Two years ago, Crown Heights yungerman Yossi Rosenberg realized that many were not visiting the Ohel as much as they would have liked due to the lack of transportation. He set about revolutionizing the field and is going strong.
By Anash.org reporter for Anash Magazine
When Sarah, a mother of six, bundles her preschooler and sends him out to his bus, her morning is just starting. While her youngsters are all bouncing along on busses to school, she heads to a bus of her own, to do her sacred weekly ritual of visiting the Rebbe at the Ohel.
Since a year ago, when the Ohel Bus started running its daily morning runs, Sarah has found this weekly trip a way to center her whole being and uplift her week. The convenient timing and reliable service make it a perfect option for a quick morning getaway to go and get her dose of connection and inspiration, and be back in time well before the school bus rolls down the street to drop her toddler back home.
Chaim, a shliach who just landed at JFK airport, heads straight to the Ohel and relishes the moment he has been dreaming about and longing for in the past months while he energetically ran his Shlichus in far out Asia. He stays for a while and then hops outside to catch a bus to Crown Heights. He is comforted by the knowledge that he will be back shortly, and can jump on a bus at any time in the next few days to revisit.
These two people are only some of many who have made the Ohel Bus an integral part of their lives, thanks to the generous donors and dedicated organizer, Yossi Rosenberg.
Yossi realized that there wasn’t a consistent evening bus to the Ohel available for people to catch from Crown Heights. He decided to organize one as a chesed to the community and its guests, not dreaming of the full-size moisad it would later become.
At first, he arranged a twice-a-week evening run, at two separate times, to test the system, but within a short time, it turned into a daily evening run at 7:00 pm that ran for one full year.
For that year, aside from the evening buses, he also arranged special additional buses for yomei d’pagra when he knew there was additional demand and need for transportation. The next year, he added a daily morning bus at 8:00 am. For yomei d’pagra, he arranged multiple buses throughout the day and on the days preceding and following it as well.
“I was speaking to one of my children in New York at 2:00 am,” shares Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor, chief rabbi of Bangkok, Thailand. “It was the night before Rosh Hashana and they were coming back from the Ohel. I asked them how are they traveling, and they responded, ‘the bus of course.’
“Then they said ‘I don’t know what people did before the bus, there were so many people on the bus’. I thought to myself, that’s a good question! That is a sign of just how critically important this service is – when nobody can remember how we survived without this most helpful tool of affordable, dependably, and timely transport to the Ohel.”
This past Gimmel Tammuz, Yossi started a full-day service that runs four complete round trip routes every day. He is now working up to a fifth round so that there will be a ride available every three hours, every day of the week.
“We all remember the times when it was almost impossible to get to the ohel for those who didn’t
own a car,” says Crown Heights Rov, Rabbi Yosef Braun. “Now it’s extremely easy and accessible to get to the Rebbe, on a regular basis throughout the entire day. All excuses have been removed.
“The Rebbe once mentioned that there’s a tunnel connecting 770 and the Ohel. Well, those tunnels are not visible. But there is a tunnel that is visible to all: the bus is our connecting ‘tunnel’ between 770 and the Ohel.”
Until recently, Yossi hired buses from other companies to do the trips, and would call upon a second third, or fourth bus and driver when necessary. Now, he bought a bus and hired a driver so the bus can do rounds all day for whoever needs it. Additionally, the bus is larger, more comfortable, and has the beautiful additional feature of a Rebbe Video playing throughout the drive.
“Two amazing things happened since I started the consistent bus routes,” says Yossi, “one, people started going b’kvius – they choose a time in the week or month and go consistently. Secondly, many visitors who came as part of a group to Crown Heights and would go to the Ohel just once, now go multiple times during their trip.”
As the availability increases, the demand increases. People become familiar with the schedule and start using it more often, so the buses are more and more full. What used to be a hassle of having to rent a car and find a time, became a simple hop-on, go, and be back within a few hours.
“To illustrate,” explains Yossi, “during the busy month of Tishrei 5783 we served 3,053 people, and after adding 2 more daily routes we served 3,299 during the quiet summer month of Av. This past Tishrei, of 5784 we had over 20,000 riders (!) which is a daily average of 700. That’s 17,000 more people than last Tishrei! It’s an astounding level of growth.”
On special days, there is an extended hourly service with buses going from dawn to late at night. 65 days out of the year run as Yomai D’pagra, since each special day lasts for a few days, and every Rosh Chodesh, Kinus Hashluchim and Shluchos, and chassidishe yom tov make the cut.
In just this year alone, over 70,000 people were transported to and from the Ohel. The cost of operation for this past year was over $700,000, of which over $200,000 must be fundraised. As Rabbi Nechemia Wilhelm said, “Seven dollars is a price that is שווה לכל נפש, besides for the organizer…”
“If I knew of all the expenses in advance I might not have gone ahead,” Yossi says with a smile, “but now that I see what a necessity it is, how could I not continue it?”
The Ohel Bus has brought tens of thousands of Yidden to the Ohel and enabled so many people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to go and visit the Rebbe.
To support this important initiative, visit bustoohel.com/donations.
This article first appeared in Anash Magazine – published by Anash.org.