We are blessed to be living in a community steeped in Torah observance and chesed, where we can enjoy the amenities of a comfortable lifestyle, within the parameters of halacha. Indeed, many worthy citadels of Torah throughout the global community reach out to the Five Towns/Far Rockaway community for financial support, their requests eliciting swift and generous responses.
Although there may be a misconception that ours is a community devoid of poverty and financial pressure, many of our neighbors struggle to afford even basic food. Wreaking havoc in its wake, COVID has impacted our community, causing loss of precious lives and leaving families in financial distress. Many within our community have lost their jobs and find themselves in dire straits. Unable to provide even basic necessities for their families, they turn to Tomchei Shabbos for assistance. Impacted, as well, is the organization’s support base, with so many individuals facing financial challenges.
Tomchei Shabbos Yad Yeshaya of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway was founded in 1985 in memory of Yeshaya Alpert, z’l, to provide food for Shabbos and yom tov for our needy neighbors. Since its inception, the organization has been an exemplar of chesed, providing succor and support, with the highest level of dignity and confidentiality. Truly an organization like no other, Tomchei Shabbos ensures all of our neighbors, no matter how needy, have fresh and wholesome food to look forward to and that they savor the sanctity and splendor of Shabbos every week. They are the only organization in our area that delivers basic food packages to close to 400 local families, weekly and for yom tov. Comprised entirely of dedicated volunteers, there is no office, no overhead—every donation goes directly and entirely for purchasing food for our neighbors. From the ordering, packing, delivering, and even their accountant—everyone involved in Tomchei Shabbos is extraordinary individual—an integral part of a veritable community of angels.
Previously, students at TAG and Young Israel of Woodmere devoted their Thursday afternoons to assembling packages. Since COVID, however, Elite Caterers has graciously donated their staff and commissary to set up the packages. Additional volunteers then pick up the packages and discreetly deliver them to the anonymous recipients.
Tomchei Shabbos ensures that every Jewish home in the Five Towns and Rockaways has food to put on their table each Shabbos and is able to experience a true Oneg Shabbos.
“This year, the dynamics of the families we service has shifted from the elderly to a greater number of single-parent families,” noted Jeanette Lamm, who serves, together with her husband, as co-directors of Tomchei Shabbos. “All of the families we service are local and part of our community. Some of them will be on our list for a short term to get help through a crisis while some will need the help longer. Some families will even send us a donation some years later.”
Indeed, with daily life now the most expensive it’s been in 40 years, many single parents say they are running out of places to cut costs. The prices of groceries, gas, rent, and utilities has catapulted over the past year; but wages have not kept up—and more than half of single parents make less than $15 an hour, according to recent research from Oxfam.
That has left many single parents skipping meals so their children can have food, providing less healthy meals for their families, and culling expenses to the point where any unforeseen cost could mean more debt—or worse.
Tomchei Shabbos has seen an uptick in the number of individuals and families in need of their services, including people who have never experienced food insecurity. When individuals fall into food insecurity and poverty, it’s very cyclical, difficult to escape and get back on their feet. Tomchei Shabbos is our community’s lifeline.
“Our annual budget is about $1 million,” shared Arielle Wolfson, Tomchei’s director of fundraising. “A few years ago, we realized everyone wants to donate to Tomchei Shabbos. The Virtual Breakfast makes it accessible and simple, hopefully reaching everyone within our community.”
Dr. Hylton Lightman, a prominent pediatrician and beloved member of our community, has seen firsthand the need among some of the families he treats. “Tomchei Shabbos is an essential organization that fills a vital need in our community,” he said. “Any person at any time due to circumstances may need Tomchei Shabbos services. Let’s be grateful we are on the giving end.”
Peruse the following unsolicited testimonials, all penned by grateful individuals who, together with their families, are able to experience the joy, beauty and sanctity of a true Oneg Shabbos, thanks to the extraordinary Tomchei Shabbos team of volunteers, and through your generosity.
“Ever since my husband was unemployed for two years, our finances have been difficult. Even with his new job, it is still very challenging. Knowing the Tomchei box is coming weekly gives us peace of mind and Oneg Shabbos. Knowing that our neighbors are there for us gives us comfort.”
“Thank you so much for the food package; it’s a tremendous help for us as my husband is not working now. We are back to looking for a job and this really means the world to us.”
“We would like to thank all who make Tomchei Shabbos happen. We are very grateful. It is much appreciated… more than you know.”
“Thank you all for helping us in our time of need. It has been a tremendous help, more than you could know. I wish I could thank each of you individually. May you each be zocheh to much berachah and yeshuos for being involved in this tremendous mitzvah.”
“Thank you so much for putting food into my four children’s mouths. Thanks to you and Hashem we will have food on our Shabbos table. We hope to one day be on the other side again and be able to help others like you have helped us. Tizku Limitzvos.”
“We are extremely grateful to Elite Caterers,” says Mrs. Lamm. “Without their dedication and heartfelt voluntary service, Tomchei would have been unable to function this year. We have tremendous gratitude to Ariella Wolfson and Adina Fishlewitz, who are the heart of Tomchei Shabbos and who meticulously orchestrate every detail of fundraising. Much appreciation to Ari Schonbrun, who runs our Pesach distribution.”
The Tomchei Shabbos Virtual Breakfast, which will take place this Sunday, February 26, is the organization’s main fundraising event. Please partner with Tomchei Shabbos and help ensure food, peace of mind, and kavod Shabbos for all our neighbors in Five Towns and Far Rockaway. Contribute at: Tomchei Shabbos of the 5 Towns & Far Rockaway :: Rayze.It Donation Form by Duvys Media
Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative media consultant, lecturer and educator and writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. She welcomes your comments at Rochellemiller04@aol.com. Read more of Rochelle Miller’s articles at 5TJT.com.