Kupas Yom Tov: Uplifting the Yom Tov Atmosphere for Lakewood Bnei Torah

This Pesach, community-wide fundraising effort is launched so that more families can be helped

By: Shimmy Blum

A yungerman and his family devote every day of the year to Torah learning. Many of these yungerleit, compared to their friends, relatives and neighbors, live in much simpler quarters; make to do with less food, clothes and recreation; and work a lot harder. Despite the material challenges, they take utmost pride in what they do. Being immersed in Torah is their life’s dream, and they are glad to work everything else around it.

But this turns into an insurmountable challenge before Pesach.

With all penny pinching and accumulation of meager incomes, there is no way that a typical kollel budget could accommodate the overwhelming expenses: food, wine, matzah, basic clothes for the wife and children. 

What do they do now?

The above scenario is repeated many times over in homes across our community, which proudly encompasses significantly more bnei Torah than anywhere in chutz l’aretz.

And, over the past two years, hundreds of these Lakewood families received assistance that went a long way towards helping them afford Yom Tov necessities – making the entire home happier and healthier during this special season.

From $90,000 to $360,000 and Counting

The regal Yom Tov of Pesach is quickly approaching, and the expenses at this time of year are staggering. The pre-Yom Tov plight of our unassuming neighbors who “just make it” all year round doesn’t typically attract attention or dazzling media headlines. However, with all the extra shopping associated with Yom Tov they suddenly find themselves without the funds to pay for basic necessities.  What are they to do? Kupas Yom Tov, an organization that was founded with an idea that is brilliant in its simplicity: Bnei Hayeshiva helping out each other so that true Simchas Yom Tov can be achieved by all.

Indeed, Kupas Yom Tov began with an impromptu roundtable schmooze between several yungerleit in the dining room of Rabbi Meir Shimon Kalmanowitz, a BMG yungerman who has quietly been involved in various tzarchei tzibur over the years.

It was just over two years ago, two days before Purim, and the Lakewood community was hit with an excruciating double tragedy. The sudden tragic passing of a chashuve yungerman, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Rosengarten z”l, a father of five; and a beloved nine year old boy, Eliyahu Eliezer Raitzik a”h in one day.

We can never comprehend the ways of Hashem, but the consensus around the Kalmanowitz dining room table was clear: Let’s do something special, and everlasting, in memory of these two precious young neshamos. Given the time of year, helping local bnei Torah make Pesach was the obvious path.

“We were like chickens without heads,” Reb Meir Shimon recalls with a smile as he recounts how Kupas Yom Tov took off, with no time to put together anything resembling a professional organization. With the enthusiastic support of the Roshei Yeshiva shlit”a; the Rosengarten and Raitzik families; and various askanim; this kupah was launched.

The “fundraising campaign” consisted of several yungerleit with envelopes and credit card machines standing outside all BMG batei midrashim at the end of seder, as well as collecting in Satmar Bais Medrash and Kol Shimshon through early morning hours.

Within a few short weeks, this effort raised approximately $90,000. Virtually all of the money came from small donations, between $1 and $100, heartfully donated by kollel yungerleit and grassroots baalei batim. 

A Groundswell of Support

“There are many great chessed causes,” observes Reb Chaim Bornstein, a yungerman involved with Kupas Yom Tov and other local causes, “but fundraising is usually a major struggle. It is remarkable to me how enthusiastic people are to donate to Kupas Yom Tov.”

As word about Kupas Yom Tov spread, Lakewood residents jumped at the opportunity to participate in what they all knew in their hearts was long overdue. Yungerleit and baalebatim eagerly went over to the askanim to donate whatever they were able to. Several Lakewood baalebatim, even some from outside Lakewood, who were not even approached, contacted the askanim to donate.

“There is the sense that we are doing something to help our friends and neighbors whom we hold dear and admire, and people are naturally motivated for that,” explains Reb Mechel Reidler, another Kupas Yom Tov askan.

And the numbers speak for themselves. Ever since Pesach 5774, Kupas Yom Tov helped families before every Succos and Pesach. The parameters of the campaign remained similar – a very modest grassroots operation – but the amount raised went up by approximately $50,000 from Yom Tov to Yom Tov, virtually all in small donations.

For Succos of this year, approximately $250,000 was raised.

Pesach 5776 – Calling on the Broader Lakewood Community to Join

With the needs of Lakewood’s constantly growing population of bnei Torah, and the expenses of their individual families rising, Kupas Yom Tov has undertaken to take its campaign to the next level and raise more money before the upcoming Pesach, and the years ahead, b’ezras Hashem.

For this Pesach, the askanim hope to raise at least $360,000, for Kupas Yom Tov. This is ambitious to be sure, but realistic if a broader segment of the Lakewood community, particularly Kollel alumni and other baalebatim, participate in greater numbers – even with relatively modest donations.

There are hundreds of more local families who could use this assistance, and the larger families among them could use larger stipends. Simply put, the more money that is raised in this campaign, the more of our friends and neighbors can be helped, and in more significant ways.

A broad number of yungerleit, enthusiastically supported by the Roshei Yeshiva shlit”a, local rabbanim, roshei chabura, and askanim, are involved in this effort. In addition to the grassroots collecting in BMG and other large batei midrashim, Kupas Yom Tov encourages tax-deductible donations from individuals throughout Lakewood and beyond via a 24 hour donation hotline, and by mail (addressed envelope included with this magazine).

Every donation, every dollar, is an integral part of increasing simchas Yom Tov for the bnei Torah, along with their wives and children, who make Lakewood so proud. It also serves an integral role l’iluy nishmas Rabbi Rosengarten and Eli Raitzik, zichronam livracha, and offers an inestimable amount of chizuk to their family members and friends.

Chag kosher v’sameach!

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.