By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News
Three far flung Jews have raised nearly $13,000 for a fundraiser to inspire Jewish men and boys to wear tzitzit in memory of a dear family friend, Sammy Bernstein.
Bernstein, 28, died ten months ago in Chicago. He was attending DePaul University at the time, preparing for law school.
He is remembered as a “leader to all, who cared about others and always wanted to help and do what’s right,” said Sarah Moalem of Chicago, who along with her brother Daniel Moalem of Israel and cousin Moshe Rubinstein of New York organized a GoFundMe campaign.
Strings4Sammy, launched eight months ago, on the online fundraising platform, highlights Bernstein in a video put together by Sarah Moalem. Word of the fundraiser has spread through texts, social media and emails, generating 128 donations.
The contributions to the tzitzit project have provided strings and garments, some of them custom stamped with “Strings4Sammy,” to students. They have been distributed at Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Skokie and Yeshivas Neveh Zion in Israel so far. Bernstein attended both schools.
Rabbi Leonard Matanky, dean of Ida Crown, said the impact on the students was immeasurable. “The students in the school knew Sammy. They treasured him. This project is a way to honor his memory. It was also done in a way that centered on a mitzvah. It just combined a beautiful message and beautiful opportunity.”
The first tzitzit project at Ida Crown was attended by Sammy’s parents, Ellen and Roy Bernstein, and aunt Sharon Katz. More than 145 pairs were donated in Sammy’s memory to Ida Crown. “We’re hoping to do another one communitywide at Congregation Or Torah in Skokie in the near future,” Moalem said.
Miriam Kracoff of California urged people to donate to the GoFundMe cause through her Instagram account: “As we all know Sammy is spiritual and deep into spreading the love of Torah. In memory, we are trying to get boys to wear tzitzit (strings reminding us there is a G-d in this world!) By donating $$ we will be distributing “The Jewish strings” to schools.”
Tzitzit are special tied and knotted fringes attached to four corners of a garment. The Torah commands that Jewish men and boys wear tzitzit which is a mitzvah and a reminder of all mitzvot.
According to Moalem, “One of the reasons we chose tzitzit is because when Noach’s sons, Shem and Yafet, went to cover their father in the tent, Shem took the initiative. “Sammy always took the initiative. He had a leader mentality and didn’t wait on others in order to do what he thought was right. He just went for it.”
She added that Strings4Sammy will give Sammy’s soul a lift in heaven, an Aliyat Neshamah, what Jews do in memory of a loved one.
“I’ll always think of Sammy putting his tzitzit over his t-shirt, sitting out front of his house, waiting for us to come over,” Moalem said. “We want this project to continue in his memory for years to come.”
The Strings4Sammy GoFundMe page can be reached at www.gofundme.com/strings4sammy