Few things are truly win-win. And at this time of uncertainty, many of us feel that there’s little we can do to help, aside from staying home and feeling somewhat confused, bored, and helpless.
To address that feeling, and to prove that not only can we help but we can sustain local businesses in the process, Areyvut has created a program that lets us help our modern-day heroes — the doctors, nurses, and support staff in the middle of the viral storm — while also helping local kosher restaurants that might not survive the ongoing economic crisis.
Described by its founder and director, Rabbi Daniel Rothner, as “a chesed, tzedakah, and direct service organization,” since 2002 Areyvut has created programs for schools and synagogues to engage people in chesed activities and has provided resources “to help motivate and inspire others.”
Now the organization has taken direct action to help those in the middle of the covid-19 crisis.
“I received a call Tuesday night from Charlie Weisinger,” Rabbi Rothner said. Like Rabbi Rothner, Mr. Weisinger lives in Teaneck. “He said he had an idea. I spoke with his son Zev, who lives in Israel.” The two discussed the possibility of buying meals from local kosher restaurants and giving them to the staff at a local hospital. It’s an idea the Israeli would like to implement in his country as well.
Having decided that the meals should go to Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck — the town is the epicenter of the state’s coronavirus crisis — Rabbi Rothner asked Debbie Ross to work with him. “Debbie is good at facilitating things and making sure they work well,” he said. She’s worked at Holy Name for many years — she’s now in the hospital’s information technology department, and she’s also a trained nurse. In fact, she said, she’s considering the hospital’s request that everyone who’s trained as a nurse and since has left the field return to nursing until the crisis subsides.
Given all this, Mr. Ross knows her way around the hospital, and so “she has been unbelievable in bringing this project to fruition,” Rabbi Rothner said.
Of all local hospitals, “Holy Name is the busiest and hardest hit,” Rabbi Rothner said. “We want to show hakarat hatov” — gratitude — “for the workers on the front line. We have tremendous gratitude and appreciation for those who are going above and beyond in terms of dedication.”
“Daniel called somebody in the hospital administration about bringing meals for staff and getting donations of food from local restaurants,” Ms. Ross said. “I’m also a part of the Teaneck Jewish community and do a lot of ad hoc community liaising. I try to be a conduit in both directions.” While she hasn’t worked with Areyvut before, she engages in chesed projects at Holy Name, participating in bikkur cholim and helping with food sources. While there have been many volunteers working with her, “none of that is going on now.”
Learning from Ms. Ross that the hospital staff was interested in receiving food, “On Wednesday night we provided dinner for 60 from Chopstix,” Rabbi Rothner said. “We absorbed the cost of the first four meals,” from Wednesday night dinner through Thursday night dinner. Food also came from EJ’s, Yalla, and Sender’s Steakhouse; once more money is collected, Ms. Ross and Rabbi Rothner will talk to other restaurants and caterers. “It won’t be just one restaurant,” Rabbi Rothner said. “We’ll use Poppy’s, Sebaba, Ma’adan, and try to continue down the list.”
And that is where the third part of the equation comes in, in direct fulfillment of Areyvut’s mission. Not only will the hospital staff have meals to look forward to, and local restaurants will get business, but we — the community — will have an opportunity to perform a mitzvah by providing the funds to do it. By early this week, Rabbi Rothner already had received 40 donations, totaling $4,000. With luck, that figure will rise.
“It’s an opportunity for us a community to partner and collaborate,” Rabbi Rothner said. “It will boost the spirits and give energy to the Holy Name staff, so they can continue their life-saving work.”
Ms. Ross said the hospital has received many offers from community members, asking if they can help in any way they can, whether by sending thank-you letters written by children or by sewing masks. “Everybody wants to show gratitude,” she said, and “it’s impossible to exaggerate how hard people are working.”
If the food has been received by Holy Name staff with gusto and deep appreciation, “They’re too busy right now to do anything,” she said. “They’re working around the clock. To be able to take a moment and enjoy what the community has provided is extremely meaningful. When things settle down, they’ll let them know how much they appreciate this. It’s overwhelming. They’re so grateful, not only for the food but for the fact that it shows that the community knows what they’re going through and wants to show appreciation.”
People want to do all kinds of things, she said. “There are a lot of young families in my neighborhood. They’re having their kids write thank-you letters not just to nurses and to doctors, but to housekeeping as well as food and security staff. A neighbor is collecting them and bringing them to me.”
How to help
Holy Name Medical Center has launched a social media campaign to raise funds for critical supplies, especially PPE (personal protective equipment) — masks, gowns, and goggles. Go to helpholyname.org to make a donation.
To donate to Areyvut’s food donation project, visit its website, areyvut.org. All new donations will be applied to that project.
If children want to make cards for the staff, they should include their first name and age on the card and parents should take a picture of the card and send it to Holy Name via Facebook Messenger. They will be transmitted to staff and public via social media and the Route 4 billboards.
If you, your family, or someone in the community wishes to donate, please follow the guidelines below:
• Food donations: Contact Steve Tinney at email@example.com
• Gifts-in-kind donations can be dropped off at 88 Chadwick Road, Teaneck (behind the medical center), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon.
These donations can include any of the following:
• N95 masks
• Surgical masks
• Face shields or goggles
• Fluid-resistant isolation gowns
• Non-latex gloves
• Homemade items
To talk to someone about making and donating any protective equipment, call (201) 833-3187 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that neither Areyvut nor Holy Name can accept any homemade food or clothing donations.