Nysha Recent News

Purim Decision 2016: Picking Packs, Proffering Picks and Presenting Preferences

April 5, 2016  

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

At Hamaspik Homes, Persons Supported in Personal Penchants and Proclivities

Dressing as a clown, a butterfly, or a rabbit was on the menu.

And at Fosse, the choice was “Yes!” for all three.

It was Purim, you see, the holiday symbolizing G-d’s costumed hand in everything that happens in life (hence the symbolic costumes).

And at the Fosse Shvesterheim Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA) group home, part of the Hamaspik of Rockland County network, it was indubitably Purim as three otherwise conventional residents individually opted for those unconventional outfits.

But not to worry: the entire world around them—at least the immediate neighborhood—had also gone merrily mad, at least for a day, with neighbors and strangers alike flitting by in ridiculous getups, and the more ridiculous and laugh-inducing, the better.

On conventional days, decisions revolve around what to eat for breakfast, which task to complete first, or even which tasks make it onto your to-do list. On Purim, it’s not just “What do I wear?” but “Who will I visit?”, “What will I give them?” and, not to forget, “Should I also run for President?” (Just kidding.)

Serving up selection

Purim was definitely cooking at Hamaspik of Kings County, where the South 9th Shvesterheim IRA served up all the old-time Eastern European Purim culinary traditions for the Purim seudah meal.

Those would include kreplach, which are not to be confused with kraut or holiptches.

But personal choice at Purim was also cooking at South 9th, where “this year was amazing because the girls were so involved,” reports Home Manager Mrs. Malkie Cziment. “They made their decisions.”

Those decisions, besides whether to eat any combination of kreplach, kraut or holiptches, revolved around selecting Purim costumes from catalogs or local brick-and-mortar shops, as well as browsing the aisles of neighborhood discount stores for original Mishloach Manos containers.

The Sunday before Purim, which would be March 20, the young women were driven as far as upstate Monsey and Kiryas Joel to execute early deliveries of Purim goodie packages to parents.

Those hand-packaged containers, filled with love as much as with edibles, also prominently featured photographs of their senders, giving thrilled receivers the big picture.

At South 9th’s sister home up in Rockland, the Fosse Shvesterheim adroitly run by Manager Mrs. Esty Landau, food was also on the Purim menu in a big way, what with the group-home cook whipping up an array of meat dishes, among other servings.

Eating out (and just getting out and about) was as big a part of the day as eating in for much of Hamaspik’s group-home resident body.  Residents of the Wannamaker Briderheim IRA, the Hamaspik of Rockland County group home expertly led by manager Joel Horowitz, enjoyed not just the one central afternoon feast on Purim day, but an equally enriching one the night before. That party, presided over by a staff DSP, featured Purim-typical singing, dancing and good food.

For Home Manager Yossi Moskovitz of Hamaspik of Kings County’s 61st St. Briderheim IRA, those jaunts included runs on parents’ homes to drop off Mishloach Manos—and, reports one DSP, a run down Borough Park’s famed 13th Avenue commercial corridor, a veritably impassable beehive of motorized and pedestrian traffic any day of the year, and infinitely more so on Purim.

Still, the gentlemen and their support staff wended their way down the street, soaking up the colorful once-a-year sights and sounds—the upbeat music blaring from store PA systems and passing automobiles alike and the throngs of costumed kids escorted by mothers and fathers.

Once back home from delivering food, there was more food.

Picking paraphernalia

Hamaspik of Orange County’s Dinev Inzerheim Intermediate Care Facility (ICF), Hamaspik’s oldest group home and its only ICF, saw Program Director Mrs. Etty Brach and staff assist residents in fashioning their own costumes and other paraphernalia in the run-up to this Purim.

Their theme was clowns, and residents reflected that merry motif in every Purim custom: costumes, Mishloach Manos food gift packages and even home décor (though that’s not a custom).

In the days before Purim, a plethora of pompoms, or at least yarn for pompoms, was purchased at local retailers for usage at Dinev.  The group home’s Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) then painstakingly worked with individual residents to form the furry threads into the familiar balls of fluff.

The pompoms, homemade or bought ready-made, were affixed to headbands, blouses, skirts and other apparel items on Purim day, turning ordinary children into colorful clowns.

The clown getups were only matched with pompom-festooned boxes and tote bags.  These would be the Mishloach Manos edible gifts given to family and friends.

“It was very exciting for them,” said a Dinev DSP, commenting on the preparatory work begun a week before the festival.

It only got more exciting for them on Purim day, as the residents hung around their house gleefully awaiting guests—who came in the form of off-duty staff and their family members to visit their beloved charges.

Those “shifts,” reports the staff member, were Dinev residents’ favorite part of Purim.

The sound of Purim

Both getting out and about, and later staying right at home, was music to the ears of the residents of the Grandview Briderheim IRA, another Hamaspik of Rockland County group home.

That’s because music—lively, upbeat and downright infectious Purim music—was pumping in the Hamaspik Transport Van as the young gentlemen were shuttled to the homes of their beloved families across the Hudson Valley to deliver Mishloach Manos packages to parents and siblings. (The group even paid a surprise visit to the Kiryas Joel home of Hamaspik founder Mr. Meyer Wertheimer, where it was accorded a royal reception.)

Music filled the air as well back home at Grandview, what with a PA system—complete with six new high-energy CDs bought and uploaded to an MP3 player, and a cordless microphone—on hand to allow the residents to sing along with the songs of their choice as best they could.

Adding another note to the proceedings, notes Manager Joel Schnitzer, was the gift of a Purim-story narration CD by a resident’s mother, who contributed the children’s recording of the Purim saga told against the background of thrilling and evocative sound effects.

Throughout it all, the PA system and its electronic library of newly-purchased music was available and blasting music all day, with residents seen throughout the day freely picking up the mic to sing to their hearts’ content.

Considering how much individuals with developmental disabilities respond to music, especially when it’s live, Manager Mr. Lipa Laufer of Hamaspik of Orange County’s Acres Briderheim saw to it that residents were treated to four consecutive afternoon hours of live music, courtesy of the keyboardist in the living room.

Most people, of course, have a keyboardist in the living room.

(All kidding aside, professional “one-man band” keyboardists are virtually a dime a dozen in the Orthodox community on Purim, where their performances are very common and very affordable.)

But on Purim day, reports Mrs. Laufer, off-duty Acres DSPs were constantly circling back to their hearts’ callings, visiting their charges on Purim day along with their own broods.  The group home’s living room was thus a constant scene of foot traffic, as visitors formed circles dancing to the beat of the live music.

More significantly, though, reports Mrs. Laufer, is her repeated yearly observation that people in Kiryas Joel respond enthusiastically to individuals with developmental disabilities on Purim.

This year was no different, Mrs. Laufer points out.  Once again, as Acres residents were wheeled or walked through village streets en route to their Mishloach Manos rounds, complete strangers—in various states of Purim euphoria—were seen stopping to warmly wish the gentlemen a happy holiday or dance for/with them right there on the streets, and usually both.

Most people, of course, make room in their lives for people on the street who happen to have disabilities—even more than those who have a keyboardist in the living room.

At least in “KJ”, and at least on Purim.

Delivering the goods

Besides guests strumming guitars, a whole crew of visitors accompanying a Megillah-reader (the Scroll of Esther is read to an exacting chant from a parchment scroll) who read Megillas Esther for residents, and people otherwise coming and going all day, nothing much happened on Purim at South 9th.

Other than that, Purim at the residence was “beautiful” and “extraordinary,” reports Mrs. Cziment—and, this year, with a new twist: Twister!

In a burst of democratic decision power, the residents collectively opted for theming most of their Purim paraphernalia with the popular game Twister, whose floor sheet of colored dots has for decades tied playing friends and family members into knots.

Cookies, tote bags, tablecloths and, above all, Mishloach Manos packages, all featured those signature dots this year—and all so well done that “nobody thinks that they made it,” Mrs. Cziment says.

But armed with their Twister-themed packages, the young ladies visited parents all across Williamsburg and Borough Park, where they were thrillingly welcomed with open arms.

Ditto for their sisters at the 38th St. Shvesterheim, where staff DSPs Mr. and Mrs. Chezkel (Joel) Fisher lovingly invited residents to join them at the home of Mr. Fisher’s own parents.

Of course, the “girls” were also first transported all over those Brooklyn neighborhoods to pop in on their own parents, which was, reports Manager Mr. Israel Indig, their favorite part of the day. “Every time they visited another house, the excitement started all over again,” he reports.

For denizens of the Forshay Briderheim IRA, Hamaspik of Rockland County’s first residence, Manager Mrs. Fischer recounts that their primary source of Purim fun was likewise going about Monsey delivering Purim goodies to friends and family in the neighborhood.

On top of that, several elected to spend late Purim afternoon (and well into the evening) at the grand Purim feast of Grand Rabbi Chaim Rotenberg, known affectionately locally as the “Forshay Rebbe” and whose large synagogue is just down the street from the group home.

Wannamaker residents were likewise presented with options of which friends to which they’d like to personally deliver Mishloach Manos.  Those friends, elaborates Manager Horowitz, includes an immediate neighbor who regularly visits, the gabbai (a manager of sorts) at a local synagogue, and several beloved local DSPs they know from the Hamaspik of Rockland County Day Habilitation (Day Hab) program that they regularly attend.

At Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Arcadian Briderheim IRA, staff reports the converse.

As residents opted to enjoy their Purim at home instead of visiting friends and neighbors, friends and neighbors brought Purim right to their doorstep, and then some.

Thanks to several spirited guests, and one devoted neighbor in particular, the Purim spirit inside Arcadian was one rollicking tornado of singing and dancing, leaving the residents with hearts brimming with happiness (and a table filled with Mishloach Manos packages).

Chewing on choice

Meanwhile, at Hamaspik of Orange County’s Bakertown Shvesterheim “Step-down” IRA (so called for its step down in supervision), most of the residents weren’t home for the holiday—leaving the Gazette with little to report.

Those who left chose to go to the homes of friends and family for Purim, explains Hamaspik of Rockland County Quality Assurance officer Mr. Eliezer Appel, who is also the husband of Bakertown Manager Mrs. Ruchy Appel.  “That’s the whole point!” he says, commenting on the choice-centered philosophy now espoused by state and federal authorities.

“It’s an independent facility,” adds Bakertown DSP Joseph Ergas.  “They can come and go as they want.”  So what choices faced Bakertown residents this Purim?

“What to do with all that nosh!” Ergas jokes.