Sarah was about 50 years old when I met her. She and her husband were Baalei Teshuvah and decided that our mostly frum neighborhood would be the perfect place to live.

We all know some really good people, and Sarah was one of them. She had a heart of gold – everything about her was kind and nice and happy. She especially loved children, and despite never having any children of her own, she adored all of the kids on our block. She talked to them, listened to them and always had a candy or treat close by for her many young visitors.

Having discovered Yiddishkeit late in life, she was always eager to attend a shiur or class and genuinely grew from each one. When she davened it was innocent and sincere, when she did chessed it was real – she really wanted to help people. Sarah was simply a very special person.

We were all shocked when she suddenly passed away just a few years later. She suffered from a heart defect for many years but never said a word about it. She never wanted anyone to worry about her.

After the funeral, the women from our shul gathered together to try to come up with something we could do in her memory. With no family besides her husband, we were determined to start something meaningful and important to help preserve her legacy of kindness.

Many ideas were discussed and investigated – gemachs, dedications in our shul, learning projects – but in the end, the sad truth is that nothing was done. We had the people and we were certainly determined… but somehow we let the opportunity slip by.

Even now, five years later, whenever her name is mentioned I feel a pang of guilt for doing nothing. I still intend to do something…

To many of us, this story probably sounds familiar. A parent, a relative, a close friend or neighbor passes away and we all feel the instinctive need to do something l’zecher nishmas that person. But with no clear idea of what should be done, more often than not the determination begins to fade, and all we have left is the yahrtzeit – our yearly reminder of how much they meant to us.

Having personally gone through the experience above more than once, I was so gratified when I heard about a new initiative called The Neshamah Project. Started just last month, the project’s single goal is to help inspire and guide people to do mitzvos in memory of those who have passed away. In fact, The Neshamah Project itself is a mitzvah project that was started l’zecher nishmas someone who had recently passed away.

The idea is so simple, yet so important. After the death of a loved one, people are usually left grappling for something to do to keep the person’s name and legacy alive and fresh in their minds. Most of us simply do not know what the best thing to do is, or how to do it. So the Neshamah Project created a book, The Neshamah Should Have an Aliyah, which guides us on all the why’s and how’s of undertaking mitzvos l’zecher nishmas our loved ones.

The book is at once inspiring, informative, and perhaps most importantly, so comforting for us, the ones who are looking for something meaningful to do.

I honestly did not know how much we can do to help a niftar “have an aliyah,” even those who were not frum during their lifetime. This is something that many Baalei Teshuvah could benefit from after losing a loved one who was not religious. I am sure that Baalei Teshuvah would get a lot of comfort knowing that there really are ways to help their loved ones now, after their death, even if they were unable to influence them while they were alive.

“Everyone knows someone who can gain a lot from this book,” says Yechiel Zlotnick, a member of the Neshamah Project. “Virtually everyone who has heard about our project or read the book has been astounded by the powerful message. Invariably, their first reaction is ‘I must give this book to my friend or relative who just lost their parent.’”

 “Imagine the zechus that we can create for our loved ones if this movement spreads to people around the world! Imagine the nechamah that we can all feel knowing that we are really making a difference for their neshamos and keeping their memory alive.”

It’s true. The opportunity and the potential are limitless because everyone knows someone who can benefit from this project.

I for one have already begun my own neshamah project in memory of a close friend. It is small, but it is just a start.

This time I intend to make it a reality.


If you know someone who can benefit from the important work of The Neshamah Project, you can get more information by contacting them at 516-522-0864 or You can find their book, The Neshamah Should Have an Aliyah at Judaica stores everywhere.


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