It was a frosty November night when his heart gave its final beat. And she was alone. Completely and utterly alone. First, there was numbness. Then cruel tentacles of raw grief clutched at her heart. It hurt. And she was afraid. So afraid.
Two weeks later, she was preparing some tea in her kitchen, attempting to rid herself of the ever-present chill in her bones. The doorbell rang. She set her mug down and went to open the door. A smiling Misaskim volunteer stood at the door, holding a box. “A freilichen Chanukah! This is from Project Yedid.” And he was gone.
Project who? She picked up the box and took note of the little logo. Project Yedid of Misaskim. What was that? Misaskim had played a huge role during the shiv’ah. But shiv’ah was over. And when the last chair was folded, the coat rack taken down, and the signs and covers removed, she didn’t think she would hear from Misaskim again.
She opened the box and was caught by total surprise. There were toys, games, envelopes of spending cash, and little blue packets of dollar bills bearing the blessings of some of the greatest g’dolim of the generation. A lump of grateful tears lodged itself in her throat. She closed her eyes and let the warm feelings wash over her. Someone was looking out for her. Someone cared. Someone remembered! And when the kids came home, she knew they’d feel the same.
Her tea was long cold, but the warmth in her heart lingered for a long time.
Her surprise is not at all unique. Misaskim is all about the shiv’ah deliveries, right? Wrong. There are so many hidden facets to Misaskim – and that is the way the volunteers prefer it. For years, they have shied away from the public eye, preferring to do much of their holy work discreetly and without recognition. But it’s time to lift that cover and take a peek at some of Misaskim’s inspiring work.
When a family is hit with the crushing loss of a loved one, they are engulfed in an overwhelming wave of emotions. It’s a solace for them knowing someone is stepping up to the plate and taking the burden. And that is Misaskim. Misaskim is at the helm of providing for these families before, during, and after the week of shiv’ah, doing everything in their power to make the time feel that much more bearable. The bereaved families draw comfort in knowing that Misaskim is involved, will walk them through the process, and will hold their hands going forward.
When there are young children sitting shiv’ah, Rachamana litzlan, volunteers will show up with age-appropriate toys in order to occupy them. Misaskim keeps a stocked warehouse of toys, ensuring they have supplies whenever it may be needed. The volunteers are trained to look around the shiv’ah house they are servicing, and to take note of anything that might be needed. Whether it is a light bulb that needs changing, a fridge that needs stocking, or laundry that needs washing, these amazing, selfless volunteers will go above and beyond to do what is needed. Additionally, when there are children around, going into Shabbos with the mirrors covered and the furniture moved out of the way makes a difficult time feel that much harder. Volunteers come into the home on Erev Shabbos to pack away all the chairs and supplies, and then put it all back out on Motza’ei Shabbos. It’s a small act of kindness that goes a long way, moving many families to tears.
Though the week of shiv’ah may be over, Misaskim’s role in the lives of those families is certainly not. One of the most closely guarded and beloved secrets of Misaskim is the work they do for the almanos and y’somim of the community. Throughout their trying times, Misaskim remains a wellspring of comfort, care, and compassion. As one woman wrote, “Just knowing someone cares is truly heartwarming.”
Misaskim believes that families dealing with grief and loss should not have to carry the burden alone. That is why they turn to Project Yedid, enabling them to cover many of their expenses with their dignity intact.
Misaskim is on their toes all year round, sending beautiful care packages for every occasion. At the start of the school year, families receive a package of school supplies, personalized to each child’s age and grade. Before Yom Tov, in many neighborhoods, cases of paper goods are delivered, giving some relief during an already expensive month. Sukkos packages include sukkah decorations, toys, books, and treats. Yom Tov, which is often a reminder of what the y’somim are missing, tends to be quite painful. That is why Project Yedid arranges entertaining Chol HaMoed events on Sukkos and Pesach, delighting the y’somim and easing that pain. Then there are the heartwarming Chanukah packages, gourmet Purim s’udos, and Shavuos packages with flowers and delicacies. When the summer rolls around, Project Yedid’s camp fund enables y’somim to have an escape and to refresh themselves for the year ahead.
And, as always, it’s the little details that make Misaskim who they are: adding a gluten-free option at the Purim s’udah, accommodating special sh’chitah or hechsherim, setting up the almanah with an accountant to help her navigate her finances, providing handyman services. These things are often overlooked, but not by Misaskim. Besides their regular activities, Project Yedid is constantly launching new initiatives, filling a necessary void for the almanos and y’somim of the community.
For Project Yedid families, these gestures feel like a giant hug, giving them the feeling of being embraced, cared for, and remembered. As one young child wrote, “I was so glad deep, deep inside that people didn’t forget about us.”
Misaskim provides care and direction with heart, supporting the community through their darkest moments. Misaskim is always there, lifting spirits, illuminating hearts, wiping tears.
By Rochel Feldman