By Phyllis J. Lubin
My loyal readers know that I made a new purchase this past summer: a cruiser bike! I imagined myself taking long, relaxing rides on the boardwalk with my husband. That dream went to the wayside when we discovered the difficulty of putting both bikes in the van at the same time!
The next dream was to replace my use of the car with this “new” form of transportation. Somehow that only worked a few times. There are so many times when I just wasn’t prepared to commit to not having the van with me – after all, I usually food shop on my way home from work, and balancing bags on the bike was not a simple task.
So what about recreational jaunts with my husband on a summer day in the neighborhood? I discovered (or rather rediscovered) that my husband is a much more adept bike rider than I, and trying to “keep up” with my pace caused him to ride practically backwards. I tried to take some outings on my own, but I just don’t seem to get the same hana’ah (enjoyment) out of bike riding that he does. Walking is a much more relaxing “sport” for me.
So when I saw that Friendship Circle was having a “bike4friends” fundraising activity I was unsure I had it in me to participate. But what better use of that practically brand new bike in my garage than to become a participant rather than a bystander? Why not dust off my helmet (if I can even find it), and pump up the tires and actually do something good with my new purchase?
Friendship Circle has been good to the Lubin family. It has been a lifesaver specifically for our son, Yosef Binyamin. Were it not for the numerous recreational activities that Friendship has to offer, Yosef’s social schedule would surely be lacking. A child with special needs cannot easily make a play date. Sunday afternoons are not spent bowling with a friend or going to a movie. On Shabbos afternoons, a child with special needs cannot just take a walk over to a friend’s house without a lot of advance planning. Almost every recreational activity must be proactive on a parent’s part, and even when it is, the parents must always be involved at the activity.
Friendship Circle steps in and fills the job of the parent. By hosting monthly Sunday Circle activities Yussie can interact with his Friendship Circle friends. Sometimes they go on trips, but oftentimes the activities take place right at the Chabad of the Five Towns—Yussie’s second home!
And Shabbos afternoons have not been boring for the past few years since Yussie’s good friend Shlomo Ross has been coming over for “play dates” practically every week. Batsheva Borenstein, the director of the Five Towns Chabad Center, has cultivated a group of “friends at home”—volunteers who visit the special-needs population, so that these children can feel that they have friends (and parents and siblings can get much needed respite time). And the volunteers actually become friends with our children! This is not a mere “chesed project” for these volunteers. Friendship Circle has opened up the eyes of all their volunteers to a slew of friends they might never have met!
There is a special role that Friendship Circle has played in Yosef’s life and that is the Judaica Circle. Every Tuesday evening you will find Yussie at the Five Towns Chabad Center learning Torah! In addition to his daily shul attendance, the Judaica Circle has given him the Jewish education that he deserves. When preparing for his bar mitzvah, the Judaica Circle was just the support he needed to practice the berachot for his aliyah and to practice his tefillin placement. And his attendance at Judaica Circle hasn’t stopped at age thirteen. I pray that there will always be a place for Yussie in the Judaica Circle. When we saw on the South Side Middle School calendar that there was a “Halloween Dance” planned for Tuesday night, Yussie immediately pointed out that he can’t go because he has “Hebrew School!”
Having a frum child in public school is a battle. Sadly, the public school community does not understand that Halloween is not a universal holiday, and we need to constantly remind Yussie that it is not a holiday that we celebrate. That is when reviewing the Jewish holidays becomes all too important. The Jewish exposure through all the Friendship Circle activities is most needed for our children!
So please come out to the Chabad of the Five Towns this Sunday at noon to register and to support the amazing work of the Friendship Circle. Bike4Friends is a 10K family bike trip that hopefully will raise much-needed funds and at the same time raise community awareness for the Friendship Circle—a nonprofit organization for individuals with special needs. You never forget how to ride a bike, so take yours out of the garage and come on over! If you can’t get on that bike, join us on a brief one-mile family walk in honor of the day. Upon reaching the finish line, bikers and walkers will enjoy a celebration with entertainment, activities, food, and much more!
Regardless of whether you can actually attend, please go online and support “Team Yosef Lubin” (or any of the other worthy teams) on the website set up for the event: www.bike4friends.com.
Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children—Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea—and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at MothersMusings@gmail.com.