“MY HEART IS FULL”: A Father’s Tribute To The Friendship Circle Volunteers

The following speech was delivered on May 20, 2019, at the annual Friendship Circle of Bergen County Volunteer Celebration in Tenafly, New Jersey.

Good evening.  My name is Zevi Fischer.  And, together with my wife, we are the proud parents of two amazing Volunteers, and our little son, who loves the Friendship Circle, and loves his Volunteers, whom we are here to honor tonight.

I would be remiss if I did not first thank several, important people in this room.  Thank you to Directors Rabbi Moshe and Mrs. Zeesy Grossbaum, and your entire staff for all that you do, for being our friends and for being part of our family.  Thank you also to the proud parents of our Volunteers for raising such incredible children.  And, thank you to all of the wonderful Morot, Rabbeim, teachers and school faculties for the excellent job you do in educating our Volunteers.

I would like to begin with a story.  Recently, a friend who was my co-counselor at CAMP HASC, nearly twenty-six (26) years ago, approached me and asked me, “Zevi, what is it like to be a parent of a child with special needs.  We were counselors together at CAMP HASC, but what is it like to now be a parent.”  I responded to my friend as follows, “We are no different.  Like you or any parent, we all have our challenges in life.  But the challenges specific to being a parent of a child with special needs is the sudden feeling of loneliness that descends upon you because of life’s sudden limitations.”

What do I mean? Going out to dinner as a family unit rarely happens anymore.  Going on family vacations have to be severely modified if they are going to happen at all.  Getting to Shul on a Shabbos morning, for some, can be a struggle.  And you start to feel alone.  And it hurts.  It truly hurts.  But then, suddenly, comes along this organization, called the Friendship Circle of Bergen County, with its army of Volunteers, with one stated mission: “You will never feel alone again.  Not on our watch.  Because, we, the Friendship Circle Volunteers, will bring the community to you.”

And, you do it in so many beautiful ways with so many wonderful programs: Birthday Club, Cooking Club, Bowling League, Skating Club, Mesibat Shabbat, Hebrew School, Friends at Home, End of Summer Camp, Winter Camp, Yedidainu, and more.  Whenever a Friendship Circle Volunteer is needed, a Friendship Circle Volunteer is there.

At each such program, beautiful moments happen.  Moments that profoundly affect our lives, and forever change the entire Jewish community.  One time, combing through the photographs of a Friendship Circle program, I noticed our son with a teen Volunteer whose name sounded familiar.  I later learned that his mother grew up in the same hometown as me, that his uncle was one of my closest childhood friends, and that his grandmother and my mother have been friends for over forty-five (45) years, and continue to be close friends to this day.  I immediately texted the photograph to my mother, who was doing what most people her age are doing – – sitting at the pool, in Deerfield Beach, Florida – – and mentioned our connection to the Volunteer with our son.  At that very moment, when she received the texted picture, sitting next to her was the Volunteer’s grandmother.  Immediately, both grandmothers began to cry.  One grandmother, with tears of gratitude for the existence of an organization with such amazing young men and women who are always there for her grandson, and one grandmother with tears of Nachas, pride, for her grandson who is performing such great acts of Chessed.

Clearly, the rippling effects of your Avodas HaShem know no bounds.  You profoundly affect not only the children and families whom you work with, but the entire Jewish community, both locally and nationally.

Last Thursday, our son celebrated his birthday.  And, I began to think how in a few years we will, G-D Willing, be making a Bar-Mitzvah for him.  An event that all of you will be invited to. So clear your calendars, because our family does not take “No” for an answer.

Our son’s Bar Mitzvah Parsha is Parshas Bechukosai. The last Parsha in Sefer VaYikra, containing the last Mitzvah, the Mitzvah of Maaser Behaima.  The Torah commands us to line up our animals in formation.  Lead them out of the corral.  Have them pass under a staff.  And, every tenth (10) animal is then designated as Kadosh to HaShem.  It does not matter which animal it is.  Every tenth (10) animal is Kadosh to HaShem.  And, then comes the pivotal Passuk, the verse that if you do not comply with, then you are not Yotzeh, you are not satisfying, the Mitzvah of Maaser Behaima:

“LO YEVAKER BEIN TOV LA’RA V’LO YEMIRENU (Vayikra 27:33)”

“HE MUST NOT LOOK OUT FOR GOOD AS AGAINST BAD, OR MAKE SUBSTITUTION FOR IT.”

You may not subjectively decide which animal is better, which is worse.  Which is perfect, which has an imperfection.  Which is limited, which is unlimited.  Which is challenged, which is unimpaired.  For all beings can be Kadosh before Hashem.

“LO YEVAKER BEIN TOV LA’RA V’LO YEMIRENU (Vayikra 27:33)”

It is a message that every Friendship Circle Volunteer brings to every program, and carries with them when performing your tremendous Avodas HaShem with our children.  Volunteers never see limitations or challenges.  They never see impairments or imperfections.  They only see the opportunity to be there for all of us. They carry with them their message of:

“LO YEVAKER BEIN TOV LA’RA V’LO YEMIRENU (Vayikra 27:33)”

This message of yours, truly changes our lives and, even more so, transforms our entire Jewish community.  Because of all of you, we are now a community of warmth, generosity and inclusiveness.

When I think of the Friendship Circle Volunteer, the word “Temimut,” “completeness” or “Perfection” comes to my mind.  But what does it mean to be truly “Perfect”?  Haven’t we’ve all been taught our entire lives that, “It’s Okay; Nobody’s perfect”?

I’ve thought about this question long and hard; and it was my relationship with the Friendship Circle Volunteers that revealed the answer to me.

For you see, being “Perfect,” the way I see it, is when you can look at the person on your right, and look at the person on your left, and know that you have done everything you could for that person.  That there wasn’t one thing left you could do.  That you have truly put yourselves in that person’s heart.  That’s, being, “Perfect.”

Tonight, this room is “Perfect.”  Because my heart is full.  My heart is full.

On behalf of myself and my wife, and all of the Friendship Circle families, Thank You.  May you continue to me a source of Nachas and pride to your parents and all of your teachers.  And may you continue to go from strength to strength.  LeChu Mey-Chayil, L’Chayil, L’Chayil.

About the Author
Zevi Fischer is an attorney who practices in the area of real estate litigation. He was born and raised in Forest Hills, New York. He now lives in Teaneck, New Jersey.
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