Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 148

February 24, 2023 (3 Adar 5783)

Chesed Team

Rabbi Wasser is still in Israel, so in place of his Rabbinic Reflections, I wanted to follow up and expand on some remarks I made at the end of the Shabbat morning service, a few weeks ago, when I spoke about Alfred (Mike) Wertheim z"l.

I met Mike only a few years ago, when he attended services with his friend of many decades, Harry Speiser. Once Covid hit and in-person services came to a halt, I stopped seeing them. They would periodically dial in by phone to listen to Shabbat services, but just listening to services, especially when you can’t see anyone, is just not the same thing as being there in person. As a result, they didn’t “attend” services regularly.

In early January, Mike passed away at the age of 100 years. It wasn’t until then that I learned that Mike had married later in life and had only one stepson. Mike had no children of his own or any grandchildren. Both Mike’s wife and stepson predeceased him, leaving him to live through Covid by himself.

Harry, who is older than Mike, still lives on his own. Harry does have someone to help with his shopping and to drive him to a doctor’s appointment, but he neither goes shopping nor to the doctor every day, so he has many free hours in the week.

When I was growing up, my grandmother would periodically say, “Don’t throw me away in my old age.” I always had great love and respect for my grandmother, so I didn’t understand what she meant. How could anyone throw another person away, I would wonder? It wasn’t until I grew older that the meaning finally revealed itself to me. It isn’t a matter of giving up on someone, but rather just forgetting about them.

In the weekly phone message that goes out to the CBIOTP community, I usually ask everyone to “Reach out to your friends, neighbors, and loved ones to check on them.” This is followed up with the incentive, “The friendly hello will be a Mitzvah on your part and a source of Nachus (joy) for them.” I suspect that some people may roll their eyes at my reminder, but as a marketing professional, I know that it often takes repeated exposure to an advertisement to get a consumer to make a purchase, so I repeat the message.

Although the worst of Covid seems to have passed and we are returning to a more familiar way of life, there are still people in our community who are isolated, lonely, and may just be in need of a new friend. At the Kiddush following my remarks, Sandy Jonas, who has a master’s degree in social work, came over to me and said that she wanted to help. Discussing this together, we came up with the following idea, which we hope you will support.

Sandy and I would like to form a Chesed (acts of loving kindness) team, whose members would call all synagogue members periodically to say hello and to check on them. Yes, the Rabbi makes phone calls too, but this would be different. Not everyone in both synagogues knows each other, so this would get more of us speaking with one another and building new relationships. Even a simple relationship can have long-lasting beneficial effects.

Please consider this our formal request for volunteers for the Chesed team. If you interested in joining, please call the synagogue office and let us know. Sandy will lead the team and coordinate its efforts.

Last April, the Town of Fort Lee presented Mike with a proclamation celebrating his 100th birthday. The proclamation stated, in part, “Mike’s secret to longevity was ‘not to sweat the small stuff, but to enjoy reading, watching baseball, and making new friends.” Mike left us a very rare gift, the insight and advise of someone who lived a very long and fulfilling life. How lucky are we! Mike recognized the power of making new friends. We would be silly not to accept Mike’s gift and learn from his experience, so I hope you will join the Chesed Team.

Shabbat Shalom,
Craig Bassett
President, CBIOTP

Sandy Jonas, MSW
Chesed Team Leader

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