Dr. Markowitz of St. John’s Hospital
Dr. Markowitz of St. John’s Hospital
Dr. Markowitz of St. John’s Hospital

By Liba Lieberman

The long and impressive history of the Bikur Cholim of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns is honored every year as women from a broad spectrum of the Jewish communities it serves come together in an atmosphere of fervent support and commitment at the organization’s annual brunch, traditionally held in December. This year, the 32nd annual brunch was held on Sunday morning, 12 Teves/December 15, once again in the ballroom of Congregation Kneseth Yisroel. The guest speaker was Charlie Harary, Esq., the world-renowned inspirational speaker, who is a resident of the Five Towns. Rabbi Daniel Coleman, chaplain at North Shore University Hospital, and Mrs. Lisa Reich were the Tehillim Recipients.

The Bikur Cholim of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns developed according to the suburban nature of its location, in response to the needs of Jewish residents who required transportation to hospitals and doctors’ offices. Thirty years ago, concerned community members rose to the task. Although visiting patients in local hospitals remains the gold standard for all Bikur Cholim volunteers, the organization offers financial assistance in a discreet manner for many health concerns. Additionally, it offers transportation to the infirm and weakened to medical centers as far away as New York City, where many treatments take place.

Cooking for families who are experiencing medical challenges is another ongoing service that volunteers undertake, often making the difference between coping and despair in the lives of these families. Visiting or calling shut-ins is an area in which Bikur Cholim volunteers shine. A phone call once a week, or a stop by with a smile and basic food shopping, can mean a world of difference to someone trapped indoors due to a medical condition.

Since the beautiful oceanfront properties of Far Rockaway are home to numerous nursing homes, visiting nursing home residents is another service this Bikur Cholim provides. A special committee for medical equipment maintains a varied stock of appliances and aides for the sick and elderly. Bikur Cholim of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns also services a hospitality room in North Shore University Hospital that is fully stocked with kosher food.

Before the keynote address by this year’s guest speaker, Charlie Harary, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder spoke about the role model that Bikur Cholim and other organizations presented to other communities after Superstorm Sandy. He explained that nearby areas that were devastated by the storm looked at Far Rockaway’s example. “People are always watching,” he told the standing-room-only crowd of community women. “They look at what this community is doing. It is a kiddush Hashem, a great thing. Our Jewish community sets an example.”

Dr. Sheldon Markowitz, Chief of Medicine at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, also spoke, noting that the hospital is “in awe of the tremendous dedication of the women in the community.” He noted that St. John’s has a kosher kitchen and a Shabbos elevator, and is soon opening an office on Rockaway Turnpike that will feature Orthodox doctors, specifically a pediatrician and an OB/GYN.

Mr. Charlie Harary began his presentation by noting the recent Shabbos snowstorm. He then spoke about the recent fast day, Asarah B’Teves, and how Chazal explained that this fast cannot be postponed if it falls out on Erev Shabbos, because it relates to future events. “If G-d decides to bring Tisha B’Av this year, it is decided on Asarah B’Teves,” he continued.

“We need to remove boundaries in our heads that block us from us,” he explained. “Our challenge in life is to live life without walls that stop us. Asarah B’Teves is also the anniversary of the sale of Yosef, which reminds us that it is wrong not to accept someone because they are different.

“We all fear being alone. Being alone is also a wall that kills. When someone gets sick, they feel alone. If someone can’t pay a bill to take care of their health, they feel alone. One is living in a tiny siege if no one is there during such times. Bikur Cholim breaks the walls, takes over the siege, and says, ‘You are not alone.’ Bikur Cholim leads us to geulah. We should realize who they are and what they stand for.”

Previous featured keynote speakers at past brunches have been Rabbi Paysach Krohn; Rabbi Yissocher Frand; Rabbi Abraham Twerski; and Rav Shlomo Freifeld, zt’l.

This community’s Bikur Cholim was founded by Mrs. Hinda Carmel, a’h; Mrs. Rozi Eichen; the Sulitza Rebbetzin, Rebbetzin Rubin, a’h; Mrs. Selma Weinberg, a’h; and Mrs. Esther Zomick, a’h, among many other dedicated compassionate women of the community.

Many thanks were expressed to the chairpersons of the brunch, Mrs. Tzippy David, Mrs. Esther Feigenbaum, and Mrs. Marilyn Wolowitz. Other acknowledgements of gratitude and thanks went to Mr. and Mrs. Tzvi Perl for donating the beautiful door prizes, Rabbi Yaakov Kranz for setting up the microphone system, Jerusalem Florist for donating the beautiful centerpieces, Judy Silverman and Shani Traube for sending Chanukah packages to hospitals and nursing homes, and Dr. Neil Goldberg and the Lev Leytzan clowns for entertaining the children.

The current presidium members of Bikur Cholim of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns are Mrs. Marilyn Wolowitz, Mrs. Tzippy David, and Mrs. Esther Ruzorhorsky.

Pushkas are available, as are zmanagram cards, which can be utilized for simchos, Purim, or personal use. Both can be purchased by calling the Bikur Cholim hotline at 718-327-5989 or 516-371-9662. Contributions can be mailed to Bikur Cholim of the Five Towns, P.O. Box 294, Lawrence, New York, 11559. v

Reprinted with permission from Yated Ne’eman.


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