Colors: Blue Color

More than 1,000 people participated in the Orthodox Union’s Semichas Chaver Program’s (SCP) virtual siyum on Sunday celebrating the completion of Hilchos Shabbos. Participants joined from 54 different Jewish communities on five continents. The siyum featured keynote addresses from Rabbi Hershel Schachter and the Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who, along with Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, are the guiding influence behind SCP.

HaRav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlita is the rabbi of Khal Nachlas Yitzchok in Kew Gardens Hills and one of the foremost figures on Torah thought in New York. His lessons span the world and are held in the highest regard. Communities throughout the world are struggling to reason with our current predicament amid the pandemic. As Orthodox Jews, we seek to understand Hashem’s master plan and decide how we each fit into its web. HaRav Oelbaum delivered a formidable message to our community, which we bring here.

On the surface, the days of S’firas HaOmer seem to have two, somewhat contradictory themes: On one hand, it’s a time of mourning when we limit joyous activities, like making a wedding, listening to music, or buying new clothes. On the other hand, the month of Iyar, which sits in the middle of S’firas HaOmer and contains the majority of its days, is a time of great rachamim (compassion) and an influx of Divine healing. The Hebrew letters that spell the month of Iyar are actually an acronym for the phrase “Ani Hashem Rof’echa” – “I am G-d, your Healer” (Sh’mos 15:26).

Following weeks of delays, the city has added free kosher Grab & Go meals to the menu at ten schools in Queens and Brooklyn. The announcement came after Council Member Rory Lancman and The Jewish Caucus of The New York City Council called on the mayor to include the hundreds of thousands of kosher-observant New Yorkers left out of his anti-hunger initiative.

There is absolutely no hiding that the coronavirus ordeal has dealt many blows to the Queens community. Amidst the heartbreak rises individuals and organizations dedicated to brightening the days of others. Door2Door was established by a lone Queens resident who saw a need to assist those homebound due to the virus. Quarantine is a term that has become synonymous with the pandemic, forcing the elderly and immunocompromised, amongst others, once vibrant parts of our society, to remain trapped in their own homes unable to accomplish everyday tasks like basic shopping, even for household essentials.

To this end, Yonatan, with the encouragement of his father, Jamaica Estates residents, established a core group of over 40 active volunteers, mostly academic scholars with extra time on their hands, tasked with filling local grocery and pharmacy orders.

“One of our first orders was for a lonely Holliswood widow, who it seems had not had a proper meal in quite some time,” Yonatan expressed with an undertone of deep pain. “She simply could not get a restock on her groceries for fear of contracting the deadly virus.” This is the precise reason Door2Door took off.

“I am on a tight budget and still desired to dedicate my time to something special and productive and not just wait around for the lockdown orders to be lifted,” explained one of the initiative’s devoted helpers, a colleague of Yonatan’s from Lander’s College for Men in Kew Gardens Hills.

This venture exemplifies the power of grassroots efforts at its finest, as many of the helpers emerged from the founder’s network of friends and the initial clients were achieved through simple online postings and community rebbeim spreading the word to friends and family.

Yonatan gave the Queens Jewish Link further insight into the establishment of his endeavor. “I am a resident of Jamaica Estates, and as Pesach concluded, I felt a desire to give back to my neighborhood. As a group of students, we desired to do our part for our fellow neighbors and opted to give our time in lieu of monetary campaigns, as cash is general tight for collegiate young men and women.”

The program began roughly a week and a half ago and has already facilitated pickups and deliveries mostly for groceries from local supermarkets like Aron’s Kissena Farms or Seasons, but there have been inquiries for pharmacy orders. Door2Door has no limits and is happy to help transport bakery items, laundry, or dry cleaning and anything else you could imagine.

Since its inception, Door2Door has reached two to three families a day, with over a dozen completed runs, and eagerly anticipates expanding to aid more locals and fill up its growing spreadsheet. The creator noted, “We currently service all areas of Queens and have made deliveries to Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Holliswood, Jamaica Estates, and Kew Gardens Hills, and look forward to adding more service areas as the need arises. We have a network of volunteers eager to give back with their time.”

Council Member Rory Lancman and Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal, both from our area, were instrumental in bringing two Kosher Grab ‘n Go meal distribution sites to our neighborhoods, one at P.S. 164 (138-01 77th Avenue, KGH) and an additional site at P.S. 154 (75-02 162nd Street, Fresh Meadows), Monday through Friday. Door2Door would be happy to deliver these essential meal packages to the homes of those in seclusion.

When informed of the program, a local reacted, “For a Lander’s College for Men junior to launch a community platform that has taken off so seamlessly is incredible. It is most delightful to see everyday folk and our able-bodied students rise up to the occasion, giving of their time.”

Yonatan brought the theme of the program home with the anecdote of an initial pick up. “An elderly gentleman related that his children now live in Houston, Texas, and Passaic. This man had arranged with his family to bring essentials when their time allowed. The establishment of Door2Door enables him to once again be independent and he is most appreciative of its efforts.”

“Yes, there are other such organizations providing shopping services, as I am a member in one of these groups, but there is no limit to chesed, especially with such a widespread need,” concluded Yonatan.

There is no reason to hesitate to reach out for assistance. The community is encouraged to take advantage of Door2Door’s conveniences by calling or texting 917-337-3324. Door2Door also seeks volunteers; please contact the same number for more information.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein