Just before Thanksgiving, one man fulfilled the spirit of the holiday in an unexpected way.
Arleen Lichtenstein and Melissa Weiner, both staff members at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, had selected three pallets’ worth of socks, baby formula, diapers, and nonperishable food to be purchased and distributed the Sunday after Thanksgiving by temple youth to needy families in Newark.
Lichtenstein, TBA special projects coordinator, and Weiner, director of Jewish learning, were waiting to pay at Costco that Nov. 21 morning, when the man behind them on line struck up a conversation with them. When they got to the register, the women came up short — the merchandise on two pallets alone exceeded the $750 allocated by the synagogue for the purchase.
They were about to return the excess goods, when the man behind them, Lux Chakrapani, stepped in. As Lichtenstein recalled in a phone call with NJJN a few days later, “He looked at me and said, ‘I’ll buy it for the program.’”
They had already told Chakrapani that they were buying the goods for the 2016 Midday Run, a program TBA has participated in for nearly two decades. (Formerly known as the midnight run, it involves collecting, packaging, and distributing food and other goods to people in need in Newark, partnering with St. Ann’s Church there. The program was moved from late Saturday night to Sunday afternoon after organizers realized that there are more people available to help during the day.)
Chakrapani laid out more than $400 for the merchandise. “I started crying — I was so taken aback,” said Lichtenstein. She managed to ask him for his card “so we could properly thank him.” She added, “I have a vision of how the world can be. And this is it.”
The good deed received wide recognition. Chakrapani told CBS News, “I’m a Hindu, and…a Jewish organization is helping a Catholic church in Newark.” He added, “That message is a good one.”