When 16-year-old Ariella Steinreich heard that four young siblings died in a March 22 house fire in her hometown of Teaneck, N.J., she felt an urgent need to help the three surviving sisters and their still-hospitalized mother, Philyss Seidenfeld.“It wasn’t like ‘Should I do something?’ It was ‘I have to do something,’ ” said Steinreich, a sophomore at Teaneck’s Ma’ayanot High School for Girls, who started the Seidenfeld Chesed Project the day after the fire. She and two of her friends, Na’ama Ratzersdorfer and Rebecca Stern, also 16, enlisted the help of their classmates at Ma’ayanot and other students at 15 area yeshiva day schools. “Our goal is to raise as much as we can,” said Steinreich, who plans to continue to fundraise for at least another month.
Since each participating school has yet to tally funds collected and pledges made, Steinreich said she could not yet provide an accurate figure of money raised.Ari Seidenfeld, 15; his brothers, Noah, 6 and Natan, 4; and sister, Adira, 5, died when a swift-moving fire broke out in their three-story home. Five hours before, firefighters investigated a report of smoke but found nothing. Only later did they learn that an overloaded electrical circuit caused the blaze.
With the help of a neighbor, who propped a ladder against the burning house, sisters Zahava, 14, and Aviva, 7, managed to escape through a bathroom window. The eldest Seidenfeld child, Helena, 17, was in Israel.Checks, made out to Ma’ayanot, can be sent to the Seidenfeld Chesed Project, c/o Ma’ayanot High School for Girls, 1650 Palisades Ave., Teaneck, N.J., 07666. All the money will be donated to Project Ezrah, a Teaneck-based nonprofit.Steinreich said she and her peers would like to create a special discretionary fund for the surviving siblings. “We can’t bring back the three brothers and the sister they lost, but we can bring some [happiness] back into their lives.”