Last week, the morning before we left on a trip, our head counselor here in Camp Dora Golding, Rabbi A.C. Posner, shared with the campers a post from a Sullivan County Facebook page that was making its rounds. It was written by Ann-Marie Barton, a non-Jewish bus driver who had driven a group of frum boys on a trip and was incredibly impressed:
“I had a bus full of 14-year-old boys from one camp and I could not have asked for a better behaved, polite, and grateful group of boys. Each one thanked me as they got on my bus and again as they got off. I asked them all not to leave a mess and there was not one thing left on my bus. Not one thing!!... My hat is off to the parents raising these boys.”
What I found very moving was that when Rabbi Posner finished reading the post, our campers erupted with clapping and cheers. It had not been written about our campers, and we didn’t know which camp those boys were from. Yet they instinctively felt a sense of pride because that kiddush Hashem clearly represented us, as well.
In the last few days, our inextricable unity was displayed, as well. A rebbe from Virginia was tragically swept out to sea while trying to help a camper. After a couple of days of searching for the body, the Coast Guard announced that they were concluding their search. Immediately, myriads of Jewish organizations throughout the east coast mobilized. The Coast Guard said that they had never seen anything like it. With tremendous siyata diShmaya, the rabbi’s body was found, allowing the bereaved family to have a modicum of closure.
At the same time, a father and mother appealed to fellow Jews for help. Their nearly two-year-old daughter, Eliana, has a rare genetic condition that severely impedes normal functioning.
But there is hope for her in a new medication that can help regenerate the missing gene. The problem is that it costs $2.2 million, and insurance won’t give a penny. In addition, the FDA will only allow it to be administered up to two years of age and Eliana turns two this week. It became a race against the clock to raise the overwhelming amount. Yet, within days, the goal was reached and the fund was closed. (The family asks everyone to continue davening for Chana bas Shani.)
There are a lot of issues and formidable challenges in our communities. But sometimes we need to step back and recognize how incredible we are and how lucky we are to be part of it.
A few months ago, I went to the warehouse of an organization called Olam Chesed. At the time, I knew nothing about the organization. But I was told that they would be willing to donate a couple of products as prizes for the Chol HaMoed learning program I have been privileged to facilitate the last few years.
I was greeted at the warehouse by Reb Mutty Reznick, who was working there alone at that time. He showed me into the vast warehouse and told me to walk through it and look around; I was literally blown away. There were endless shelves and piles of quality merchandise, organized and waiting to be organized.
Olam Chesed was founded and is run by Mordechai Roizman and his wife, a wonderful family in our community whom we have met and know. But we had no idea that they were running such an incredible organization.
Olam Chesed partners with big-name companies like Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Target and La-Z-Boy. Through overstock and returned items, these businesses donate brand-new, high-quality, brand-name items.
Since its inception, Olam Chesed has disseminated millions of dollars worth of merchandise to Jewish families contending with divorce, unemployment, and tragic situations, such as fire and poverty. The organization doesn’t disseminate funds; it disseminates ready-to-use, quality household goods to families in need.
Olam Chesed is housed in a huge warehouse that was donated. The Roizmans gave up their jobs to become fully invested in unloading, stocking, and organizing the massive undertaking. During the winter, it’s freezing in the warehouse; and during the summer, the heat can be stifling. Yet, they and their worthy volunteers spend their days there. Why? For the sake of chesed and helping those who need it.
It’s that sense of altruism and unity that gives us hope that we will merit to witness Mashiach.
We all know that there is a lot of divisiveness among the Jewish people. When it comes to chesed, however, there are no barriers. The chesed we do for each other is incredibly unique, and no other group or nation can boast anything remotely like it.
As we begin the Three Weeks of mourning for the Beis HaMikdash and seek to build and foster internal unity amongst ourselves, we can gather chizuk from the chesed we perform for – and with – each other.
(This article is not an appeal, and I was not asked to write it. But if anyone would like more information or would like to donate funds to the incredible work of Olam Chesed, please visit www.worldofgiving.org. )