New Jersey Congressman Celebrates Two Chabad Rabbis as ‘Hometown Heroes’

Rabbi Mendy Kaminker with New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer (File photo)
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Rabbis Mendy Kaminker and Chanoch Kaplan honored

By: Menachem Posner

Every year, New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer designates “hometown heroes” whose accomplishments and efforts are recognized in a special ceremony.
Gottheimer represents the Garden State’s northernmost congressional district, and in the more than three months since the coronavirus has drastically altered daily living, a crop of “Fifth District Coronavirus Hometown Heroes” came to the fore and were appropriately recognized over Zoom. The short list of heroes included Rabbi Chanoch Kaplan of Chabad Lubavitch of Northwest Bergen County and Rabbi Mendy Kaminker of Chabad of Hackensack.

Rabbi Mendy Kaminker distributes masks to local residents (File photo)

No stranger to Chabad’s embracing approach, Gottheimer has long known Kaplan and even studied Torah with him on a regular basis before being elected to public office.
In the weeks after the global pandemic hit and public life shut down in the northeastern part of the United States, the rabbis and their wives were sources of support and inspiration for community members and others, as they still are in their respective neighborhoods.

Rabbi Chanoch Kaplan with pre-Shavuot ice-cream

In those initial difficult days, when community members struggled with the challenges of solitude, illness and uncertainty, they took to Zoom and provided dozens of classes, discussions and other opportunities to connect and be encouraged.
Before Passover, they distributed hundreds of Seder kits, which then inspired more than 1,000 Shabbat boxes, Shavuot kits and other packages to nourish body and soul.
In addition to providing spiritual guidance and comfort to medical staff and patients in the Hackensack University Medical Center, they also organized a massive face-mask giveaway to ensure that everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, would be adequately protected against the virus. (

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