Sandy’s Aftermath: How Others See Jewish Chesed

A tragedy of epic proportions perhaps lends itself to stories of heroism, courage and altruism. All the more so when Sandy’s after-effects mock the ability of time to begin the process of healing. The opportunities to exhibit selflessness continue, and so, apparently, do the generous responses of so many ordinary good people in New York and New Jersey.

Against a backdrop of general compassionate intercession, the reaction of the frum community sparkles. Here is a vignette that captures much of the age-old capacity of a connected and caring community taking care of its own, even while its doors are open to all others:

So the FEMA people are now going door-to-door asking people what issues they have. The guy said to me – how many people are staying here. I said we had 11 on Friday night. He said the FEMA people are just amazed that everyone In Lawrence who got their power back have families staying with them, some they don’t even know. He said the entire team is mesmerized at how the Jewish community is taking care of their downtrodden. I [Phil Rosen of Lawrence] showed him an email that is copied below. He asked me if he could sit down. And he cried. Mi k’amcha Yisroel.

We hope that our community has had a restful and uplifting shabbos as we continue our work together in trying to restore some desperately needed normalcy to our lives.

Many community leaders, rabbis, and activists from every corner of our community met for many hours tonight, and what you are about to read is a detailed compilation of all those efforts. We will make sure to give proper recognition to all the wonderful mosdos and people involved after this crisis is behind us. Please take 5 minutes to read through all the listed details.

Food:
Due to the overwhelming requests received, we have now setup 2 food distribution centers for today.

For the Far Rockaway/Lawrence area there will be fresh meals at Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv, 1 Cedar Lawn Avenue.

There will also now be a Cedarhurst/Woodmere/Hewlett location at the Young Israel of Woodmere, 859 Peninsula Blvd.

Lunch and dinner will be served at both locations, with the meals starting at 12:30 PM. We will have staff on hand at both locations who will be able to answer any questions you may have with regards to any services that are needed. If anyone has any questions regarding our new Five Towns Storm location please call Meir Krengle at
(917) 873-1643 Or Michael Krengle at (516) 554-3118

Shaimos:
There will be a shaimos truck parked at Shor Yoshuv from 12-3 PM today. Any shaimos may be dropped off there free of charge. Additionally we have arranged a shaimos drop off point for the Cedarhurst/Woodmere/Hewlett area also at the Young Israel of Woodmere. There will be a designated spot at the shul for the drop off, and the materials will be picked up by our truck.

Clothing:
Dozens and dozens of brand new racks of clothing are now available to anyone across the community. They will be distributed with no questions asked, in a dignified manner. We are asking any volunteers that are able to assist with the setup of clothing to please report to Shor Yoshuv today at 10 AM. From 12-3 PM the clothing will be available to anyone who needs.

Laundry:
We have received many requests regarding the inability to wash fresh laundry due to the lack of electric.
Through the dedicated work of several individuals we have been able to work out a special service for members of Far Rockaway/ Bayswater, and the Five Towns.

There will be 3 drop off points today, and the laundry should be there by 1 PM. Each family may drop off 2 full bags of laundry (please close bags well) and we will have it returned within 24-36 hours.

Bayswater dropoff-Young Israel of Bayswater, 2716 Healy Avenue.

Far Rockaway/Lawrence drop off-Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv, 1 Cedar Lawn Avenue.

Cedarhurst/Woodmere/Hewlett dropoff-Young Israel of Woodmere, 859 Peninsula Blvd.

Special Relief Fund:
As many people know our community has launched an emergency relief fund for those who have been affected financially by Hurricane Sandy. 100% of the funds raised will go directly to members of our community who have been hurt. If anyone requires assistance or information about this fund, you may call our hotline, or email us athurricanefund@achiezer.org.

Cleaning/Pumping:
We will have several crews available today to help clean, shlep, and pump out water-filled basements. If you require such a service you may call our office hotline, or 347-752-1400.
You may also emailalongoldberger@gmail.com.
If you are able to volunteer for any of these services we ask you to contact these numbers as well.

Shelter:
Numerous people from our community were graciously hosted over the weekend by members of our community, Queens, and Brooklyn.
If you are still in need of shelter/temporary place to stay please call our office, or email us atshelter@achiezer.org and arrangements will be made.

FEMA:
We understand that there are an endless amount of questions and confusion regarding FEMA claims, insurance filings, and legal questions.
We are in the midst of creating a community task force that will exclusively deal with all of these issues. We are working to gather and make available as much information as possible, and hope to have this vital service available to the community by the beginning of the week.

Electric:
LIPA representatives have told us that the restoration is fully underway. We know that this information doesn’t help for the many of you that are still in the dark, especially with the conflicting timetables constantly being heard. We will work extremely hard to forward as much concrete information that we can possibly find out. We strongly feel that as long as you are able to make living arrangements in areas that have electricity, it is safer for you to continue to do so until power is restored.

We understand that there are certain requests and needs that don’t fit into a specific box or category. If you have any questions, concerns, or specific issues please call the Achiezer community hotline at 516-791-4444.

There ought to be room, even within this tragedy, for a touch of humor, especially if it comes from a good place. The anecdote that follows, despite its comedy, does not shortchange on conveying how others look at us when we act as we should:

Some community centers, shuls, and families in areas that had power and heat invited people from Far Rockaway, Long Beach and those areas to stay there for shabbat, and they arranged transportation to pick them up. Someone who stayed behind asked a policeman if the people had been picked up yet. He told her “Yeah, the Hizbollah people came with buses and took everyone away.” She said, “umm…do you mean…the Hatzalah people?” He said, “I guess so, I’m not from this neighborhood ma’am.”

Hat tip to Harvey Tannenbaum, Efrat

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6 comments to Sandy’s Aftermath: How Others See Jewish Chesed

  • Yaakov Menken

    The Chesed Fund of Baltimore, the brainchild of local askan and ba’al chesed Frank Storch, ran a clothing drive this Motzei Shabbos that was so successful that the 17 foot truck was filled and people were turned away. Then we received notice from New York that so much was received that no more clothing is needed.

    Now people have a new question for their Rav — what to do with clothing one intended to give to the cause, but was refused? Does it now belong to Tzedakah or was there never a transfer from the original owner? [Since each person’s thoughts and statements may have differed, this is not the place to attempt to answer the question.]

  • DF

    Question for Rabbi Adlerstein – do you think the well-organized Jewish community should include its efforts to include non-Jews too? Or is it impossible for one community to take on too much, and each community should look after its own? In the same vein, do you think the insularity of the Jewish community and the “taking care of themselves” is noted and resented by non-jews? Or are they just one small community out of many, whose particular relief efforts are barely even noticed by the general public among all the problems?

    [Please dont read anything into my question. I wrestle with these questions in my mind. Susepct you do, to one degree or another. Would like to see your take.]

    [YA- I think that many Jews are paranoid about being seen as exclusivist for taking strong measures to protect their own. Other Jews are oblivious to the need – both morally and practically – of being sensitive to the pain of all human beings, and involved in ameliorating it. The trick is to steer a middle course.

    Jews will not be the only ones looking out for their own, and should not be hesitant to do this. Other groups have always done the same, and continue to do so. Many Christian groups are particularly good at this. They are quite serious about helping out anyone, but still capitalize on sentiments of Christian responsibility for other Christians.

    We ought to be doing the same. We can and must be responsible to our brothers and sisters. At the same time, we must find ways to join in the general effort to help all in need. Chazal tell us mefarnisin aniyei akum im aniyei Yisrael, and some poskim point to the word “im” as crucial. If we set up public distribution centers, they must be open to anyone who turns to them for assistance. If all our efforts are private, we should find some ways in which our joining arms withe the general community is apparent. This will not prove so great a burden that it will interfere with our responsibility to our own community.

    For one example of focusing on Jewish communities and still creating a kiddush Hashem for providing to non-Jews, see Mordechai ben David’s Seagate video http://jewishmusicreport.com/2012/11/05/mbd-asks-for-your-help-to-rebuild-seagate/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook at 6:20 ]

  • Chaim Saiman

    ’אמן. יהא שמה רבה וכו

  • Samuel G.

    You can send the clothes to other people that need them. I am sure that there are non frum jews and non jews that would appreciate an act of chesed. Oh by the way, it would be a wonderful kiddush Hashem!

  • Menachem Lipkin

    This is wonderful, and, while you gave it a quick mention, let’s not understate Chessed like this being done by ALL types of people. One small example…

    My wife’s cousin and her husband decided Friday night that they had to do something to help the folks in the Rockaways. He waited on line 2 hours for gas at 4:00 am Saturday morning and then later they went to Target, filled up their van with supplies and drove out to Far Rockaway to deliver their goods. They chronicled this on Facebook and as a result, they returned on Sunday with a caravan of 7 SUVs and a U-Haul truck filled to the brim. They are now in the process of procuring a staging area so that they can continue this on a larger scale. With the potential of a snowstorm hitting the area on Wednesday this has become an issue of life and death.

    Here’s an excerpt from an email they received from a local councilman’s office:

    “You and your group are great people. The most sincere, warm and caring group I have ever worked with in any disaster or otherwise. Its very nice to know that people still care about one another. Its been so cold and harsh out here lately and so meeting and working with you felt like being with my family.”

    Nor is this unique. Having grown up on the Jersey Shore I’m in touch with people there and the outpouring of Chessed from all corners has been tremendous. In my past community of Highland Park a local church and temple joined together to stage supplies for devastated shore communities. The list goes on.

    Thankfully, the close-knit nature of the orthodox community allows us to organize things quickly and extend ourselves to each other in ways that others can’t. As everyone is in this together I think it’s important to extol the broader “sparkle” we’re seeing among so many of our fellow B’nei Adom.

  • Observer

    For another great example of focus on the community, that also reaches out, look at Masbia (www.masbia.org)