Jessica Feldman and Dean Ofer were supposed to get married on June 11, in Netanya, Israel. As so often happens these days, the ongoing pandemic confronted them with a difficult choice — cancel and reschedule the simcha; hold a small, socially distanced wedding, or Zoom it so that all their friends and loved ones could be there — virtually.
Ultimately, Ms. Feldman and Mr. Ofer, who meet at Binghamton University, decided to change their plans but to make June 11 a special day nonetheless. They’ve decided to wait until it’s safe to travel to Israel — their determination to get married there has not changed — and prudent to make firm plans for a ceremony and a party. But they and their friends spent the day doing volunteer work as way to mark this long-awaited, now-postponed milestone.
“What we did brought some meaning to the day, so we can remember it as a positive day,” Ms. Feldman said. She grew up in Englewood, and her parents, Eve and Heshy, still live there. Because it can’t be the date for the wedding, “June 11 is for chesed.”
When Ms. Feldman first thought about volunteering, “I reached out to Shara Nadler” — the manager of the Volunteer Center at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey — “to see if there was a last-minute volunteer effort we could get involved with,” she said.
“Listening to Jessica tell me her story, I thought it was a perfect fit to have her and her fiancé launch a brand new virtual literacy initiative for the federation, called Virtual Reading Buddies, with our partner, the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic,” Ms. Nadler added.
“My initial thought when Jessica and Dean reached out to me was that this request to mark their would-be wedding day by bringing together their family and friends to give back in a meaningful way was incredibly special and a wonderful, unique request, “ she added.
The readathon program was designed to create virtual events for local kids over the summer, Ms. Feldman said. She and Mr. Ofer were able to gather a group of about 20 volunteers to record books for early readers. “That way, we were able to send 25 videos to the JFNNJ, which sent it to the Boys and Girls Club. The videos, recorded on iPhones and computers, will be played throughout the summer.”
But that wasn’t all the wedding group volunteers did. “We also delivered groceries to elderly people in the community and filled the day using the umbrella app on federation’s web page.” The app helped identify local elderly people who need help with groceries.
“It felt nice,” the bride-to-be said, recalling how her family “used to take trips to Israel pretty frequently. We always tried to have a volunteer day there, bringing food to poor people.” The grocery deliveries here, she said, “reminded me of what we did in Israel.”
Fortunately for the reader-volunteers, “we had a ton old books in the attic. And friends had at their homes as well.” The reading, she said, “was fulfilling. You feel better yourself when you help other people and see how much they appreciate it.”
“I am very proud of the work Federation’s Volunteer Resource Center does for this community and this is just one example of many of how we bridge requests and interests with meaningful and impactful projects for our community,” said Jason M. Shames, the federation’s CEO.
Certainly, friends and family members who participated in marking Dean and Jessica’s special day “said they were proud and excited to be a part of it, to be able to commemorate the day with us,” even though it wasn’t the way it was planned, Ms. Feldman said.
She added that many people — whether they were postponing their wedding or keeping it on the planned day — “are doing weddings on a much smaller scale. People can use some of the money they save as a donation or as a way to give back.
“It’s a great way to remember the day.”