Covid Bears bear up with hugs that keep on coming

Rabbi Claire modeling the Bears from Bergenfield tshirt when they were first distributed. Picture taken on Rabbi Claire's camera and sent to her for distribution.
Rabbi Claire modeling the Bears from Bergenfield tshirt when they were first distributed. Picture taken on Rabbi Claire's camera and sent to her for distribution.

“Covid Bears” is Bears from Bergenfield turned onto its head. What can one do when our general recipients are afraid to receive the teddy bears if Covid might be lurking in any and every corner? How do we reassure our recipients that we are still around and available for support if we can’t deliver the toys? Text? Write stories? Share stories?  Sort and pack at a distance?

What will our Covid Bear story look like once Covid is considered over? Post covid will probably look similar to what we are used to here at Bears from Bergenfield, but not exactly. Everything will be “not exactly” as we once knew it. But what lessons will we take forward from our experiences that worked for us pre Covid and during Covid? How do we integrate our new knowledge, due to Covid, with what worked for all of us pre Covid? We will be collecting our data as we proceed forward, wading the waters through Covid. We also will not “be throwing the baby out with the bath water” as we develop and design a new Bears from Bergenfield, if it is so required of us.

So what worked? What will we keep? Reminding donors that our toys are offered to any and all in need. It is not solely designed to redistribute our donations to only one kind of children.  All children are welcome recipients, regardless of race, color, religion, or lifestyle orientation. Distributing toys to anyone in need, adults, teens, and children alike who needs a bear hug is our motto. Pick up toys from those donors who do not have time to deliver the toys to us. Sort, count, and pack the toys, for those who do not have time to complete these activities.  Continue to ask for donations: suitcases, duffels, stuffed toys that are no larger than a Build a bear, limit the plastic donations, remind donors to contribute new or gently used toys,  collect funds to help us cover the costs of shipping if necessary, thank our donors, continue to build relationships with fellow recipients in Israel and abroad, keep writing teddy bear stories reflecting Covid feelings, and keep our lines of communication open.

Proverbs 14:

21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.


Rabbi Claire distributing the stuffed toys in Gilo Jerusalem, in a daycare for children from economically depressed neighborhoods. Picture taken by Adena Levine, Director at the Gan in Gilo for redistribution by Rabbi Claire.

Proverbs 28:

27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

My mother, Marvell D. Ginsburg z”l, supported our project in so many ways. Rest in peace, Mom. She taught me to share my toys. PIcture taken by Rabbi Claire Ginsburg Goldstein.

Pictures set in collage taken by Rabbi Claire Ginsburg Goldstein for public distribution.

That was pre-Covid. The teddy bears that left paw prints behind..Let me count the paw prints…

So many ways to bring joy and happiness to children during stressful situations, see picture above.  Even dogs can bring cheer until the children can receive pet stuffed dogs in their place. So much easier to give a stuffed dog than the real thing to a child in stress.  Just ask Sam, aged 10, when he was hospitalized and received a pet stuffed dog as a cheering up gift. Lending a teddy bear to a child in distress works as well.

Bringing more awareness to children recuperating from stressful situations. How do we alert others in ways to help the stressed child? Can teddy bears fill that gaping hole when coloring books or art projects may not do the job of quieting the disturbed sense in a sick child?

“Turning toys into treasures” produced by reporter Paul Goldman, at MSNBC, appeared and was published after a reporter found out that our charity project extended from my garage in Bergenfield to Ben Gurion to the beds of sick children in all major hospitals. “Building bridges with bears” became our go-to slogan.

But what has changed?: the course of giving? of receiving? The fear of contacting Covid is rampant, everyone’s chief concern, and paramount. Since we can’t see the germs, the fear is out of proportion, it seems, but then probably not. Since we can’t see our way to control the Covid pandemic or our response to it, we are resolved to find a way to control our fears and anxieties. We want to be able to continue on with our project in the most productive way, bearing up with our uncertain future. So with or without Covid, we bear up.

Picture sent to me by my son, Seth Goldstein to be used to aid in my story telling.

Rebbetzin Sharona Halickman delivering my bag of toys via Seth, my son, that he schlepped from New York to the new stuffed toy owners at Beit Heyeled located in Gilo. She sent me the picture to post in my story.

We have organized 10 + acts of HeSed in the hOuse this past Covid Summer 2020 already. These acts have included 1) Seth Goldstein, my son, schlepping a suitcase of donated teddy bears to Jerusalem for Rebbetzin Sharona Halickman to retrieve the toys and deliver them to the children in waiting. Those children were engaged in after school activities being organized by Beit Hayeled in Gilo. (popular place). 2) Elaine Swerdlik Gilboa stepped up to ship toys to Israeli children in need via her daughter Michal, living in Tel Aviv.   3) We involved Israeli children living here, to have them give back to Israeli children abroad in Israel, their initial and eternal homeland. 4) We invited children at the MLK center in Long Beach, NY to receive toy donations on USA NCSY’s Day of Giving, thanks to Rabbi Ethan J. Katz, organizer. Pictured in past blogs.

I took the selfie of both of us before Elaine took the two bags of toys and shipped them off to Israel for Bears from Bergenfield. Elaine has given me permission to print it.

We have organized and participated in several acts of kindness, but we are not finished. Covid might have stopped our world cold, but we are still bearing and pressing forward with more bears.

Presently my garage has a few hundred stuffed toys remaining. Can anyone use a spare or lone bear, if yes, please adopt one? I bet that you can offer a warm, loving home. If you can take a bear and can stare down Covid in its face, please help yourself. There are still many bears that can use a new home with 100+ brand new ones just donated.

Thank you bear-y much.

You just never know where your act of chesed of good deeds, will touch down and raise those spirits up towards the heights of Heaven.

Proverbs 19:

17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Shabbat shalom and Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Claire as the teddy bear Rabbi

Covid Sukkot 2020

About the Author
Rabbi Claire conceived of the concept Bears from Bergenfield upon a routine check of the Israeli staff at camp SLC August of 2001. She realized that the world needed to wake up and become aware of the suffering the Israelis were enduring as the Palestinians continued their intifada against them. After 18 years and 195,000 teddy bears amassed and redistributed, Rabbi Claire is searching for more public platforms to proliferate and advance her message, that Jewish lives matter, especially with a teddy bear. Rabbi Claire lives in Bergen County with her husband of 38 years, Larry, and their 4 children, Sam, Shira, Seth, and Sarah Rose, plus their incoming son-in-law Ivan. For further information of how to get involved with this endearing project, contact her at
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