The treats are yum and the visits may be fun, but for elderly nursing home residents Purim can be anything but happy, with many receiving few, if any, guests and edible gifts often off limits due to dietary restrictions. Recognizing that what should be the happiest day of the year can be extremely lonely and discouraging for seniors, Bnos Agudath Israel of America and Bnos Bikur Cholim joined forces once again in a Mishloach Manos campaign that left Bnosers and those that they visited smiling from ear to ear.
The festivities began with an incredible display of achdus on Rosh Chodesh Adar and ran until Purim, with girls from 17 high schools in Brooklyn, Queens, Far Rockaway, Manhattan and Lakewood packing up sugar free hamantaschen and chocolate and delivering the goodies to residents in 32 local nursing homes. In addition to the joy of being able to spend time with their enthusiastic and bubbly guests, for many of the seniors, receiving mishloach manos brought back warm memories of times gone by, adding an extra dimension of happiness to what can be a difficult time of year. The girls were so proud to be able to bring a healthy dose of Purim cheer to the seniors they visited and their smiles and giggles were even sweeter than the delicious gifts that they had so lovingly assembled. A special thank you to all of the participating schools and the Agudist Benevolent Society, which sponsors Bnos Bikur Cholim, whose members visit frequently with nursing home residents and the homebound.
The annual campaign has grown in size with every passing year and Mrs. Chana Baila Hass, national director of Bnos Agudath Israel, noted that so many additional high schools expressed an interest in participating that the initial order of 3,000 hamantaschen was upped to 4,500 in order to accommodate the additional demand.
“We are literally swamped with phone calls from schools that want to take part in the project and we had to turn away quite a few because we just couldn’t get enough sugar free hamantaschen to accommodate them all,” said Mrs. Hass. “Unlike other recreational activities, this brings seniors a lot of personal attention and the ruach that the girls bring with them is palpable. It comes as no surprise that we get phone calls from nursing homes after Purim asking us if we can please bring the girls back again and our Bnosers realize that what they are doing means so much to their elderly friends.”
Not to be left out of the excitement, Bnos One on One staged various events of its own, getting our younger Bnosers pumped up for Purim. A project of Bnos Agudath Israel of America sponsored by The Center for Jewish Family Life that pairs sixth and seventh grade “little sisters” with twelfth grade “big sisters,” Bnos One on One was in full swing, setting up a fabulous carnival in Lakewood and running Mishloach Manos exchanges in Brooklyn, Monsey, Lakewood and Far Rockaway. All of our girls enjoyed the opportunity to start celebrating Purim in advance and the special camaraderie that is the hallmark of the program was evident throughout, with everyone having an amazing time.
“Fun-filled activities in a Torah environment have always been the hallmark of Bnos,” said Mrs. Hass. “The packaging event was extremely enjoyable and solid proof that chesed and good times go together and that even high school girls can really help others. In a similar vein, Bnos One on One also clearly demonstrates that every single girl can make a difference in someone else’s life.”