.

Three weeks ago, she stopped by our home, and we were chatting about the kids and life in general. She told me how she felt so grateful that my children had paid her through COVID even when she wasn’t working, and then said that she felt the need to give to others. Upon finding out that there are many immigrants and homeless people living in nearby Newark, she and a friend decided to take it upon themselves to cook and distribute food to these people every Sunday.

Describing the terrible living conditions of the people whom she had met, she asked if I might be able to get hold of some old coats that could be donated to them, as the cold weather is approaching. I decided to step outside my comfort zone, and I told her I would collect what items I could, pile them in my car and bring them with her to Newark. Monica inspired me with her generosity. She does not have a lot of money or possessions—she certainly has no car!—and yet she felt the need to help unfortunate people who have less than she does.

I have always been moved and enlightened by the teachings of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l, whose first yahrzeit just passed. Rabbi Sacks taught through his eloquent words and his own actions that we need to take care of those less fortunate. We are citizens of the world, he stressed; we must take responsibility and care for others, as “…society is strong when it cares for the weak, rich when it cares for the poor, and invulnerable when it takes care of the vulnerable.”

I sent out a few emails and texts to the women who take my exercise and yoga classes and asked if they could donate coats and warm clothing. The women responded most generously; I had bags of warm clothes. My car was filled to capacity!

This past Sunday, I drove Monica to Newark with Yosef in tow to help me shlep the bags. I parked my car near the Newark train station, opened the trunk, and with Monica, started handing out the clothes. I cannot describe what it feels like to give a man who is cold a warm coat to wear. To see someone who is hungry receive something to eat. A very thin, tall man tried on a coat that was much too big for him; he took it, telling me that it will serve as both a coat and a blanket. Another man tried on a coat and noticed there was something in the pocket: ear warmers. He looked like he had just won the jackpot. People even asked me for the plastic bags so that they could put their few belongings into something.

I met a young woman there named Elizabeth, who looked like a typical young adult. I was wondering how someone like her had become homeless and destitute. She asked me for a blanket, telling me that she had had one, but someone had stolen it. At one point, I had numerous people standing around my car, and I asked them what they would want me to bring if I were to return; everyone asked for blankets.

I have been thinking about how much I have, how much I take for granted, and how much more I could be doing for others. When I have seen poor and homeless people on the streets in the past, I am embarrassed to say, I have either ignored or avoided them. On Sunday, I was able to overcome my prejudices and just feel compassion for another human being.

To honor the memory of Rabbi Sacks by heeding one of his lessons, I have decided to take on this project of trying to provide some needed items for the homeless. I hope others will join me. Here is the list of items requested by people I met: blankets, sweatshirts and sweatpants, parka coats, hats, scarves, gloves, toiletries, toothbrushes, toothpaste, plastic bags, coloring books and crayons.

If you would like to donate items, please drop them off in front of my garage at 1477 Jefferson Street, as soon as possible. Thank you in advance.


Beth S. (Bassie) Taubes, RN, CHC, CYT, is the owner of Wellness Motivations LLC she motivates clients of all backgrounds, ages, and health conditions to engage in improved self-care through nutritional counseling, personal fitness training, yoga practice, tai chi, and stress reduction techniques. She is currently seeing clients in her outdoor and indoor studio or on Zoom. She is also the rebbetzin of Congregation Zichron Mordechai in Teaneck. She can be reached at [email protected], www.wellnessmotivationsbt.com.

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