Nicole Gleitman is an unusual person, and it’s a good thing that she is. The Woodsburgh resident and founder of the Claire Kamhi Hachnossat Kallah Fund—named for her late sister, a’h—is on constant lookout to be in the vanguard of improving the human condition and the way in which people deal with difficult situations.
While Nicole is usually putting together the details of making a wedding, bar or bat mitzvah, or b’ris on behalf of her fund, she knows how to think out of the box and respond to a situation in which she can use her inordinate reach and talents.
When Hurricane Sandy hit, the days and weeks passed and Nicole did not like what she was observing. “I looked around and I saw that the aftermath of the storm was impacting most directly on the teenagers in our midst,” she says. She adds that she observed many were out of their homes, which were dark, flooded, or both. Some were displaced from their schools because of the impact of the storm, and everything in their daily lives was a departure from their usual routines.
“On top of that,” Nicole adds, “They still had to do their work, study, take tests, and apply for college and yeshivas or seminaries in Israel and so on.” In addition, Chanukah was on the way and she thought that these kids would once again be set aside or forgotten.
So she began to work her e‑mail lists and the telephone, explaining the situation to supporters and friends. Her goal was to reach out to these teenagers through their rabbis and school principals. The plan was, as a matter of priority, to reach out to students whose lives were in a state of flux by virtue of the fact that, because of the storm damage, they were not able to live at home.
The goal was to present each teen with a card in an envelope that also contained $50 in cash—Chanukah gelt. The card that was composed and enclosed by Nicole stated: “Six weeks have passed since Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc. While the community at large has focused its efforts on rebuilding our neighborhood, we have not forgotten about YOU! We are aware that you have been displaced from your home and endured hardships of your own. Enclosed is some Chanukah gelt for you to enjoy. Wishing you and your family a Chanukah sameach.”
The impact of this gesture has been overwhelming as students, parents, and school faculty have flooded Nicole’s e‑mail box with notes expressing appreciation—not so much for the money, but for the gesture at a time when people were feeling somewhat adrift and even vulnerable.
One 10th-grade student from Yeshiva of Far Rockaway wrote: “Thank you very much for your thoughtful Chanukah gift. The intention of your gift was much appreciated. Although the things I lost in the storm are replaceable, the warm feeling that I got from your gift is not.”
A student from SKA wrote her: “I want to express my appreciation for your incredible thoughtfulness and the gift I received. I am one of the SKA girls whose house was hit hard in the hurricane. Over the course of the past six weeks, the chesed that has been done is really incredible. I am so touched by the present I received. I would like to say thank you so much for thinking of me and giving me a Chanukah gift. If there is any way I can help you with your amazing chasadim please let me know.”
Another student wrote: “First I’d like to apologize for the delayed note. It was so wonderful to receive this generous gift from a total stranger. When I read your note and saw the cash I could not believe that this person who I didn’t even know was so thoughtful and considerate to those of us affected by the storm. It really made me feel special and loved, especially since I didn’t have the security and warmth in my home that I was so accustomed to. Thank you again, and may Hashem continue to grant you the strength to do chesed in the community.”
And the letters and expressions of gratitude continue to arrive daily. Rabbi Eli Brazil of DRS told Nicole that the impact of her gesture was dramatic. “Things at home were rough, but they could not complain or cry, nor could they smile,” the rabbi told Nicole. But then her card and her gift broke through that veneer that was rapidly developed by those struck most severely by the storm.
“She made a world of difference for our affected students in both Rambam and Shalhevet,” said Rabbi Zev Friedman.
In total, over $13,000 was distributed to about 260 students. “If there was more time I could have done more,” said Nicole.
So now with Chanukah over, Nicole Gleitman is back to her ways of organizing weddings for those who find it too economically challenging to put together the funds needed to plan or underwrite a wedding for a child. Under the rubric of the Kamhi Fund, Nicole arranges it all. She secures an impressive hall, arranges the food service and the chasan and kallah gifts, plus much more. She is in effect a one-woman simcha machine. “If people would just reach out to me before they book a hall or a caterer, there is a great deal I can do to make a small amount of money go a long way,” she says.
Nicole says that while she has many fantastic supporters, a great deal of what she undertakes is quietly underwritten by her extraordinarily generous husband, Marc. For more information and to reach out to Nicole, e‑mail firstname.lastname@example.org.