In a twist on the traditional pre-bat mitzvah volunteer project, several dozen mothers and daughters will gather Sunday morning to do a chesed project in honor of a girl who will not be able to attend, or take part in, her own bat mitzvah ceremony.
They will pack 120 kosher food packages for Forest Hills Hospital, part of North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital, Jewish patients and their families who need to be in the hospital over Shabbat.
The Mother’s Day activity is organized by Rabbi Eli and Shulamis Blokh to mark the bat mitzvah of their daughter, Chaya Feiga, who turned 12 this week. The couple are Rego Park emissaries of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement and directors of the Russian Jewish Community Center of Queens.
Chaya Feiga, who was born with several physical special needs and is in “fragile health,” lives in St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside, where she requires 24/7 treatment and is only infrequently able to leave the grounds.
Chaya Feiga is one of 10 children, “kina hora,” Shulamis Blokh said, using the Hebrew expression for “there should be no evil eye,” which traditional Jews say when referring to a propitious situation.
A native of Belarus, Blokh designed the innovative chesed project inviting the local Jewish community to participate though flyers and email notices. In addition to assembling the packages, the female-only event at the Chabad of Rego Park’s recently opened Chabad will feature snacks, a speech by Blokh on the merit of bikur cholim, the mitzvah of visiting the ill, and the writing of some “be well” greeting cards for Chaya Feiga.
“This is her mitzvah,” Chaya Feiga’s opportunity to inspire people to do for others, to teach about bikur cholim, Blokh said. “It gives us a feeling that we are doing something for our daughter. We want to connect her birthday to a mitzvah. We want to connect people, to have them do something together.”
Rabbi Sholly Weiser, program director of the Chabad-sponsored Yaldei Shluchei HaRebbe organization, which coordinates activities for families of Lubavitch emissaries who are raising special needs children, said the Blokhs’ project in their daughter’s honor “gives support” and allows members of the wider community to join together in a meaningful project.
Other members of the Rego Park Jewish community, which includes a large number of families with roots in the former Soviet Union, have offered to recite verses of Psalms or to dedicate a day’s Torah study or a special act of kindness on Sunday to Chaya Feiga’s honor, Blokh said.
The 120 food packages will contain bottles of grape juice and other non-perishable items. 120 is a “symbolic number,” Blokh said. It was, according to the Torah, the number of years that Moses lived, and a traditional Jewish blessing for a long life.
The Forest Hills Hospital is on the grounds of the area’s medical institutions that the Blokhs visit regularly as part of their duties. After Sunday’s event, Blokh said, the entire family will visit Chaya Feiga.
The Chabad of Rego Park’s chesed project will take place Sunday, May 11, 10-noon, at 97-17 64 Road, second floor. For information contact email@example.com.