PHOTO LINK BELOW: Bein Ish – we are with you every step of the way, was the message emblazoned on the terry slippers of the color coordinated black and white welcome packages in the hotel’s guestrooms. It was a Shabbos only Bein Ish Ubein Achiv could pull off. Shabbos, Parshas Vayigash was the organization’s third annual Shabbos of Chizuk at the New Jersey Ocean Place resort, attended by patients and their families, as well as Gedolim, volunteers and sponsors.
Bein Ish Ubein Achiv is so much more than an organization though. With Rabbi Yitzchok and Frumy Horowitz at the helm, Bein Ish Ubein Achiv is surrogate family to countless seriously ill patients and their families. For over ten years, hospitals have been the home-away-from home, where Frumy serves as the angelic mother and sister of families devastated by serious illness. Leading chesed organizations have acclaimed Frumy for raising the bar on the standards of chesed. and their entire crew—all volunteers—are completely dedicated to fulfilling their patients’ and families’ emotional, physical, financial and spiritual needs in every conceivable way and then some.
The beauty of the Bein Ish way of caring is that it doesn’t have a standardized program of giving, but instead is entirely customized, on an ever shifting basis, to fulfill individualized need. Fully stocked apartments are open to families coming for treatment from abroad. First class entertainment is provided when a boost is needed. Frumy takes teenage girls on shopping sprees. Roses, homemade challahs and an assortment of other treats from pies, to doughnuts, to chocolates and platters of fresh fruit, are lovingly delivered every Friday afternoon. In the wee hours of Friday morning, Frumy prepares challah dough and brings it to the women in the hospitals, so that they can mafrish the challah with a bracha. It is then baked, packaged and driven back by dedicated volunteer Shloimie Gombo, who distributes the freshly baked challahs, to families staying in the hospital for Shabbos.
The amazing Shabbos Chizuk was just one of the many forms of caring intrinsic to Bein Ish Ubein Achiv. Volunteers and those close to Bein Ish -R’Zeesh Mermelstein and R’Avrumie Klein, worked around the clock to ensure that the patients and families enjoy an uplifting restful Shabbos.
It began on Friday afternoon, as car after car pulled up into the parking lot of the grand Ocean Place Resort. Eager volunteers in their bright, red sweaters and cheerful, hats greeted new arrivals. From the moment the patients and families walked through the doors, the air resonated with their positive energy and excitement. Children were given multicolored bags with an assortment of arts and crafts to keep them busy so that the parents could relax and unwind before Shabbos. Cozy matching pajamas, wrapped so lovingly were placed on the hotel beds in the family rooms for the children. Bein Ish Ubein Achiv began working its magic immediately, from the luxuriously appointed rooms that looked so inviting, to the tea room where a fabulous To’ameha was served. The transformation was amazing to see: In one corner, one wiped another’s tears and whispered a soothing word, and in another, a slap on the back and thumbs-up passed some much needed strength. Exhausted faces perked up with life, shoulders sagging with the burden of getting through each trying day, straightened, and smiles abounded as everyone went about preparing for a Shabbos they would never forget.
Shabbos descended upon the hotel and with a magical glow: A Shabbos Hisvaadus, a Shabbos of connection. What a beautiful Friday Night it was! Shtreimlach joined hands with hats, yarmulkas, and heads bald from chemo, in singing and dancing L’kavod Shabbos. Lipa Shtauber, fondly dubbed “Fetter” Lipa by the kids in the hospital wards he frequents, opened the program with his beautiful words which put a smile on every face. Chazan Issac Honig led an inspiring Kabbalas Shabbos accompanied by the Mezamrim. One patient remarked that it was worth coming to the Shabbos just to be a part of the soul stirring Tefillos. The delectable meal by Nesher Caterers was topped with Zemiros led by the famous Chilu Posen. The Shabbos seudas were graced with prominent Rabbonim : The Chuster Rebbe -Rabbi Ginsberg, Rav Yechiel Yaakov Miller – The Eisenstadter Rav, Rav Duvid Yitzchok Schick –The Rimnitzer Rav , Rav Shmuel Noach Mermelstein R”M in Yeshivas Novominsk and Rav Shlomo Meyer – Vice president of Chai Lifeline. After the steaming chicken soup was served the children were marched out of the room, licorice and nosh in hand by Fetter Lipa . AJ Greenwald , Lotzy Lichtman and their counselors mesmerized the children with skits throughout the seudas, so that the parents can enjoy the riveting Divrei Torah and uplifiting speeches. The crowd sat spellbound as the Chuster Rav spoke with extraordinary passion as he described the agonizing journey of one caught in the maelstrom of life- threatening illness. Rav Ginsberg explained that we are always learning new Mesechtas. Unfortunately, Hashem has chosen certain people to learn an entirely different type of Mesechta. That Mesechta, is called Mesechta Memorial Sloan- Kettering. When talmidim first begin a mesechta they embrace it with a geshmak and a cheshek. This abstract Mesechta, is no doubtedly difficult and filled with complex ideas – hospitals, doctors, radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. The harsh difference is that there are no Rishonim or Achronim to turn to, for clarification as we would in all other Mesechtas in Shas. Even so, this intricate Mesechta can be mastered with the correct approach and unwavering emunah and bitachon. He then highlighted the two profound ways of serving Hashem. The first type of service is performed under blissful, idyllic conditions; when our lives are peaceful and stress free. We carry out the mitzvos with clarity and understanding. However, the other way of performing the Avoda is far more challenging. When the events that unfold before our eyes are confusing and ambiguous, and there seems to be a perpetual fog. When one serves Hashem under those circumstances , that, The Chuster Rav explained, is the epitome of Avoda. Rav Ginsberg compared this form of avoda to that of the Kohen Gadol in the Kodesh Hakedoshim on Yom Kippur. The smoke from the ketores obscures his view and it is there among the haze that the ultimate avoda is performed. Right now, there are many people R’l who are in this terrible matzav and do not fully understand why they were placed in this situation. Nonetheless, they still have the wherewithal to remain strong in their emunah under such trying circumstances. They can comfort themselves with the fact that they are performing the highest form of Avodas Hakodesh.
Following the meal, everyone gathered for a stroll down the boardwalk. It was a majestic sight, the blackness of the ocean, the waves thrashing against the shore as if in sync with the beating of the hearts uplifted by their newfound togetherness. It was an inspired group that returned for a Kumzitz /Botte, with the one and only Lipa Schmeltzer, joined by Isaac Honig, Nechemia Brodt, Shimmy Engel, and Badchan Yonasan Schwartz. Volunteers prepared a plethora of baked goods as the women sat together in a healing circle sharing each others stories and burdens.
Davening was followed by an elaborate, plentiful Kiddush overlooking the winter blue waters of the Atlantic. The Kiddush was in honor of the newborn daughter of Mordche Aron Tirnauer , a devoted Bein ish askan who played a key role in the financial aspect of the Shabbos’s success. Divrei Torah was delivered by Rav Luria – Rav of Congregation Ohr Yechezkal and Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Temima in Lakewood. The Shabbos Seuda was just as beautiful, lebedig and delicious as the night before, and lasted well into the afternoon. The Eisenstadter Rav expounded on the posuk Mashgiach min Hachalonos Metziz min Hacharakin . When one is on the inside looking out he can do so, either looking out from a window or from a crack in the wall. The obvious difference, he explained, is that when one peers through a window, he can be seen from the outside. However, when peering through a crack, it is virtually impossible to be visible from the outside. When one is placed in a difficult situation he looks for the Ribbono Shel Olams presence if he peers intently at the crack then he as well can see Hashem behind it all. Following was Rav Shlomo Mayer who extolled the virtues of Bein Ish and the care and love they dispense on the patients and their families. Oneg Shabbos was enjoyment in its truest sense. Babysitters and a playroom packed with engaging toys kept the children content and occupied. Lipa Shmeltzer and various entertainers huddled around the bedside of a bedridden patient and sang uplifting Shabbos Zmiros. All were visibly moved when Lipa sang a heart stirring rendition of Achilla Lakel.
Shalosh seudas Divrei torah was delivered by Rabbi Mermelstein. Rabbi Mermelstein stressed the importance of an individual’s kaoch of shemonah esrai and that Shomayim eagerly awaits the Tefillos of each and every Yid. The hour was late and Rav Mermelstein attempted to finish his dvar torah. A few feet away from the speakers’ shtender sat a bochur in a wheelchair who was unable to communicate effectively. However, |he tried to express himself and it became clear that he did not want Rav Mermelstein to stop speaking and insisted that Rav Mermelstein continue his dvar torah. Rav Mermelstein continued speaking for the next half hour! After havdalah the crowd assembled in the main ballroom for a spectacular Melaveh Malkeh which included a full fleisighe buffet. The program was filled with star performers such as Avraham Fried, Lipa Schmeltzer, Shloime Daskal, Issac Honig, Chilu Posen, Srully Willger, and Shimmy Engel. Patients and families were also treated to a hilarious performance delivered by the inimitable Badchan Yankel Miller. The patients had huge smiles on their faces as they danced onstage, holding hands with the performers. One could feel the powerful emotion that permeated the room as the singers sang in unison “Tihay hasha hazos.” Patients were especially moved to tears when the singers sang Aishes Chayil as a tribute to Frumy. It was evident throughout Shabbos how patients and their families have formed a bond with the woman that sits and holds their hands, dries their tears and comforts them with soothing words of reassurance. One mother was overheard saying that she feels that there is someone by her side other than her family sharing the burden and experiencing the pain as well. A sibling of a patient commented, “When Frumy walks into a patients room her eyes light up with happiness ; she makes them feel so loved and important.” R’Yitzchok Horowitz, founder of Bein Ish thanked sponsors, volunteers and all those that assisted in making the Shabbos the success that it was. R’Yitzchok said that Chanukah was added into the Jewish calendar, for Chachamim felt that klal yisrael needed an additional spiritual boost between Succos and Pesach. In a similar vein, Bein Ish felt it was imperative to give patients that much needed lift between grueling treatments, and therefore decided to integrate the Shabbos Hisvadus into the patients\ Bein Ish calendar. The Shabbos provides the patients with a “chiyus” that they desperately need throughout the year. Zeesh Mermelstein commented to sponsors that when one gives a dollar to Bein Ish one hundred pennies is used to benefit patients and their families One patient confided to Rabbi Horowitz that he was so moved by the genuine warmth and kedushadik atmosphere that he sat down Shabbos afternoon and completed the whole Tehillim . People came in hungry for chizuk and were fully satiated.
All who were present at the Shabbos Hisvadus felt the immense impact that the Shabbos had for the patients and their families. As one person remarked “This past Shabbos has provided me and my family with the koach that we need all year.” Bein Ish U bein Achiv- there every step of the way.
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(Written by: Michal Mermelstein)