Quarantined at home for months, health-care systems under untold pressure and economic challenges only mounting, people around the country have been looking for any positive message of hope and encouragement they can get.

Such thoughts were whirring through Rabbi Moshe Teldon’s mind as he drove around Chicago neighborhood of Wilmette, where he serves as program director at the local Chabad center. He noticed a number of different signs on many front lawns around town, invariably posting a word of thanks to health-care workers and the like.

“I thought to myself: What can I contribute to elevate this conversation? As a rabbi in the community, what unique angle can I bring to lift people’s spirits and not just cower down in reactionary mode, but proactively better the situation?” explained Teldon to Chabad.org.

“I got home that day and started toying with different wording. After discussing it with my father-in-law, Rabbi Dovid Flinkenstein, director of Chabad of Wilmette, we hit on the idea: We would bring a message of contagion. Not a contagious virus, G‑d forbid, but contagious positivity.”

Teldon reached out to a good friend across town, Rabbi Mendy Weg of Chabad of Northwestern University, who helped him with designing the new lawn sign. Their collaboration bore fruit, and a new sign with the words, “Kindness, patience, and hope are also highly contagious. Don’t wait to catch it … be a carrier” with accompanying graphics was born.

Teldon printed up several hundred signs and along with his wife, Esther Leah, spread the word that signs were available for pick up on his front porch. “Spreading good vibes. We’re giving away hundreds of these to bring smiles everywhere. Let’s blanket Wilmette with positivity!” they blasted across social media.

Things took off from there, and pretty soon, hundreds of the signs sprung up all across town.

Spreading the right kind of contagion while being proteced from the wrong kind.
Spreading the right kind of contagion while being proteced from the wrong kind.

Ruth Alexander, a member of the Chabad community in Wilmette, said she was grateful for the signs. “Given how divisive the climate we live in right now is, I felt it would be beneficial to have a sign that represented collaboration and unity. I cycle several miles around the neighborhood, and I’m gratified to see the signs popping up all over the place,” she told Chabad.org.

Many took to social media to display the words beyond the limits of their front lawn. “On our front lawn now. Thanks for spreading kindness,” posted Victoria Shoemaker to Facebook. “What a wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing a sign with me! I know it raised my spirits! Kol hakavod!” echoed Rena Klaber Rozen. “Great message shining on a rainy day!” Vitaliy Kuznetsov posted, along with a picture of the sign prominently displayed on his front lawn. ‎

Not satisfied with keeping the positive energy in Wilmette alone, and after a number of requests, Teldon and Weg worked to make the material available to other communities as well. “We made the design customizable, and currently, we have personalized and delivered signs to over 25 communities around the country,” said Weg.

From Illinois to Montreal

Montreal resident Ned Mahic, a commercial developer whose work brings him to Chicago, is taking the sign campaign home with the message into French.
Montreal resident Ned Mahic, a commercial developer whose work brings him to Chicago, is taking the sign campaign home with the message into French.

Ned Mahic, a native of Montreal, is a commercial developer whose projects bring him to Chicago. He’s an enthusiastic member of the Chabad of Town of Mount Royal, a community in Montreal, headed by Rabbi Moshe and Dina Krasnianski. When in Chicago, he spends time at Chabad of Wilmette.

“I used to be a very charge-through-the-wall kind of person—really competitive and looking for best results. My journey with Judaism has really calmed that down, making me a nicer and more involved person,” he told Chabad.org.

It was in this spirit that the effects of the economic upheaval brought about by COVID-19 got Mahic thinking. “There was a significant student housing project I was involved with that circumstances forced me to give up just before the pandemic really spread,” he said. “When that happened, I was quite down. But then, the realities of the pandemic settled in, and I realized just how fortunate I was to get out of those projects when I did. It made me understand how everything’s for the best and part of G‑d’s plan.”

A man of action, Mahic was keen on sharing these calming feelings with others. So when he saw the lawn signs in Wilmette, he immediately connected with it. “I called my rabbi in Montreal, and told him, ‘These signs are generating so much hope and happiness, we must bring them to Montreal!’ ” he said.

And that’s exactly what they did. Mahic undertook the costs of translating the sign into French, along with printing and distribution costs around the community. The first batch has already been exhausted, and other sponsors have come forth for yet more signs to go around. Moreover, Mahic offered to sponsor the costs in the next two communities who undertake to put up the signs in their area. (Contact Rabbi Teldon at Rabbimoshe@chabadtmr.com for details.)

Whether it’s in English or French, on lawns in Illinois or Quebec, these signs let everyone know that in a climate where the worry of contagion is so real, some things are still worth spreading.

Rabbi Moshe Teldon holds hundreds of newly printed signs for distribution.
Rabbi Moshe Teldon holds hundreds of newly printed signs for distribution.