Many young people worry primarily about their school work or social circles. Despite that, more and more students from many Bergen County yeshivot, as well as adults from local organizations, are so dedicated to helping others that they have committed specific hours each and every week to help Tomchei Shabbos of Bergen County.
Previously, Tomchei Shabbos has relied primarily on individuals and families to help with packing. Adults have generally made deliveries of boxes (always outside of their own neighborhoods, in order to ensure recipient anonymity). However, in recent years, students and other volunteer groups have been stepping up. They have become so much a part of Tomchei Shabbos’ organization that the organizers want to show hakarat hatov to them and ask the community to also join in honoring them. “Involving these groups is a mutually beneficial arrangement,” said Tomchei Shabbos co-director Sara Zilberstein. “We view this as the next generation of community leaders in training. We have also seen many student volunteers come back with their parents or siblings for more or varied volunteer opportunities and we are thrilled to see our work reaching larger circles.”
“This really helps make Tomchei Shabbos an organization that exists for the community, by the community,” said Laizer Kornwasser, a Tomchei Shabbos active volunteer.
Volunteer roles involve packing and delivering weekly orders for people in need of Shabbos food. Boxes of nutritious ingredients for meals, including chicken, meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and challah, are always fresh. The people who receive a weekly Tomchei Shabbos box are often in great need, even as they live in our community, often in our own neighborhoods. Sometimes families who receive a box of food have been dealing with some kind of family emergency, sometimes involving the loss of a job or family member, and rely on rationing out the food to last the entire week.
Organized group involvement really took off approximately two years ago when Tomchei received an unsolicited email from Moriah’s middle school parent volunteer Bina Faber; Moriah was interested in involving its middle school students in Tomchei on a regular basis. Since then, Moriah has been sending between four and eight students to pack for Tomchei every single week. They have become a valuable part of Tomchei’s packing. “They are reliable and dedicated,” said Zilberstein.
At around the same time, Rabbi Netanel Goldstein, mashgiach ruchani at SINAI School’s Karasick Shalem high school program at TABC, reached out to Tomchei to try to arrange a routine chesed opportunity for his students. Since then, Rabbi Goldstein has been sending three to six boys together with their teachers to pack Tomchei boxes under the direction of Tomchei manager Jackie Schlanger. The boys also collapse empty boxes, which is a huge job. In Schlanger’s words, “Last week we had three boys. They did 18 orders in less than 30 minutes.” They have proven to be a valuable asset to the team.
Residents of a J-ADD (Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities) residence, Donny Hain and Jonathan Listhaus, together with their supervisors, have been making deliveries on a weekly basis for the past couple of years. Similarly, residents of the SINAI Nathan Miller SHELI Residence for Men have been regular volunteers for Tomchei routes.
Tomchei also benefits from the support of the Heichal Hatorah boys. In addition to housing Tomchei’s 2017 Pesach packing operation and relocating their beis midrash temporarily for that purpose, Heichal students also came out in large numbers to pack for Tomchei then. Since then, Tomchei has been able to rely on them on numerous occasions, who as part of their chesed program during school hours—under the direction of chesed coordinator Rabbi Shimon Kronenberg—unload heavy box deliveries at the Tomchei warehouse. MTA students also packed for Pesach at Heichal Hatorah. MTA even provided a bus for the students to travel from Manhattan to the Heichal building in Teaneck to help the packing efforts.
This past fall, Rabbi Burry Klein of Yeshivat Frisch reached out to Tomchei to try to get their students involved in Tomchei box deliveries. Frisch students now deliver five Tomchei routes every week.
Upon occasion, Tomchei has also called upon RYNJ students as well as talmidim from Yeshiva Bais Mordechai of Teaneck who have enthusiastically stepped in to help in a pinch.
“While it’s impossible to thank all the volunteers in one article, these groups have stepped up and really made an impact this year and we will work to find other groups to highlight in the future,” said Zilberstein.
Tomchei Shabbos is always looking for additional students and others to take on a specific role that works for them and their schedules. Tomchei Shabbos also relies on donations to run all of its programs, and asks the community to remember this in year-end charitable contributions. Tomchei Shabbos seeks assistance to help meet its annual budgetary expenses, which exceed $500,000 annually. Donate online, and even in honor of a specific volunteer, at http://www.tomcheishabbosofbergencounty.org.