Jericho Joins Jewish Initiative

The Jewish Family Initiative of Long Island helped honor American soldiers, as well as the fire and police departments.

In honor of Thanksgiving, The Jewish Family Initiative (JFI) of Long Island organized a program for residents of LI to show their appreciation to American soldiers as well as to the Plainview Fire Department and Police Department. The event drew in people of all ages from many neighboring communities. To bring cheer and smiles to hospitalized children, gift bags were assembled including coloring and activities books, stuffed animals and stickers. These packages were brought to Long Island Jewish-Cohens Hospital, Child Life Division by Rabbi Yaakov Gruenstein, Director of the Jewish Family Initiative.

Upon entering the auditorium of the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC), home to many JFI programs, one could first stop at a long table filled with gift boxes to decorate. These boxes, U.S.A. caps, and candy holders were decorated by participants and then filled along with a personal note to the American soldiers showing gratitude for their brave work. Those in attendance then moved on to assemble the care packages for the children at LIJ. Get well notes were also enclosed and creative pictures were drawn by children for children.

Another activity to participate in was Sand Art. Children enjoyed filling the smiley face, moon or flowered shaped plastic bottles. While the idea was for the children at the JFI program to take home these crafts, many instead chose to include them in either the care packages for the soldiers or gift bags for the hospitalized children. This was yet another example of the feeling of “giving to others” and selflessness that permeated the room.

The JFI is establishing itself as an exciting “Community without Walls” for young Jewish Families in Nassau County. They are creating a hub of activities with dynamic, engaging and professionally run programs for Jewish parents and their children of all ages. An array of mega events are planned on a monthly basis as well as smaller creative programs during the course of the year. These special programs are meant to meet the needs of the community. The first monthly Mega event in September proved to be spectacular drawing over 400 people to a carnival. The Mega Event in October brought The Traveling Noah’s Ark to Long Island. Families were able to experience the miracle of Noah and the Ark, in the first of its kind walk-through traveling exhibit. Well over 200 people from neighborhoods like Plainview, Huntington, Merrick, Jericho, East Meadow and Farmingdale came to enjoy the day in a comfortable, non-judgmental and welcoming Jewish atmosphere that JFI is known for.

Appropriately, this month’s Mega Event that took place on the week of Thanksgiving was an opportunity for youth and adults to say “Thank You “to those people who put their lives at risk for us every day, in order to keep us safe. Rabbi Gruenstein presented the Plainview Fire Department and Police Department certificates of appreciation and thanked them for coming with their emergency vehicles for the children to see. Giant “Thank You” cards were given to the officers with expressive notes of appreciation from the children and their families.

Next month’s JFI Mega Event will take place on Thursday night, Dec. 21, at 5 p.m. at HANC. A gala Hanukka celebration featuring magician Eric Wilzig is planned.

For more information about the Jewish Family Initiative contact JFI at or call 1-888-4JUDAISM.

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Steve Mosco, former editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, is a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.

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