Ari Sytner

Why My Sister Is a Rock Star and My Hero!

Kids rebel. It is a simple fact of life. My parents wanted me to become a doctor, instead, I grew up and became a rabbi. Similarly, my older sister Chanie, a regular Modern Orthodox kid from New York, somehow moved to Israel and ended up in the Haredi neighborhood of Beitar.

While her story may not seem particularly unique, it is what she does in her spare time that blows my mind. In addition to raising two beautiful girls, she spends every waking moment quietly tending to the needs of those in her community. When Chanie and her husband Adam learned of a local mother who died in childbirth, leaving behind a widower, a house full of children and a newborn IMG_7295baby with severe disabilities, unable to return home to join the rest of his family, Chanie welcomed baby Dovid into her home. Despite his major health challenges, five years later, Chanie continues to raise Dovid has her own son and treats this precious child as if he were royalty.

Yet, the story does not end there. When she is not busy with her home, her children and now a special-needs foster son, Chanie – much in the spirit of Abraham, responds to the critical Chessed needs of her community.

Although she is not an organization, together with Rav Chasidi, another local with the same mission, the two have partnered as an informal response team. On a daily basis, they receive the most heartbreaking requests for support – often from people too ashamed to go through the normal channels.  The three categories of their support are given to:

  1. Widows, orphans and the truly impoverished, including those who have unexpectedly lost their jobs
  2. Victims of physical/emotional abuse, molestation, and rape
  3. Those struggling with physical and mental illness, including costly medical treatments, and support to their family members

IMG_7283During a recent visit to Beitar, I was awed to walk through the streets with my sister. I enjoyed the scenic mountains and beautiful blue sky, while Chanie silently processed the painful stories of those she passed on the street. When we returned home, I asked what was weighing on her mind and she explained.  “Do you remember the young woman pushing the stroller? She just got up from Shiva this week after her husband suddenly died. Do you recall those kids playing soccer? Their mother was just put on hospice. Did you notice the woman in the supermarket standing near the bread slicer? Everytime someone slices bread, she shakes the extra crumbs into a bag so that she can feed her children!”

In what looked like an ordinary and happy community, Chanie’s insight into the pain that lived beneath the surface took my breath away. Without much resource to help each individual need, she humbly sends out a few emails each year to ask if anyone would like to make a contribution, so that she can try to wipe away a few more tears, feed some more children and comfort those in pain.

While most families are frantically cleaning and shopping for the upcoming holiday of Pesach, Chanie focuses her time and energies on helping others prepare for Pesach – looking to collect funds and find ways to help those around her.

Therefore, when I received what seemed like an annual email today, asking for financial support to help families for Pesach, before making my annual donation, I stepped back in awe to simply appreciate just how much of a rock star and a hero my big sister truly was. If being a stubborn, rebellious kid from New York turns out anything like Chanie, I hope to one day be just like her.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution, you can do so by clicking here and selecting Maoz Chittim.

You can also send a check to Chanie’s partners at Yad Eliezer, who will process the donations. Please note in the memo: SCHWARTZ BETAR FUND

Yad Eliezer/Schwartz Betar Fund
1102 E. 26th Street
Brooklyn NY 11210

About the Author
Rabbi Ari Sytner is a therapist, Huffington Post Blogger, licensed social worker, author of The Kindey Donor’s Journey and the Director of Leadership and Community Development at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future. Training community lay leaders, rabbis, and rabbinic students in the art of Jewish leadership, Rabbi Sytner uses his talents and passions to inspire the full spectrum of the Jewish people and to help build healthier models for successful synagogues, with a particular focus on millennial engagement. Rabbi Sytner is originally from Monsey, NY. A student of Rabbi Berel Wein, he has served on the pulpit for 13 years energizing out-of-town communities including Des Moines, Iowa and Charleston, South Carolina. He holds a Bachelors in psychology, a Masters in education, a Masters in social work and is currently completing a Ph.D. in Social Work on the topic of divorce in the Orthodox community. Rabbi Sytner lives in New Jersey with his wife Chana and four children.