Tonight: Lakewood to Unite as a Community Behind Ahavas Tzedakah


dr-shanikAlthough Lakewood has grown from a quiet small community within a small radius of the yeshiva to a vibrant city with every type of Torah Jew, there is still an unparalleled sense of achdus that unites Lakewood residents. It’s a unity that transcends affiliation of yeshiva or neighborhood or night kollel.

One of the very special expressions of Lakewood’s unity is the way the community has always united in caring for its own by rallying behind Ahavas Tzedakah. For over 30 years, Lakewood residents have contributed generously to Ahavas Tzedakah’s bi-annual block campaign, making sure that every family has what they need for Yom Tov. With the spiraling economic needs of our community, thousands of Lakewooders continue to participate not only in the block campaign, but also in Ahavas Tzedakah’s primary fundraiser, the annual dinner. While the block campaigns cover much of the immediate budget for Yom Tov needs, the dinner is crucial in supplementing the funds needed for Yom Tov, as well as the week-to-week and Shabbos needs.

“My wife and I have always considered it a tremendous privilege to live in our beautiful community,” says Dr. Shanik. “It is absolutely amazing to see how Lakewood is so united when it comes to helping out families in need right here in our community. Overall, this isn’t a wealthy city by any measure, yet everyone, even people who are themselves barely making ends meet, opens their hearts to Ahavas Tzedakah. We are truly humbled by the achdus and the generosity of Lakewood.”

Growing with the Times

In 1981, Dr. and Mrs. Shanik founded Ahavas Tzedakah to alleviate the financial plight of struggling families in Lakewood. The fund is an eloquent expression of their true care and concern for others. Initially, the Shaniks solicited funds from a small circle of friends and acquaintances. Ahavas Tzedakah provided assistance to some 35 needy families, mostly during the Yom Tov seasons.

As time went by and the community grew exponentially, the number of families requiring assistance increased considerably.

“There came a point in time when we realized that we had to graduate from being a ‘mom and pop’ organization,” explains Mrs. Shanik.

Ahavas Tzedakah rose to the challenge, enlisting more volunteers to expand their fundraising efforts. Before long, the organization metamorphosed from a small-scale effort to a sophisticated entity.

Today, Ahavas Tzedakah has an annual budget of over $1,500,000 and helps over 600 Lakewood families. Some receive weekly gifts, while many more benefit from bi-annual Yom Tov season supplements. Surprisingly, the typical profile of an Ahavas Tzedakah recipient is not necessarily a kollel family or even klei kodesh.

“You cannot imagine how many people there are who have either lost jobs, taken a cut in salary, or just cannot make ends meet, sometimes even with both parents working,” says Dr. Shanik.

Whatever it Takes

Ahavas Tzedakah’s mission is to provide the things that are missing in each family’s situation to make their simchas Yom Tov and Shabbos complete.

“We once received a call from a rebbi,” recalls Mrs. Shanik. “He cried: ‘How can I stand in front of the classroom with a threadbare suit?’ He’s absolutely right – and that’s exactly what Ahavas Tzedakah is here for. For some people, it is meat and chicken, or perhaps other groceries. It could be a hat, or shoes, or a dress, or even socks. But the goal is to make sure that every needy family in Lakewood has their needs met with dignity.”

It’s All in the Cards

Rather than delivering food packages or mailing checks, Ahavas Tzedakah distributes special gift cards that are redeemable in a large number of local establishments: groceries, bakeries, meat and fish establishments, and a variety of men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and shoe stores. Families can purchase exactly what they need, whether it is a new dress for a daughter, meat and poultry for a festive Yom Tov meal, or a much-needed pair of shoes.

Unity Now More Than Ever

With the Lakewood community growing so rapidly, and with the economy still so lethargic, the number of calls to Ahavas Tzedakah requesting assistance has increased exponentially.

“There are so many more families these days who have lost their regular source of parnassah,” says Mrs. Shanik. “We get calls about families where a breadwinner who had a job for fifteen or twenty-five years lost it.”

The need for Lakewood to unite as a community and support our very own neighbors is greater today than ever. It’s something we’ve been doing for over 30 years, and it’s one of those core values that we’re not about to slow down or compromise.

Fiscal Responsibility

A hallmark of Ahavas Tzedakah is its meticulous responsibility. Before a family is granted assistance, Ahavas Tzedakah performs discreet but extensive research to determine their true level of need. Even families who have already been receiving funds have their situations regularly revisited to ensure eligibility and to determine the dollar amount of the disbursement they will receive.

“Dr. and Mrs. Shanik are well-known as upstanding and ehrliche people,” notes Rav Shmuel Blech, rov of Khal Anshei Sefard. “They take their roles as gabba’ei tzedakah very seriously.”

An Eye to the Future

“Each Yom Tov we get so many more calls for help,” says Mrs. Shanik. “We are a growing community and the economy is getting tougher. There is just so much more that needs to be done.”

To the Shaniks, the only obvious course of action is to work even harder so that the need is met.

“You cannot help but be inspired by Dr. and Mrs. Shanik,” says one donor. “They are a lot older than me, but the energy they put into Ahavas Tzedakah is amazing. They just don’t stop. They don’t rest. It almost makes me feel guilty, like why am I not doing what they do? At the very least, I feel that I have to give whatever I can to be a part of such selfless chessed.”

As Dr. Shanik says with feeling, “Everyone’s needs have to be met – everyone’s, not just most families.”

It’s a call to action that is very hard to ignore.

{N. Newscenter}