Until his unexpected death three months later on January 9th 2012, Stefanie Leavitt would regularly visit her grandfather Norman Leavitt, who was being treated at New York Cornell Hospital. Every day in school, her fellow classmates at Moriah Yeshiva in Englewood, NJ would daven for him to get well.
During those visits, eight year old Stefanie would occasionally visit the Bikur Cholim room of the hospital, but was disappointed by the scarcity of children’s books the hospital had to offer. So when her grandfather passed away Stefanie decided she wanted to do something in his memory, and she knew what she wanted to do.
Stefanie decided to collect some books from her friends and donate them to the Bikur Cholim room in her grandfather’s memory.
But after being informed of the idea, Rabbi Daniel Epstein, the hospital’s rabbi got involved too, telling Stefanie about “6 North”, the pediatric unit of the hospital.
Stefanie then composed a letter to her teacher Morah Chaya Devorah and to her class (3-3) describing the hospital, the pediatric unit, and her idea of what she wanted to do in her grandfather’s memory.
Over the past few months my class and I have been saying tehilim for my Zeide, Norman Leavitt. Every Sunday I would go visit him and he was always so happy to hear that all my friends were davening for him and wishing him a refuah shelama. Even though we davened so hard for him, my mom explained that sometimes Hashem just wants to have that special person in shamayim with him to help watch over us all.
On Jan 9th, my Zeide went up to Hashem and started his new job of taking care of us from shamayim.
I thought of one last thing that would make him so happy and I hope everyone in my class can help me. My Zeide loved kids and he loved making us smile and laugh. I tried to think of what chessed project that could honor his memory. We called the Rabbi at the hospital that my Zeide was in for a while. The Rabbi thought that a project box filled with games, crayons, coloring books and fun things for kids to do would be a great idea. It would make all the sick kids in the hospital smile and it would have made my Zeide happy knowing he was helping all the sick children.
I am asking the kids in my class to help me with this mitzvah. Please bring in a small toy or markers, crayons, coloring books, cards, anything that the kids can play with when they’re feeling well enough to go to the play room. This special box of toys will be donated in memory of my Zeide. In Morah Chaya Devorah’s classroom there will be a big bin to drop off your toys. It would make me so happy to have my class share in this last mitzvah that I can do for my Zeide. I would like to drop the box off at the hospital in the next few weeks so please bring in something a soon as you can.
The letter sparked the imagination of her friends, and soon the Chessed project took on a life of its own.
A bin was set up in her third grade classroom, and very quickly it filled up with books, toys, puzzles, coloring books and crayons, art projects, and more. And it wasn’t just her classmates who filled up the bin, but also parents, and other adults who heard about Stefanie’s grandfather and the project.
In February, the hospital graciously received the bin, and the contents were delivered to the Bikur Cholim room and to 6 North.
In the Gemorah Nedarim 39b, it’s written, “He who visits a sick person takes away a sixtieth of his pain“. There’s no doubt that with this mitzvah, the students of Moriah Yeshiva helped take away some of the pain of all the children in the hospital, whether visiting or being treated – in the memory of Stefanie’s zeidi, Norman Leavitt.