On Tuesday evening, September 22, Rabbi Yissocher Frand, senior lecturer at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore and well-known speaker, shared his annual t’shuvah drashah on behalf of Just One Life. First, Rabbi Marty Katz, Executive Vice President of Just One Life, spoke about the holy work of this organization. He quoted the famous teaching in the Gemara that if you save one life you saved a whole world. You save babies, you save families, he stated. If a mother in pregnancy is in danger or in a difficult situation, the organization receives references. Shaare Zedek Hospital in Israel sends them referrals, as the government doesn’t pay for high-risk pregnancies. With the coronavirus, more cases have come to Just One Life. Rabbi Katz urged everyone, “Be part of our mission. Be part of our team.”

A beautiful song titled “The Aliyah Song” was born in Queens and has been viewed by over 10,000 people on YouTube and 100,000 on Facebook. Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, Founder and Director of Shabbat.com, composed the lyrics and the upbeat melody.

Where could we go this summer to escape from the pandemic? After canceling two previously planned trips for this summer, we switched our destination to Maine, a place we’ve enjoyed visiting many times before. Maine has glorious mountains and sparkling mirrored lakes. We packed plenty of hand sanitizer and masks and headed on our way.

How will this year’s Rosh HaShanah davening in Queens be different from any other year? With the pandemic, shuls had to plan davening while keeping in mind social distancing, masks, and concerns about the length of the service. It was fascinating to learn about all the details that different shuls and yeshivos are implementing so that everyone will be safe and healthy and still be able to participate in Rosh HaShanah davening. Many things were surprising. This writer had the honor to speak to many of our choshuve rabbanim about the plans for their shuls, and they also shared their perspective and their suggestions on what we should focus on in our davening this year on Rosh HaShanah.

This year, with the terrible losses from COVID-19, the first responders for widows and orphans was Avigdor’s Helping Hand. Once again, on the Sunday evening of Labor Day weekend, this year on September 6, we have the opportunity to show our support of this vital chesed organization. This unique organization brings succor to families who have lost a breadwinner and also helps orphans to make a wedding. Avigdor’s Helping Hand helps people in our community and all over the United States. If a family loses the father or mother, aside from the tremendous emotional pain, there are often financial difficulties. Even when there is life insurance, it may not kick in until six months to a year later, due to red tape. Avigdor’s Helping Hand steps in and helps the family with their financial obligations during that first year. We read in the haftarah on Shabbos Chazon: “Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” This is what Avigdor’s Helping Hand accomplishes, and we have the opportunity to earn a z’chus of partnering with them.

Amazingly, over the past 15 years since its inception, this organization has dispersed $7.2 million for bereaved families. It has helped over 350 families get back on their feet after a tragedy of the loss of a parent, and made 900 weddings for orphans all across the country – from New York to Los Angeles, Miami, Cleveland, etc. All of this was accomplished with help of 30 volunteers from all over New York, including the West Side of Manhattan, Borough Park, Flatbush, Queens, the Five Towns, and Miami.

Volunteers vet cases that are referred to AHH. Every bereaved family needs two letters from rabbanim in their neighborhood. All information is verified by speaking with the family’s rabbi.

Avigdor’s Helping Hand was started by Avigdor Glaser’s friends and family as a way to carry on his name and as a z’chus for his neshamah. The idea of the organization was born when, at the time of Avigdor’s p’tirah, another bereaved family needed help with necessities. The family saw a niche and decided that this was an ideal way to keep Avigdor Glaser’s memory alive.

The opening dinner was a barbecue that took place on Labor Day of 2006 at the White Shul in Far Rockaway.

Today, AHH is one of the largest organizations that helps make chasunos for y’somim and also assists almanos. Avigdor’s Helping Hand is based in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, and in the Five Towns. They help every Yid from anywhere in America who comes for help. The organization began a wonderful initiative of matching weddings. You can donate to a y’somah or yasom who is celebrating a wedding at the same time that you are celebrating your own family wedding. All donations are anonymous, so the donors and the receivers are not aware of their identity. They daven under the chupah for each other. What a beautiful way to spiritually elevate our weddings!

The following are excerpts from a recent thank you letter to AHH:

“On behalf of my family, I would like to thank you and your organization very much for the very generous assistance that you have provided us with since the passing of our dear wife and mother…

“Last night I walked Dinah* down the aisle towards her new beginning.

If only it could have been her mother...but sadly she is emotionally unwell.

If only it could have been her father a”h; but he nebach passed away when Dinah was merely six years old.

“But you see I wasn’t alone when I led her arm seven times around her dear chasan. It was you, the members of Avigdor’s Helping Hand, who symbolically held her other arm and helped her walk into her chupah with a clearer mind and relieved spirit.

“It is precisely you, the volunteers at every level of the organization, whether administrative, fundraising, or executive management, who make orphans, like Dinah, feel not alone, feel that they matter to people out there!...”

Tonight, I visited the home of a recent widow who received a generous check from Avigdor’s Helping Hand just days ago. You cannot imagine the difference this help made with the wedding of her son just eight days away.

Mr. David and Mrs. Bilhah Moradi of Lawrence, New York, have hosted this event selflessly for the past 14 years. Imagine having one thousand-plus guests at your home. AHH and klal Yisrael would like to express heartfelt hakaras ha’tov to the Moradi family for stepping up once again despite these trying times and continuing to host this vital event. Who is like am Yisrael? Avigdor’s Helping Hand is helping us do the mitzvah of emulating Hashem and going in His ways. “Hashem protects strangers, the orphan and the widow…” (T’hilim 146)

This year’s 15th annual event is scheduled to take place at the Moradis’ home on the Sunday evening of Labor Day weekend, September 6. Please note that this year’s event has a special schedule. There is a drive-by event from 5:00 until 7:00 p.m. Along with your donation, you must to pre-order your gourmet dinner package by Michael Schick at ahh.raisegiving.com. The pick-up will be at 72 Muriel Avenue, in Lawrence. There will also be musical entertainment provided by Mr. Joey Newcomb, renowned musician. Donations to Avigdor’s Helping Hand are welcome and appreciated. Your donation will include a raffle for a Peloton bike.

In addition, there will be a VIP socially distanced dinner from 7:00 until 9:00 p.m. for sponsors of AHH in the backyard of the Moradi residence. This VIP dinner will include divrei chizuk from Rabbi Eytan Feiner and exciting entertainment by Shulem Lemmer.

AHH is an IRS registered 501C3-recognized charitable organization. The organization’s rabbinic board, headed by Rav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlita, also includes Rabbi Henoch Savitsky shlita, Rabbi Peretz Steinberg shlita, and Rabbi Yaakov Friedman shlita.

You can donate online at the website avigdorshelpinghand.org. Checks payable to AHH can be sent to 138-45 78th Drive, Flushing, NY 11367. Anyone interested in volunteering or bringing a family to AHH’s attention should please call 718-568-9720 (Website: avigdorshelpinghand.org).

The community is truly honored to have such an important organization in our midst. May the time come very soon when it will no longer be needed because Mashiach will be here!

 

By Susie Garber