Robbie Schonfeld with a young patient
Robbie Schonfeld with a young patient
Robbie Schonfeld with a young patient

For over a decade, Robbie and Judy Schonfeld have been dedicating their hearts, souls, and fundraising efforts to bring the greatest joy, happiness, and hope to the Chaiyanu children and families who are fighting for their lives in battling cancer. The Ossie Schonfeld Memorial Chanukah Toy Fund is in memory of Robbie’s father, whose only concern in his life was that there be joy in every Jewish soul.

The “Toy Angels,” as they have been crowned by thousands of people all over Israel, receive such amazing gifts, such as Wiis, PlayStations, laptops, bicycles, and every type of Fisher Price and Little Tikes toy. Cameras, video recorders, trampolines, Lego, Playmobil–the list goes on. Robbie and Judy shop till they drop, pack up close to 300 boxes, and ship the presents to Israel to arrive just in time for Chanukah. The Schonfelds land in Israel a few days before Chanukah to coordinate the massive mission of delivery over Chanukah. They are joined by Neal Goldberg’s Lev Leytzan clowns, traveling from house to house, party to party, giving out the gifts. Coordinated by Chaiyanu volunteers, Chanukah 2014 was one of the most heartwarming and blissful eight days in the lives of thousands of children in Israel.

Here is a letter Chaiyanu received from one of the moms.

“Last summer we had no summer vacation. When we woke up, the nightmare was just beginning. Our seven-year-old daughter, Miri, was diagnosed with cancer. We couldn’t even say the word, not for religious reasons, rather for the fear that we would make it worse. The first week in the hospital I looked too busy to allow anyone to speak to me about the reality. I didn’t want to speak to anyone and for sure didn’t want anyone to speak to me. When a Chaiyanu volunteer brought me a whole pizza pie and my daughter a basket of fruit, a basket of candy, and a basket of toys and games, I had to respond. However, the volunteer said, “You don’t have to say anything and you probably don’t want to talk, so don’t.” And she walked away. How did she know what was going through my mind? Since then, Chaiyanu always knows what’s going through our minds and we are so close.

“Then right after Sukkos, I received an e-mail, a fax, and an envelope given to me in the hospital with all the same material to fill out. What was it? A form for a wish list of what Miri wants for Chanukah. There was a place to fill in all of Miri’s siblings because they would be getting presents as well.

“It took a few days for Miri to pick her gift–one of those gigantic doll houses that you have to build a room for in your house to set it up. That was her wish.

“Those two months were horrible for Miri and our nightmare was getting worse. Before Chanukah, she wasn’t even walking and our fears were getting the best of us.

“We couldn’t make it to the Chaiyanu Chanukah party. We did send some of the other children with a volunteer. They had a wonderful time, singing and dancing with the clowns, getting red clown noses stuck on all over themselves, and eating doughnuts. When the volunteers brought the children, they asked if they could come over the next evening after candle lighting. I told them they should call tomorrow because I wasn’t sure if Miri would be up to it. She was really out of it. As they left, I changed my mind. I told them to come anyway. Maybe I changed my mind after looking at the children’s faces drop when I said they should call first.

“Miri was not feeling too well and still not walking; we lit our Chanukah candles, a bit too somber, I felt, but we tried to do our best. Twenty minutes later, the children started yelling ‘Chaiyanu’ and the clowns were coming up the steps. Miri sat in her wheelchair with the same drawn face.

“Clowns with guitars were jumping up and down, singing and grabbing the children and swirling and twirling around. Two volunteers held this gigantic box and others held three big blue bags, and more and more were coming in like the scene with endless amount of clowns coming out of a small car. Miri’s Chaiyanu volunteers and Robbie and Judy Schonfeld followed the clowns as they sang and danced and then…

“As they were holding Miri’s Chanukah wish, her gigantic doll house, with others holding tens of different types of dolls, our Chanukah miracle happened. Miri got out of her wheelchair all by herself and walked over to the clowns to get her wish! And that Chanukah night was the night all of our wishes came true and our nightmare began to work its way out of our lives. Miri, in the coming months, improved tremendously. She never stops playing with her dollhouse and we never stop looking at the dollhouse that instilled joy and hope back into our lives.

“I cannot thank Chaiyanu enough for all the great moments they have brought into our lives and the spectacular people who did everything for us on that Chanukah–to Robbie and Judy Schonfeld and Neil Goldberg and his Lev Leytzan group of clowns. We will never forget what you did for our Miri and our lives.”

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