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Putting a New Spin on Chanukah with Torah Studies Celebration

December 30, 2015

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette


Hamaspik of Rockland County Men’s Program Completes Mishnah

On Monday, December 14, the last of Chanukah’s eight days, a group of young men marked the mastery of a section of the Mishnah, the ancient compendium of Jewish law, in the traditional way: With a siyum.

Meaning “ending” or “completion,” siyum refers specifically to completing the study of any section of Jewish religious texts—a phenomenon common in schools and synagogues alike.

And because of the intellectual and spiritual accomplishment that it represents, a siyum in the Jewish community is cause for not-insignificant celebration.

Feeling like they were part of the community, as they indeed are, were a group of young men who daily attend Hamaspik of Rockland County’s exemplary Day Habilitation (Day Hab) program.

Joined by their fellow “Day Habbers” and staff, and honored by the guest presence of several Hamaspik of Rockland County administrative staffers and leaders, the men took their rightful place of honor at the head table of the Day Hab’s dining/multipurpose room.

Kicking off the program were brothers Moshe Fried, Direct Support Professional (DSP) and a longtime and valued Day Hab employee, and the more recently hired Nathan Fried, Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Maintenance Manager.

Both are also gifted musicians, hailing from a musical family; Moshe plays the trumpet and Nathan the trombone.

The two of them could be found in one corner of the room, backed by DSP and talented keyboardist and singer Mordechai Dov Neuhauser, churning out merry live music suiting the occasion.

With the guests having arrived, the music stopped and Mr. Neuhauser took to the mike as Master of Ceremonies, introducing the event’s opening event, the recitation of the last paragraph of Mishnah in the section that had been studied by the group.

Mr. Shimon “Shimmy” Goldberger got that honor.

Reciting the last few lines out loud, Shimmy also quickly explained what they meant. The siyum’s guest of honor and featured speaker, career schoolteacher and popular community member, emcee Rabbi Yosef Dovid Ungar, took the stand next.

Putting a spiritual spin on the timeless Chanukah game of dreidel, the four-sided spinning top, Rabbi Ungar noted that the entire world turns similarly at the Hand of God.  “Nothing happens by itself,” he stated, just like no dreidel can stand and spin on its pointed bottom by itself.

Likewise does the Creator, and only the Creator, know where and how the dreidel—or anything, for that matter—will land, rendering the perennially popular Chanukah toy a veritable lesson in spiritual faith.

Rabbi Ungar then turned his attention to Meyer Wertheimer, founder of Hamaspik and Executive Director of Hamaspik of Rockland County.  Rabbi Ungar thanked Mr. Wertheimer for making Hamaspik what it is today, and specifically for making possible the community mainstay that is Hamaspik’s Day Hab program.

He concluded with motivational comments on being proactive and filled with life, followed by a real-life story of faith in action heard from a friend—in which a man’s outlandish and unjustified fine of hundreds of thousands was dismissed when even legal experts said there was no hope.

The life of the daughter of the official who ultimately dismissed the unwarranted (but otherwise ironclad) fine had been indirectly saved decades ago by that desperate and despairing man.

Fresh off that inspiration, Mr. Wertheimer took the floor to personally wish “Mazel tov!” congratulations to the group of men completing the tract of Mishnah.

In an ensuing moment of public recollection and reflection, the agency leader divulged that his career-long involvement in community human services began with his teenage volunteering to provide personal care and hygiene assistance to a venerated community elder.

Having had personal first-hand, hands-on experience in the directcare field, Mr. Wertheimer expressed identification with the vital work performed every day by the Day Hab’s DSPs.

He then moved on to hail Day Hab Manager Pinchas Knopfler, whose understated dedication to his job, one that far exceeds his official job description, is known throughout Hamaspik.

The Executive Director likewise singled out Hamaspik of Rockland County Director of Day Services Shlomo Kornbluh for his off-site work in securing quality mainstream gainful labor for the gentlemen Hamaspik serves.  He also praised Director of Development Zalman Stein for his hard-driving quality work.

Framed certificates of achievement were then handed out to the young men, who were only too happy to come to the front of the room, where the elegant documents featuring their names and singing their praises were handed to them with fanfare (and photography).

Beneficiaries of Hamaspik that they are, the young awardees have long felt a part of their surrounding communities.  And at Chanukah, of whose several secondary themes is one of education, they went home that afternoon not only feeling embraced, but elevated and celebrated, too.

Which is just about the perfect spin to give the last day of Chanukah.