It was almost midnight last Tuesday when an idea came to Rebecca Mischel, the rebbetzin of Suburban Torah in Livingston. She sent a quick message to an informal WhatsApp group, composed of over 75 women of all ages from the shul’s community. “I keep thinking about all the families quarantined in New Rochelle…how can we show them we are thinking of them and support them?” The idea of baking and delivering challah was discussed briefly, before Jodi Mordekai—a Riverdale native—suggested that it would be possible to do two mitzvot in one: supporting Jewish businesses that have been suffering due to closures in the area and purchasing treats to be sent to quarantined families. The idea quickly gained traction. By 9:00 the next morning, Venmo donations were flying in; shortly after, an official shul email was sent out encouraging participation. Over 160 families made donations, collecting enough money to send packages to each family with a child from three years old through high school seniors—a total of over 200 packages. “I am so proud to be a member of a community composed of thoughtful, giving, kind people, who, in the face of hardship and chaos,immediately think of helping others and give so generously,” said Barbara Listhaus, one of the women who spearheaded the project. She enlisted Corner Cafe in Riverdale to assemble beautiful packages of baked goods, which were then delivered to Riverdale Kosher. She added that when Riverdale Kosher realized they didn’t have enough candy at their store, she called on World of Goodies in Teaneck, who supplied additional candy platters in time for everything to be delivered on Friday. Barbara said she was moved by the willingness of all of the different businesses to work together and to provide beautiful packages at a very affordable price. Moshe Berow at Riverdale Kosher, who was instrumental in coordinating the delivery, organized three crews of people to make deliveries, all of whom worked feverishly for hours on Friday to get the packages to the recipients.
Ellie Goldenberg, the Women’s League co-president in New Rochelle, has also taken on the role of coordinating chesed efforts in the Young Israel of New Rochelle community over the past few weeks. “When Suburban Torah contacted us to send packages for Shabbat, I was so overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support,” she said. “I can’t even begin to express the gratitude just for the thought and caring that went into this. We hope we never need to return the favor, but New Rochelle will always be available to support the Livingston community.”
To celebrate this newly formed bond, the two shuls made plans to “virtually” welcome this past Shabbat together. Community members were encouraged to daven Mincha privately before joining either a Zoom meeting or conference call for a Kabbalat Shabbat. The call began with words of inspiration and Tehillim from Rabbi Reuven Fink of Young Israel, followed by a pre-Shabbat sing along led by Suburban Torah’s Keith Mendelson. “Rabbi Fink had a beautiful message to share about the strength of the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Mischel of Suburban Torah. “With leaders and community members from both areas participating, we were able to turn this into something very beautiful.” Echoing this sentiment, New Rochelle resident Ayala Yasgur Lallouz said, “At this isolating time, it is so meaningful to know that we are united with other Jewish communities.”
By Rachel Jager