When Abby Herman of Teaneck was in the second grade, five years ago, she donated 10 inches of her hair to Zichron Menachem.
According to its website, Zichron Menachem provides support for anyone under 25 years old in Israel who is living with cancer, and to their parents and siblings. “Families of all religions and backgrounds turn to Zichron Menachem for the help they need most, be it information, a second opinion from our ‘clinic of hope’ or a break from the punishing routine of medical appointments,” zichron.org’s “About us” page tells readers.
Abby heard about Zichron Menachem from an older cousin, who lived on Long Island. She was so happy to do this simple mitzvah that she grew her hair long again and donated it once more. She even told some friends about it, and she encouraged them to donate their hair as well.
A few years passed and Abby realized that her bat mitzvah was approaching rapidly. She wanted to do something special for her chesed project. So she consulted her good friend Nili Rothenberg, who also lives in Teaneck and who also was about to become a bat mitzvah. The two Yeshivat Noam sixth graders put their heads together.
Both of them wanted to do something to help the children of Zichron Menachem, they said. “We wanted to come up with an original bat mitzvah chesed project,” Abby said. Her friends’ and classmates’ projects “all are amazing. But we wanted to do something that no one has ever done.
“Our moms told us that we had to do something in order to raise money, and not just ask for money. So we brainstormed ideas for things that people would want to buy, or a service they would need.”
Their moms, Yael Herman and Tamar Rothenberg, are also good friends. They grew up across the street from each other in Woodmere, one of Long Island’s Five Towns.
The girls tried to think of different things that “people might appreciate not having to do themselves and they would pay someone else to do for them,” Nili said. They realized that “no one likes having to rip paper towels before Shabbat and that they might pay someone else to do it for them!” (Many members of the Orthodox community do not rip paper towels or toilet paper on Shabbat; tearing is among the actions considered to be work and therefore prohibited.)
That’s how Shabbounty was born.
The girls decided that they would tear paper towels before Shabbat, sell sheaves of it for use on Shabbat, and donate 100% of the money they raised to Zichron Menachem. They do not deduct the cost of the paper towels they buy and turn into Shabbounty. According to their mothers, “The response has been amazing and we hope people will continue to spread the chesed by supporting this incredible organization.” According to the girls and their mothers, so far they’ve raised more than $5,000. “People from all over have ordered,” Ms. Herman said. “This one Instagram foodie influencer, kaysinthekitchen, heard about Shabbounty on Instagram and posted about it. Now we have to figure out how to get our orders to Brooklyn! (Their mothers have been driving their daughters to deliver the torn paper towels.)
“According to our moms, Shabbounty has become a household name,” Nili said.
Abby and Nili have been getting about 40 orders a week with several requests to deliver them outside Bergen County. Abby’s mom hands a roll of paper towels to anyone who comes into her house so they can start ripping and be a part of the chesed experience, Abby said.
Abby and Nili had a chance to see Zichron Menachem when they and their families went to Israel together for Sukkot.
Abby talked about what she saw there. Because the sick children the group helps “miss school because of treatments or just being sick, they have classes to help them catch up and they feel like regular kids going to a regular school,” she said. Zichron Menachem also offers support groups for parents and siblings as well as extracurricular activities. “All with the goal of helping these sick children feel less alone and scared,” Abby said.
“The rehab room looks like an Israeli ninja warrior room,” she added.
Nili was particularly impressed with the facilities. There’s an art room; “they also have a music room with different instruments that they can learn how to play and recording studio.” And that’s not all. “There’s even a petting zoo,” she added.
The girls don’t know how long they will continue their project. “We started with Nili’s bat mitzvah, which was in August, and we want to keep doing this until Abby’s bat mitzvah in February,” Ms. Rothenberg said. “But since it has been so popular, we might keep it going.”
The Shabbounty paper towels, which come in a nicely wrapped package, are $5 per roll. To order, follow the girls on Instagram @Shabbounty — the google order link is in their bio — or email them at ShabbountyGirls@gmail.com.