Chesed Doesn’t Quarantine


The JDC Club continues their chesed activities over Zoom.

Every Ramaz student understands the hard work Ms. Benel put into chesed programming, ensuring many opportunities for participation. The Midnight Run, sandwich packing, donating school supplies, visiting local firefighters on 9/11, and challah baking are popular service projects at Ramaz that Ms. Benel introduced. However, due to the protocols of keeping distance in the building and Ms. Benel’s retirement, students wonder what is being done to continue chesed at Ramaz, sophomore chesed hours, and ultimately what will work differently. Ms. Senders and Dr. Block, the new leaders spearheading chesed at Ramaz, are currently working to find solutions to these problems while carrying on the legacy that Ms. Benel introduced! They are committed to continuing, and growing, chesed programming at Ramaz. 

Many events that Ramaz typically plans unfortunately can’t be held in-person this year. Ms. Senders said that “even though our circumstances make it very challenging, chesed is more important than ever, as people need that connection and help. We feel that it’s a critical part of students’ education and [helpful] for the groups that we serve.” Chesed initiatives during the pandemic are still possible: Yachad and Friendship Circle activities are now held virtually on Zoom, and students who normally would visit the elderly in hospitals, can make phone calls and get-well cards. 

Students are eager to continue the work they have done in the past. Jordan Mittler ’22 said that, “since big trips won’t end up happening this year, there are many ways to engage in chesed virtually. We can take advantage of the period we are in now, where chesed is more needed than ever.” Jordan and other students visited the local fire station on 85th street this past September 11, where firefighters belonging to that station were killed on 9/11, 19 years earlier. This is one example of students voluntarily performing acts of chesed outside the classroom, while staying safe and adhering to Covid-19 protocols.

While chesed opportunities may seem limited this year, the chesed leaders are striving to make it as accessible as possible. In addition to the many community service orientated clubs at Ramaz, representatives of these clubs will also meet as part of a larger group in the newly created Chesed Committee. The aim of this committee is to make students more aware of the community service opportunities in an organized manner. This Chesed Committee will work as “a consolidation of all of our different chesed initiatives…It will function kind of like SFAC in the sense that there are group members who will meet at least once a month to review what we are accomplishing in terms of the different chesed opportunities,” said Ms. Senders. The hope is that new students will join consistently and offer their own ideas and solutions. While this committee was formed as a direct response to the pandemic, this structure will remain permanent for chesed at Ramaz. 

The chesed requirement for sophomores is being amended as well. Of course, it is more challenging to complete the required two service days and ten hours of chesed for each semester. In fact, the sophomore chesed requirement didn’t even end up happening last semester! The service days are for participating in larger events such as the annual Friendship Circle walk or delivering a Rosh Hashanah care package to the elderly with the organization, Dorot. The ten hours can be fulfilled with activities such as sandwich packing or challah baking. “You can complete chesed hours by doing [almost] anything…[The requirement] is not so hardcore or strict. [Last year], mostly all kids completed it,” said Mittler. According to Ms. Senders, the future of the sophomore chesed hours is still unknown. More importantly however, Ramaz believes that students of all grades should be involved in chesed in some way, even though the requirement pertains to sophomores. 

Through the new Chesed Committee, and ongoing acts of chesed done in and outside the classroom, it is clear that Dr. Block and Ms. Senders are determined to create opportunities for students to accomplish acts of kindness! They are ultimately grateful for continuing Ms. Benel’s legacy of implementing chesed for the students, and are dedicated to making it happen!