(Courtesy of Chabad of West Orange) Over 200 people attended the Chabad of West Orange annual dinner, honoring Rachelle and Richard Press, Lina and Felix Kanchik and Regina and Ruslan Dimarsky. The theme of the dinner was 6.13, Do A Mitzvah!
The Presses have a long history with Chabad. They were married by Rabbi Kasowitz and have had multiple grandchildren named there. The Kanchiks and Dimarskys both came from the former Soviet Union and both celebrated a son’s bar mitzvah this past year at Chabad. They spoke about the importance of Jewish observance for themselves, their children and grandchildren.
The date 6/13 signifies the 613 commandments that are contained in the Torah. The Chabad of West Orange’s dinner was themed around the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s message of increasing random acts of good deeds.
But the celebration didn’t end there. When Arline and Mel Schwechter showed up at the dinner, Rabbi Mendy Kasowitz, director of Chabad West Orange, called Arline to the stage to tell their story of the many acts of kindness they have received from community volunteers at the Kessler Rehabilitation Center.
Mel Schwechter was 69 years old, a successful attorney and an accomplished triathlete when he participated in a work-organized bicycle excursion in Virginia in 2018. A horrible accident occurred near George Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate, leaving Mel in a coma. Trauma experts arranged for him to be transferred to the renowned Kessler Rehabilitation facility in West Orange. And that’s where Mel and Arline met Barry Geiger, Avi Laub and Rabbi Kasowitz.
The Schwechters shared with community that the kindness they experienced was different than anything they’ve experienced before. Arline explained that Barry and Avi came to visit Mel at Kessler every day, putting on tefillin and learning. They brought him a lulav and an etrog during Sukkot and every Shabbat had a minyan in place because of the advance planning of the. Zichron David Bikur Cholim, sponsored by Joseph and Lori Rozehzadeh.
Mel steadily improved, although he is wheelchair bound and partially incapacitated due to his brain injury. After being discharged from Kessler, the Schwechters moved into the Wilshire Grand Hotel in West Orange to remain close to Mel’s therapy specialists. When Arline asked what they were going to do on Shabbat, Barry and Avi replied, “Chabad of course! It’s right across the street.”
“I walked in with Mel cold. He was in a wheelchair,” said Arline at the dinner. “Automatically, two men took Mel from me, put a tallit on him, sat with him and worked with him. It was an amazing thing to see...nobody knew us.”
“Barry showed so much patience and made sure Mel followed the davening. He showed so much dedication and commitment, coming to the Wilshire every day to bring Mel to shul. When Barry could not come see Mel, the rabbi himself came to put the tefillin on with Mel and help him pray.”
“Everyone here is so amazing. Since you live here, you may not realize how special you are. So I just want to thank you.”
For more information about Chabad of West Orange visit www.chabadwestorange.com