17 Dec Q&A With Giggl Founder Menachem Tzvi Roseman
Name of Founder: Menachem Tzvi Roseman
Founded: December 2013
Number of Current Volunteers: Approximately 30 men and 40 women
Based out of: Brooklyn, New York
GIGGL is an acronym for ‘Giving Inspiration Giving the Gift of Life.’ GIGGL is a Brooklyn-based organization, which specializes in “Putting smiles and laughter on the faces of brave children, battling life-threatening illnesses!”
A word of background…We all know, or have heard about, families with a seriously ill child. Naturally, our hearts go out to them and we would like to help them in any way we can, but unfortunately, our resources and ability to help them is limited. What can we do to ease their pain and alleviate their suffering? This important question bothered me for many years until I decided to act upon it. With the generous help and support of friends and supporters I founded an organization which I named “GIGGL.”
Every organization has a background story, describing how they came to be formed. What’s GIGGL’s story?
GIGGL was started in the memory of three very important people in my life: My father, Rabbi Gedaliah Roseman, my good friend Rabbi Yisroel Landsman and his daughter, Nechama Landsman.
I met Rabbi Yisroel Landsman, a’h over twenty years ago, when I was learning in Eretz Yisrael, and I grew very close to him and his family.
About eleven years ago, his daughter, Nechama, was diagnosed with a chest tumor at the tender young age of fifteen. She subsequently came to the United States in search of optimal medical treatment. Naturally, it was a tumultuous time and the situation grew especially tense, as her mother was forced to work to bring in desperately needed income, and her father, Rabbi Landsman, would stay home and take care of the other kids. With both parents preoccupied, who would care for the patient, Nechama, and her manifold needs? And so, I stepped in to fill the gap and oversaw Nechama’s situation. Whether it meant arranging for her to be driven back and forth to the hospital or any other need that arose, I became the go-to guy.
Additionally, as her Israeli-based siblings flew back and forth between Israel and America I became involved with driving her siblings to and from the airport and the manifold needs that inevitably arose. Also, I was constantly involved in taking out Nechama and the other children on trips and events to cheer them up. It was almost a round-the-clock commitment.
The first party I made was in a local shul with a nice sized hall, and I put up a mechitzah so that both the men and the women could dance separately. It was a nice, successful event, and in fact, some of the girls came over to me afterwards and thanked me profusely, declaring that the party was truly amazing. They especially appreciated that I had provided a mechitzah, which allowed them to dance and fully enjoy and experience sheer simcha, true joy!
Subsequently, I made another party and we were graced with the presence and musical talent of the world famous, Jewish music superstar, Avraham Fried! Reb Avraham, aside from being an amazing singing sensation, is also a genuine mentch and fantastic human being, and his sincerity and warmth touched all those present.
On another occasion we arranged for the party to be enhanced with a grand, nine piece band, including the late, world famous musician, Yossi Piamenta! This excellent ensemble played their hearts out, cheering and enlivening one and all. And Yossi’s performance? What can I say? It was epic!
And from there things took off! Each party became more and more amazing!
Shockingly, four years after Nechama was diagnosed, Rabbi Landsman, was diagnosed with a terrible form of skin cancer. Now, both father and daughter were afflicted with cancer, and the situation grew even more intense. I found myself in the hospital almost every night, bringing them food and whatever else they needed. Was it hard? Yes. Very. But when someone needs help, you help them! I didn’t think twice.
In the meantime, Nechama’s horrific disease progressed relentlessly and ravaged her body. It was so depressing. And yet, through it all, Nechama served as a beacon of light to her surroundings, effusing hope, life and light to all. She was amazing. Just plain amazing.
Sadly, at the age of twenty, Nechama succumbed to her ferocious disease and passed away, surrounded by her loving family and friends.
Although many years have passed, I still choke up when I think of her; such an innocent, precious soul, snatched from this world at such a young, age. She had been to me like a younger sister and now she was gone.
And then, a half year later, my beloved friend, a true tzaddik and a genuinely great man, Rabbi Yisroel Landsman, experienced a worsening of his disease. Things got worse and worse until that sad day arrived, about a year and a half after the passing of his daughter, Nechama, when he passed away, leaving us all stunned. Although we had definitely seen it coming, nevertheless, we were all hit quite hard when we realized that Rabbi Landsman was actually niftar. Could it really be that this person of incredible liveliness and endless talent had passed on? Was it really true that this multi-faceted Torah personality, a rock hard bastion of emunah and bitachon, a man who jumped up in the middle of his purim seudah and, bursting into song and dance, genuinely thanked Hashem for all His chassadim, despite his tremendous yissurim, was gone?
Subsequently, I took a short break. I had ridden an intense emotional roller coaster for many years and I needed a break. I needed to get back to an even keel. Presently, I reach calmness and tranquility, and, stoically, I soldiered on, resuming my previous activities. I’ve been doing this now for many years and hope to continue as long Hashem gives me the ability.
What does GIGGL do?
GIGGL organizes parties and events to entertain children, suffering from life threatening illnesses, bringing them unbridled joy! For a few blessed hours, the patients and their families escape the sad details of their difficult existence, which has robbed them of their joy in life. GIGGL puts together a memorable party and singular experience that they will always cherish. For a few heavenly hours, they too can be a regular happy family, enjoying the experiences and joys that normal families regularly share. The ringing sound of laughter and the glow of happiness replace the prevalent gloom and somberness.
We have incredible, amazing parties, replete with entertainers, clowns, singers, magicians, delicious food, gifts, toys, trips, fun, and lots of excitement. But perhaps, most importantly, we restore that long-lost precious sound that families sometimes take for granted: the GIGGL!
How many parties do you make a year?
Many! There are years when I will make five parties and there are years when I might make as many as eight.
Perhaps five parties doesn’t sound like a lot, but in fact, each party can take up to a month or more in planning, besides the great cost and tremendous multi tasking involved in its successful execution. There are literally thousands of details to be seen to!
Even so, it is my fervent hope and prayer for the future to grow our organization to the point that we will be able to make many more parties per year.
Please describe these grand parties!
When we make a party, it’s not just a little party in a pizza shop. Oh no! It usually takes us over a month to plan it!
Why so long?
You see, we customize the party for the patient. So, for example, let’s say a little boy, let’s call him Chaim, is sick. So I speak to the parents first to ascertain the best way that I can fully enhance his very special GIGGL party experience. For example, I try to make the party as close as possible to the patient’s birthday, so that we can work that theme into the party, as well. Interestingly, looking back on the many parties that we made over the years, I see that we have managed to make most of my parties precisely on the patients’ birthdays! I attribute this astounding success to Divine Providence.
Also, we try to ensure that the party is a surprise, to enhance the excitement and enjoyment level of the patient – unless the patient is so sick that the surprise could distress them. Additionally, I find out what the child likes for food, music, entertainment, and everything else. Also, I order custom cakes for the party. For instance, if the child likes drums, I will order for him a cake in the shape of drums; if he likes Elmo, I make him an Elmo cake. I want the party to be unbelievable!
Also, I hire a professional, top-of-the-line photographer and videographer for each party and I bring along my own beautiful lighting equipment, which lights up the room in an astounding manner. And, if the child has no problem with blinking lights, we have those, too. This lighting system is so amazing; it adds so much to the already incredible ambience of our fabulous parties. We also provide musical entertainment geared toward the child’s musical preferences, via a professional, first rate DJ.
We generally have about fifty people from his or her family join the celebration, and if the patient has friends from the hospital, we advise the parents to invite them too. Lastly, I bring my volunteers along and we have a blast!
Looking back over the years I thank Hashem that amazingly, every single party has been a smashing success! Not only have the patients enjoyed them thoroughly, but each time the entire family received a sorely needed boost of chizuk and tremendous simcha!
What are the affiliations of the patients for whom you typically make these parties?
I’m a lover of all types of Jews! It makes absolutely no difference at all to GIGGL if you are Chasiddish, Litvish, Sefardic or any other affiliation. For example, I have made parties for a Satmar girl in Williamsburg for five years in a row. I have also made parties for a more American clientele in locales such as the Five Towns and Monsey. And to me they are all exactly the same; they are my brothers and sisters in need of a helping hand and I gladly pitch in.
How many people come on average to one of the GIGGL parties?
What is your budget per year?
It’s difficult to calculate a budget for the year because I don’t know in advance how many parties I will be making that year. Additionally, I am constantly in need of purchasing new equipment as the older equipment expires and the various multiple needs arise, and it’s quite costly. Nevertheless, to provide a sketchy, baseline figure: Each party costs about five thousand dollars. So if we make 5-8 parties a year we need $25,000 – $40,000. Plus, due to the constantly arising new costs, it could easily be another $10,000 – $15,000, sometimes more.
For example, right now, we are desperately in need of a cargo van. Why? You see: On average, we transport 50-60 boxes to each party; big, bulky boxes with important equipment. Now although I ask people to help me with their transportation, nevertheless there are only so many trips that I can ask others, volunteers, to make and the rest falls on me, personally. I am usually so involved with these boxes’ transportation and the other minutiae that by the time I get to the party, I’m totally exhausted! If I had a cargo van most of this difficulty could be easily avoided. Additionally, these essential boxes could be stored in the van permanently, facilitating a much smoother and more predictable, party preparation and execution.
Where do you typically make the parties?
It depends on the locale of the patient; it has to be easy for the patient to arrive and get back home. So obviously I wouldn’t make a party in Brooklyn for someone in the Five Towns. The priority is for it to be near the patient, preferably in a nice hall or a restaurant, and that it be a comfortable situation for the patient and family.
What else does GIGGL do?
Right now we make custom parties and we do hospital, bedside visits. However, in my vision for the future, I have high hopes to make really huge parties (as well as other ideas which we are now developing b’ezras Hashem). But obviously for that dream to be realized, we would need more resources. For example, I would love to make a major event for all the children we have served over the years, which would be for about 300 people!
Is GIGGL volunteer based? Yes!
Which Rabbonim do you typically ask Shailos to?
My Rosh Yeshiva, the esteemed Rav Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Mattisyahu, and my rebbi, Rav Krokocki. Additionally, the renowned Rabbi Paysach Krohn is also a very big supporter of our organization, and graciously gives of his precious time and sage counsel when necessary. It is a great honor for GIGGL that Rabbi Krohn included a story about GIGGL in his latest book.
What do you do, personally, when you’re not working on GIGGL?
I run an amazing, up and coming band called Meitar Orchestra and am involved in many other chessed projects.
How do people find out about your organization?
Generally, people find out about us by word of mouth. People can also find us on our website https://www.giggl.org. Right now we’re mainly focusing on children suffering from cancer; unfortunately, there are so many of them. If someone wants a party they go to the website, fill out the form, which is then reviewed and assessed.
Besides receiving donations on the website, how do you typically raise money? I, myself, go around collecting. Also, many people have received beautiful, decorative pushkas for their homes and businesses. Additionally, GIGGL sells beautiful, classy Purim cards and Shana Tova cards, which has caught on with many and is a beautiful gesture.
What makes your parties & events so special?
We custom produce the party toward the preference of the patient. If they want a big name celebrity we would try to secure them. In general, I usually try to get leibedik people, which significantly enhances the party.
Also, I have this wonderful, dear friend, Donny Weinreb (“The Shnitzel Guy,” for those who may be familiar), and he helps us out a lot. In fact, he involves himself thoroughly both in the planning stages and in the actual party’s execution and is ready, willing and able to do just about anything to help us out. Additionally, he has an out-of-the-box, unconventional manner of problem solving, which can be quite enlightening and at times very amusing. One small example: He once thought of the idea of using a garbage can as a tzedakah box! This was a very successful venture.
Also, if I need to secure a specific type of entertainment I know I can rely on him to get it done – he knows everyone in the industry! So I’ll call him up and say: “Hey, Donny, I have a party coming up and I need carnival games, something really cool and amazing. Know anyone?” And he’ll say, “You know who’d be perfect? I know this guy out in Pennsylvania who has exactly what you need. Let me give him a call and I’ll get right back to you. Half an hour later, my phone rings and it’s Donny: “Hey, Menachem! It’s all done! Anything else I can help you with?” Donny is really incredible!
Is there anything else that you would like to tell our dear Jewish Vues readers?
Yes. GIGGL makes parties just about anywhere in the tri-state area. It’s no simple task to make a party. You have to build connections and find resources constantly. GIGGL is dependent on the public’s generosity to continue their blessed work. It is the broader community that it depends upon to fund their activities, enabling them to continue to bring smiles and relief to the ill children and their families. If you would like to donate to GIGGL, or perhaps would consider sponsoring a party, or run a fundraiser, or would like to assist in any other way, please contact them! I assure you: You’ll be glad you did!
Also, GIGGL is a 501c3 approved organization. To learn more about GIGGL, please visit their webpage: https:// www.giggl.org/, or follow them on Instagram at giggl_official, or email Menachem Tzvi Roseman directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please make checks out to: “GIGGL.” Our mailing address is 515 East 9th street, Brooklyn, New York 11218.
Wishing you all a Happy & Freilichen Chanukah!