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Monday, April 22, 2019

The founding committee of the YBM Chesed Bergen County initiative. (l-r) Yitzy Dewick, Daniel Hyman, Chaim Kiss, Mickey Cohen, Dovi Denciger.

It isn’t often that I have meetings at the back of the local yeshiva in Teaneck and am able to bear witness to and participate in the birth of a new chesed initiative. Allow me to explain.

A few weeks ago, longtime chazzan, singer, friend, 

current CBY gabbai rishon, and active Teaneck community member Chaim Kiss called me and told me that I had to come to a unique meeting at Yeshivas Bais Mordechai (YBM) in Teaneck to meet with some of the talmidim and kollel members who wanted to launch a unique chesed initiative. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We met together on a Thursday night after the yeshiva’s second seder and sat at the back table of the yeshiva’s beit medrash and began to discuss. It was a high energy, spirited discussion between myself, Kiss, and a dynamic group of four young men from the yeshiva community who simply want to do more and give back. It was quite an inspiring half hour.

Kiss started off by explaining that the idea for the chesed initiative came about more than a year ago after he spoke with YBM’s Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Eliyahu Roberts, about how to increase the yeshiva’s profile and impact within the surrounding community and strengthen the bond between the yeshiva and community.

“The yeshiva has a real potential for chesed and doing more for the community...and people in the community don’t always know where to go or what to do when they are in crisis or in need,” said Kiss.

Regarding the need, Kiss and the YBM members around the table all agreed that while there were certainly many great local organizations helping many people and families, the need for more still exists.

So what exactly will the new chesed initiative be doing and offering? This was a big part of our conversation at the meeting and many ideas and thoughts were tossed around. They ranged from: tutoring in limudei kodesh subjects or in advance of tests, assisting families with children or adults with special needs, helping families after a flood or a tragedy that may not have insurance or adequate insurance, building Sukkahs, shoveling snow for someone with a heart condition and, of course, helping with Pesach cleaning and preparation. There was no shortage of ideas or areas that YBM Chesed could help out with, although babysitting was ruled out.

The group’s founders or executive committee are, in addition to Chaim Kiss and Rabbi Roberts, Dovi Denciger, Yitzy Dewick and Daniel Hyman. Also involved is YBM alum and the coordinator of Teaneck’s Chaverim, Mickey Cohen, who will be helping and lending his own experience.

Denciger noted that the new initiative will also be able to help local high school students get required chesed hours. Cohen emphasized that the chesed work will not just be limited to the Teaneck yeshiva and people close to it but its efforts can and will be community-wide. “There’s a large group of people outside of YBM who want to...keep busy and volunteer,” Cohen said.

“We will be the chevra that people know to turn to when people need help,” said Kiss.

Denciger stated, “we already get many calls, we can only imagine how many more calls we can get and people we can help with a more formal organization.”

“This is how it will work in the beginning stages,“ Kiss continued. “I will take calls and inquiries and we will review together with Rabbi Roberts and the talmidim what can be done and who the best people to do it will be.”

I spoke with Rabbi Roberts later and he echoed what Kiss explained. “During the breaks in the afternoon between sedorim, from 2-4 p.m. and from 6-8 p,m,, our talmidim are already doing a lot of chesed such as learning with children with special needs or helping the elderly or making a minyan,” explained Rabbi Roberts.

“We’ve been doing this for many years but never in a formal way. Now we want to formalize it,” he explained further. “The local community does a tremendous amount for the yeshiva and we want to be able to give back and reciprocate in a more formal way. We also have talmidim who have specific skills such as working with children with special needs or autism and will be more appropriate for different types of volunteer opportunities...Whatever is needed, we can help.”

These YBM Chesed founders are truly enthusiastic and energized. After our meeting, I was included in a group text conversation about what to name the new initiative. All in the group agreed that it must have the name of the yeshiva in it and one proposed name was YBM Chesed Team Six, a play on the famous US Navy Seal Team Six. Although that name was rejected, their excitement was infectious.

Rabbi Roberts ended our call saying that the initiative has his full haskama and he is excited and looking forward to seeing it grow. So am I. It will be interesting to see where this can go. Hatzlacha to YBM, Rabbi Roberts and Chaim Kiss!

To inquire and learn more about the work of the new YBM Chesed Bergen County initiative, call Chaim Kiss at: 201.357.7730.

By Moshe Kinderlehrer, Co-Publisher, Jewish Link of New Jersey