By Larry Gordon
Maybe we do not think about it often enough. But that might be OK because of people like Rabbi Simcha Lefkowitz, Gabe Boxer, the family of Max Ramer, and the Leon Mayer Fund.
We take many things for granted in this modern world of ours. But we probably should try not to do that because, as Rabbi Lefkowitz says, the need out there is extensive and profound.
“I’ve been working on chesed projects for 40 years,” the rabbi says. “There is great opulence and plenty today, but as our population grows, the great need has kept pace.”
I sat with Rabbi Lefkowitz, the rav of Congregation Anshei Chesed in Hewlett, and Gabe Boxer, who is the hands-on dimension of the Mark Ramer Chesed Center, the new warehouse that impacts on so many lives daily. Gabe is the founder of Kosher Response, the group that rose to the occasion last year to provide meals and other assistance to first-responders at the height of the pandemic.
As Gabe explained, if you find that your family can benefit from the largesse of the Ramer Center, all you need to do is go to their website, fill out a form, answer a few questions, and then an appointment will be made where you can come to the facility to shop for an hour that will be exclusively yours.
Almost everything that this chesed center offers is brand-new. I walked up and down the aisles with Gabe, and amongst other things I saw shelves of new men’s shoes, men’s shirts, racks of women’s clothing, toys, and some electronics in addition to many more items.
One of the things that Rabbi Lefkowitz and Mr. Boxer work on is ensuring that there is a steady flow of inventory into the facility. And both are working overtime as we head into the beginning of the yom tov season when families are financially stressed. The fact that this group spends all their time thinking of others shines a bright light on the community in general that supports this project.
The center, at 15 Prospect Avenue in Hewlett, is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To contact the Leon Mayer Fund, visit LeonMayerFund.org or call 516-569-6364.
The Litton Brothers
Our sukkah is already up. Ordinarily, we would not want it erected three weeks before Sukkos, but, frankly, this sukkah is so beautiful and impressive that I don’t mind having it grace the driveway in front of our home.
This year, because of the limited amount of travel to Israel for the chag, there has been a run on sukkahs, and those who sell them as well as those who build them are running ragged trying to service their clientele.
This is all pandemic-related, of course, but the manufacturing end of the business has been affected as well, causing a shortage of sorts that has slowed things down. World events have trickled down to a reality on the ground—the ground around our homes and shuls that at this time of year feature the setup of sukkahs.
The Litton brothers have been erecting sukkahs since early August. After all, there is only so much time in a Sukkos season, and at a certain point it just needs to be done. You cannot put up a sukkah too early, but you certainly can do it too late.
The Litton boys have not only revolutionized sukkah construction but have significantly enhanced the experience, which adds a special new dimension to celebrating the yom tov with their product.
The biggest sukkah they have put together this season is in Bal Harbour, Florida, at the L’Atelier, where they erected a 65-foot sukkah. The tallest sukkah they’ve made was for former basketball superstar Amare Stoudemire, now an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets. The Littons built an eight-foot-high sukkah for Amare on the roof of his apartment in Dumbo in Brooklyn.
You really never know where starting a sukkah-building business is going to take you. This past winter the Litton boys built a number of outdoor sukkah-like edifices for restaurants and shuls that were limited in their ability to utilize their indoor facilities due to COVID restrictions.
“For the restaurants and even the shuls we supplied a steel roof, turning what could be a kosher sukkah once the roof is removed into a ventilated outdoor extension of the restaurants, allowing them to remain legally open,” says Steven Litton.
We were hopeful that there would once again be a mass migration from the U.S. to Israel for Sukkos this year and that it may have been business as usual in that area, but unfortunately it’s not happening the way it once did. While it still is possible to go to Israel for yom tov, there are numerous intricate details that have to be addressed in order to receive an entry permit. Many people are staying home instead.
The result of all this is that there has been a surge in sukkah rentals for the chag. To meet the demand, the Litton sukkah crew is now working 24 hours a day building sukkahs. So if you’re home for yom tov and you buy or rent a sukkah from the Littons, they might have to build it for you at 3 a.m. But that’s not a big deal—the bottom line is that it gets done.
If you need a sukkah, like yesterday, visit LittonSukkah.com or call 516-610-6610.
Meet Sender Shadchan
At this time of year, I never know who is going to ring the bell for entrance to the office. Those who arrive unannounced are usually men from Israel seeking a donation either for themselves or one project or another.
Most of the time we exchange niceties, we chitchat a little, I write a check, and we wish each other well. The other day this young man came to our office for Minchah (daily at 1:30 p.m.). He lingered for a few minutes afterward and then asked if we could speak for a few minutes.
I asked him his name to which he responded that he is known as “Sender Shadchan” but that in real life his name is Sender Schwartz. It was a fairly busy day as we were working on producing this issue, so I quickly asked him what he does and what he was collecting for.
He said that he runs an organization known as HaGefen, and in the years since the organization was launched—that’s about 13 years—the group has made 8,000 shidduchim.
OK, that roused my curiosity, so I asked him how he did that. He produced very thick books that he said had listings of over 12,000 young men and women who are in the market for a shidduch.
Why two books? Well, he showed me that one book is a listing of chassidish young men and women and the other book is labeled as “litvish” young people in shidduchim.
The first half of each book lists the men and the second half of the book lists the women, and he shows me something else. He points out that the chassidish book has many more listings of men and much fewer pages of women in the parashah.
Then he illustrates the exact opposite in the other book. The lists of women are much more numerous than the listing of men.
I asked why that is, and in fact it seemed like a fairly simple equation and fact of life. It seems that the chassidish young women are a lot less picky or selective than the litvish young ladies, and vice versa. He also added that it just happens to be that chassidish families are producing a larger ratio of males to females, and in more yeshivish families there are a greater number of female children than males.
So the numbers are a bit imbalanced, and therein lies one aspect of the shidduch problem today.
How does Sender Shadchan do it? He says that he has an office in Beit Shemesh and that he trains shadchanim on how to make calls and redd shidduchim. When someone makes a shidduch he is paid $2,000. If they work 30 hours a week for a full month and are not successful, they are still paid $1,000 for their efforts.
He came to New York to raise money for the last ten days so that he can afford to pay those making an effort but not achieving any success in a given month. As far as the shidduchim that are made, each party pays $2,000 to the organization, so there is some income being generated.
As for himself, he says that he personally made 40 shidduchim so far, which in and of itself is pretty impressive. We talked about whether he thought about setting up an organization or a mechanism to do the same thing here in the States. He said that people ask him that all the time, but he would need to be here for an extended period and would need someone to finance the effort, and he and his family live in Beit Shemesh.
While at present there is no plan to set up shop here, it is definitely something to think about.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.