Special Chanukah donation helps six families in need

“This Chanukah, the light of the late Sheila Hartman radiated with love and kindness.”

By Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn

Chabad of Centrepointe

‘You saved our Chanukah! For the first time in months, I had a good night’s sleep without the constant stresses that come with being a single full-time mom living on a very low fixed income,” wrote one recipient of a special Chanukah gift. “Your gift helped me pay bills, get our 10-year-old minivan repaired so I can safely keep driving it, fill our fridge with food for the holidays, surprise my children with a gift every day of Chanukah.”

This was an example of some of the heartfelt letters we received following an incredible act of generosity by Larry Hartman in memory of his beloved late wife Sheila.

Sheila was a pillar of light giving up of her time and energy to help the elderly and less fortunate. She was a constant fixture at Hillel Lodge providing companionship and comfort for the residents.

With her passing nine months ago, it seemed like this pillar of light was extinguished. With courageous tenacity and community devotion, her husband Larry ensures that her light of generosity and sensitivity continues to shine.

A few days before Chanukah, Larry called me to his office. He had something important to discuss with me. He looked directly into my eyes and asked me what can be done to help families before the holidays who may need financial assistance due to disability or illness. Without waiting for a response, he asked me to distribute $30,000 to six families – $5,000 to each family. Larry wanted to make sure these families feel support and love; that they feel included. For some, the holiday season is a time of excitement while for others it is filled with anxiety and vulnerability.

We are very blessed to live in a Jewish community that takes the responsibility of ensuring inclusion for those of all abilities emotionally or physically. Organizations like Tamir, Jewish Family Services of Ottawa and, more recently, JOIN (Jewish Ottawa Inclusion Network) have been champions of facilitating programming, services and awareness for adults and children with exceptionalities.

Chabad of Centrepointe recently launched a teen-led initiative called A Ripple Effect. Its objectives are to bring fun and friendship to children who are dealing with illness, disability or trauma. A group of over 30 selfless teens go out every week to visit their kid buddies. They may watch a movie together, play games, read books or go on an outing. These visits also give the parents an opportunity for some respite; they may catch up on laundry or may simply rest or relax.

As the co-directors of A Ripple Effect, my wife Bassy and I were given the distinct pleasure of distributing these generous Chanukah gifts.

In the subsequent feedback I received, one dad told me how they had planned an annual trip to drive to visit family during the holidays but were so disappointed because they did not have the funding. In a thank-you note they wrote, “Our real one and only time to see our cousins and take the kids on a much needed family time for Chanukah was in ruins. All the money we had carefully saved up all year for this trip was now gone. And then came a Chanukah miracle. Rabbi Mendelsohn called us with the exciting news and when we opened and saw your incredible gift, we actually cried. Thank you for being our Chanukah miracle.”

Another grateful mom wrote, “With all these payments I was a bit overwhelmed with the holidays. How will I pay for all of this? ... Then there it was...Bassy presenting me with this cheque of $5000. I was shocked…couldn’t believe this was real.”

There is no question that this Chanukah, the light of the late Sheila Hartman radiated with love and kindness.