BY JOE MARVILLI
While Project Chaim is known for giving a helping hand to others, it recently received one itself.
The Queens Jewish Community Council’s program was given a donation of $5,000 from Michael Fassler, CEO of CenterLight Health System. He had heard about how Project Chaim’s work was threatened by a lack of funds and felt it fit CenterLight’s mission of improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers in need.
Since Queens is home to the second largest population of Jewish elderly, the QJCC established Project Chaim in 2011 for frail, homebound seniors who live alone. These people wish to remain kosher but struggle to do so in their twilight years. Many are impoverished and are cared for by non-Jewish home attendants. Project Chaim provides Kosher Meals on Wheels to 140 seniors, giving them nutritional meals that also keep to a kosher diet.
According to Cynthia Zalisky, QJCC executive director, the organization discovered that some of Queens’ elderly were being put on a waiting list by the Dept. of the Aging for Kosher Meals on Wheels. The council found this unacceptable and stepped in to help.
“Thanks to medical science, these people are alive way beyond the strategic plan someone made about age. Mobility is an issue. They’re homebound and they’re under the Jewish radar. They’re under everybody’s radar,” she said. “I did a survey of our clients and the average age is 91. We are really their only contact with the outside world. We have to care for them.”
While Project Chaim was funded for some time through philanthropic dollars, the QJCC found out last June that the fiscal donors would not be able to keep the money flowing. The organization was determined to keep helping these elderly-in-need and received a financial boost from CenterLight, which they knew through the Margaret Tietz Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Jamaica.
“We made the moral decision that we could not turn our backs on these people,” Zalisky said. “When [CenterLight] became aware of the circumstances, they stepped up to the plate. CenterLight gave us that shot in the arm so we can get past Passover. We’re hoping people will respond in kind to help us help these people.”
The council also raised money through a Pre-Purim Concert that was held at Queens College on Feb. 23. Partnering with the National Council of Young Israel, the show featured Avraham Fried, Michoel Pruzansky and the New York Boys Choir.
“This will be something we do on an annual basis. For me, it’s a godsend,” Zalisky said. “I was racking my brains as to what we could do and the concert fell in our laps. I have great confidence we will make it through the fiscal year.”
To help the QJCC fulfill its goal and keep Project Chaim going strong, individuals can donate to the organization by mail or online. Checks can be sent to the Queens Jewish Community Council at 119-45 Union Tpke., Forest Hills, NY, 11375. Online donations can be sent by visiting https://qjcc.org/support.php.
“If we don’t deliver those meals, there’s a great threat these people will experience a hunger and malnutrition. They live on very fixed incomes. If they have to pay, I don’t think they’ll have the funds,” she said. “They have spent their entire lives sacrificing to keep kosher and now in the twilight of their lives, we need to make sure they can do so as well.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.