Our Yungeleit. Our Achrayus. Our Kupah.
By A. Dweck
Shlomo fingers his frayed Shabbos suit, the color dull with age, and sighs. There is just no way he can tack on the purchase of a new suit to the mounting Pesach expenses. “Maybe next Yom Tov,” he murmurs thoughtfully.
Baila steers the shopping wagon through the Pesach-laden aisles. She carefully selects the ingredients she will need for preparing the seudos. The budget is more than tight and Baila wonders how she can stretch the simple fare. As she makes her way to checkout, she passes the beautiful meat display and winces. “Maybe next Yom Tov,” she whispers.
Ahuva dutifully tries on the dress her mother hands her from the gemach’s display and tugs at it uncomfortably, “Mommy, it’s too big,” she groans.
“Just a bit,” her mother smiles wanly. “But it’ll have to do. Maybe next Yom Tov we can buy you a new dress that will fit you just right.”
“Maybe next Yom Tov” repeats Ahuva wistfully.
Kupas Yom Tov, a grassroots organization led by yungeleit and under the direction of the Roshei Yeshiva, is ensuring that hundreds of Lakewood kollel families don’t have to wait for the elusive “next Yom Tov.” They can prepare for this Pesach in a dignified manner and provide Yom Tov essentials for themselves and their families without financial worry and stress.
Kupas Yom Tov was formally launched in 2014 just before Pesach, l’ilui nishmas Rav Shlomo Zalman Rosengarten z”l and a young child, Eli Raitzik a”h. The organization was created with the intention of significantly easing the financial burden that Lakewood yungeleit face when covering the necessities for Yom Tov. “Kupas Yom Tov is a tzedakah for bnei Torah who need extra help for Yom Tov,” says Rabbi Mayer Shimon Kalmanowitz. “These kollel families make it through the year on a tight budget, but the expenses of Yom Tov leave them floundering and in need of extra financial assistance.” Since its inception, the Roshei Yeshiva, Roshei Chaburah and many Chashuva yungerleit are heavily involved in Kupas Yom Tov, including Rabbi Naftali Bursztyn, Rabbi Mayer Shimon Kalmanowitz, Rabbi Chaim Borenstein and Rabbi Mechel Reidler. With great syatta d’Shmaya the small scale campaign has developed into a tzedakah movement that has revolutionized the way Lakewood does chesed.
Small Donations, Big Dividends
The first campaign Kupas Yom Tov instituted yielded an outpouring of funds from the community in the amount of $90,000. Every Yom Tov since, Kupas Yom Tov’s funding goal has increased in order to help even more kollel families in dire financial straits. This Pesach 5776 the organization founders anticipate a target of $360,000 from the small donations pouring in from Lakewood and beyond. “Ninety percent of the donations we receive are from small money,” says Rabbi Borenstein. “Yungeleit, baalei batim, nshei chayil all give with open hands. They know that our kimcha depischa fund is unique, it is helping their brothers, their neighbors and their friends.” It is heartwarming to see such an outpouring of tzedakah; for an organization to reach and surpass their funding through small monies is an incredible achievement! There are over 700 families this Pesach that will benefit from the largesse of the thousands of people who donate to the Kupas Yom Tov fund. The founders, though, are not patting themselves on the back just yet. Their singular focus is to distribute money to even more kollel families in need. “Our cheshek is to bring the campaign to the next level and help even more families prepare for Yom Tov with true simcha,” says Rabbi Reidler.
Most of the Kupas Yom Tov recipients are full-time kollel members of BMG, with a few more hundred beneficiaries learning in smaller kollelim in Lakewood. These families live without the frills, their entire focus is to live a life of Torah and bring nachas ruach to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Throughout the year, they subsist on a shoe string budget, earmarking the money they bring home to basic necessities such as rent, food and tuition. They are grateful to cover these expenses and breathe a sigh of relief at the month’s end, only to have to start all over again. When Yom Tov is on the horizon, these incredible families struggle to stretch their budget to accommodate the simchas Yom Tov. The pressure at this time of year is insurmountable and Kupas Yom Tov strives to alleviate the financial burden and reinstate the joy of Yom Tov. ““These are the yungerleit whom our town looks up to and respects,” stresses Rabbi Kalmanowitz. “They are the ones who are sitting over their shtenders, day in and day out, putting in a full day within the koslei hayeshiva. The expenses of Yom Tov are many and the financial pressure can turn the simchas Yom Tov into a time of worry and stress.” Therefore, when Yom Tov approaches, the gabaim for Kupas Yom Tov begin standing in the halls outside the batei midrashim. The roshei chaburah join them as well in a show of support for the worthy cause and it is known throughout the hallowed halls of yeshiva that the Roshei Yeshiva back the Kupas Yom Tov initiative completely.
“There are many great chesed causes,” observes Rabbi Chaim Bornstein, “but fundraising is usually a major struggle. It is remarkable to see how enthusiastic people are to donate to Kupas Yom Tov.” It’s true; the achdus that permeates the Yeshiva halls and the community at large is awe-inspiring. “The camaraderie and unity is an enormous kiddush Hashem,” adds Rabbi Burstyn. “People in need feel that they have a shoulder to lean on, that the Lakewood klal is there to help them in their time of need.”
This ruach has touched yungeleit and baalei batim, who eagerly donate whatever they can, to people outside Lakewood, who are contacting Kupas Yom Tov to donate to their worthy cause.
“One point that I think is worthwhile to mention,” says Rabbi Shabsi Raitzik, father of Eli Raitzik a”h, “is the hergesh, the feeling, behind this kupah. Relatives and friends are looking out for each other and recommending each other as candidates to be recipients of this help. When we get a phone call from a yungerman recommending his friend, we can hear their true care and concern for one another, it stands out. And when we tell them, ‘No problem, we’ll look into it,’ their response is a tremendous, deep, heartfelt bracha, a thank you! They are so connected with one another and so truly caring, it is something that is extremely touching.”
“The yeshivaleit are so devoted to one another that we even have people who give who are on our list to receive! It goes to show that even those who could really use the money themselves so want to be a part of helping their fellow brother,” adds Rabbi Mayer Shimon Kalmanowitz. The underlying sentiment of the klal is that Kupas Yom Tov is our tzedakah because it is helping our yungeleit.
It is no wonder that BMG has become the greater frum community’s yeshiva; yungeleit hail from almost every city in the country and from countries around the world. These are all our yungeleit in every sense of the word and they need our help. “The yeshivaleit work so hard the whole year,” describes Rabbi Raitzik. “They are there, from early morning until the wee hours of the night, toiling and giving it their all.”
“It’s so inspiring to see how these yeshivaleit have such ahavas Torah, they really dedicate themselves to it yomam v’lailah,” says Rabbi Borenstein. “And we can add to their atmosphere of pure simcha by allowing them to do it without financial stress on their head.” Kupas Yom Tov has seized the mantle of tzedakah for our bnei Torah, will you help them to help our yungeleit?
Tax deductible checks payable to “Kupas Yom Tov” can be mailed to Kupas Yom Tov. c/o Horav Malkiel Kotler, 521 5th Street, Lakewood, NJ 08701, or Kupas Yom Tov, c/o Horav Shabsi Raitzik, 919 Central Avenue, Lakewood, NJ 08701. Donations can also be called in 24 hours to 732-334-0050.