By Malkie Hirsch
I love baking for bake sales. It gives me the chance to try something new for someone who appreciates something other than a vanilla Bundt cake (my kids’ usual preference).
Every year, Daniella Vogel would contact me and ask me to bake for a cause near and dear to her heart — the i-Shine bake sale.
I didn’t know much about i-Shine, but I knew Daniella and that she’d been sick off and on for years. i-Shine helped her son in so many ways. Really, that was all I needed to hear.
I made my first KitKat cake for them as well as a melted cone cake that I spied on Pinterest and had wanted to make for so long. When I walked into Bonnie Schertz’s house with this three-tiered confection featuring an upside-down ice-cream cone propped in the middle with ganache dripping down the sides, I realized two things:
- I was officially a baker.
- I loved baking for i-Shine.
After Moshe died, I received texts and calls from people who had been through a loss like ours, and one of the questions they asked was, “Are you sending your kids to i-Shine? They would LOVE it!”
I still had limited knowledge of what i-Shine did for kids who suffered the loss of a parent or who were living with a parent or sibling who was ill. I received a call from Andy Lauber a few weeks later and learned more about what their organization does.
A complex choreography is required to get the i-Shine kids picked up from their respective schools by neighborhood volunteers to bring them to the program held at HAFTR elementary school. Each child is matched with a teenage counselor/mentor, who has been interviewed and trained by the i-Shine board, based on the needs of that specific child. The mentor oversees the child during one-on-one homework help. The kids do projects, play in HAFTR’s gym, and are served dinner from various local restaurants. By the time they come home at 6:30 p.m. all they need is to get ready for bed.
I felt that having the kids start a new program immediately after Moshe’s passing would be too much change too quickly, but I contacted Andy after Sukkot and told him we’d like to try it out. I hesitantly told my kids about the amazing program. My 11-year-old was immediately opposed to it, grasping at every excuse in his 11-year-old book for reasons he couldn’t make it. I explained that I understood his hesitation and that all he had to do was try it once. One time was all it took and my kids were hooked for good, including and especially my 11-year-old, Nison.
The idea for i-Shine began when Annette Kaufman, one of the founders and an occupational therapist by trade, was treating a child with cancer in her home. She’d come to the house to work with the sick child and realized that there wasn’t enough support for the other kids at home. The parents were both working, they had a child who was ill and required more attention than the others, and, understandably, things would fall through the cracks, including homework help and specialized attention for the siblings.
When Annette mentioned her idea to Stacey Zrihen (a Wharton business school alum) and Deena Intrator, they met with Chai Lifeline’s Rabbi Scholar, and Andy Lauber was brought in to join the i-Shine team. Sheri Hammer rounded out the team of directors a few years later. i-Shine started in the 2007–2008 school year with 15 children, mostly from homes with a family member suffering from an illness. It was a way for each child in the family to have attention and much-needed support during a sad and stressful time at home. It was also a way for parents to have peace of mind and comfort knowing that two nights a week, their kids’ homework, dinner, and other needs were being met and they were being well taken care of. It was a way for men and women in the community to get involved, picking up the i-Shine kids from school, taking them to HAFTR for the program, and bringing them home after i-Shine. There were so many people who wanted to be involved drivers that they would get to drive only once every two weeks. In time, kids who were once a part of i-Shine grew up and became i-Shine mentors.
i-Shine has been such a gift to the kids it services that it has opened its doors in Chicago, Brooklyn, Teaneck, Florida, Los Angeles, Lakewood, Westchester, Toronto, and Belgium.
I say this often (and I hope it doesn’t make me sound like a broken record), but I firmly believe that there are two sides to every situation in life. There’s good and bad, even within the most unfortunate situations. There’s beauty that can be recognized in even the saddest story. There’s help, support, and love, and this epitomizes what i-Shine does for these kids week after week. The work that goes into every week — the manpower and the money, arranging drivers to pick up from the various schools, picking preschoolers up from their homes because they end school earlier than the elementary-school kids — everything has been thought of and worked out. And to me, that means that although there are a lot of things that can’t be prevented or controlled in life, there are things that regular people can do to show others that have been dealt a harder hand that they’ll be looked after and cared for because that’s what they’re capable of doing.
Out of the darkest stories, the biggest tragedies, and the saddest times comes a group of people who say with their actions that although they can’t change what’s happened, they’re going to do whatever they can to make kids who are victims of circumstance the happiest they can be. And that’s pretty beautiful in my book, selfless and special. I’m so proud to be a part of a community of people who help their own in this way.
The i-Shine bake sale is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year and allows i-Shine to continue its wonderful work.
This year’s bake sale, in memory of Daniella Vogel, will be held on Wednesday, February 19 (4 p.m.–9 p.m.) and Thursday, February 20 (10 a.m.–7 p.m.) at the home of Bonnie and Heshie Schertz, 88 Margaret Avenue in Lawrence.
All bakers and buyers are appreciated!
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.