Not long ago, a member of Teaneck’s Temple Emeth noticed a small ad in the back pages of the Jewish Standard soliciting gently used clothing for nursing-home residents.
She brought it to the attention of Eva Sandrof, co-chair of the temple’s social action committee. Ms. Sandrof immediately put out a call for donations.
“The response by our members was overwhelming,” Ms. Sandrof said. “Within a short period of time, 18 large bags of clothing were donated to needy residents in Daughters of Jacob, a nursing home in the Bronx.”
The ad was placed by Dr. Sam Carr, a podiatrist who lives in Fair Lawn and has tended the feet of residents of several nursing homes for the last 20 years. He discovered, to his surprise, that many of his patients could not afford to buy clothing.
After giving some of his own lightly used shirts and pants to grateful residents, “I was overwhelmed by how much they appreciated and needed and wanted them,” he said.
For the last few years he has appealed to fellow members of the Bergen County Jewish community, first on the “Teaneckshuls” email group and then in Jewish newspapers, to donate for residents of six or seven nursing homes. Lately he is concentrating his efforts on two Bronx facilities, the 515-bed Daughters of Jacob and the 240-bed Grand Manor Nursing Home.
Lorraine Whyte, director of social services at Daughters of Jacob in the South Bronx, explained that formerly the typical nursing home resident was a senior citizen whose family members could provide new clothing as needed. However, the population of urban nursing homes has changed significantly over the past few years.
“Today we have a lot of homeless people of all ages, and they don’t have the resources to purchase clothing for themselves,” she said. “They might get $50 a month from the government for spending money, and that’s clearly not enough. We also have residents with family members who don’t have the resources to provide for their loved ones. All of them are so appreciative of the gently used clothing that Dr. Carr brings.”
She said that a 100-year-old resident received 11 sets of clothing that the staff chose for her from the Temple Emeth donation. “I just got a call again from upstairs that one of our other residents needs clothing, and I will go into these bags and find very nice lightly used clothing for her,” Ms. Whyte said.
Dr. Carr, who used to live in Teaneck, says he is glad to be able to help so many people.
He said that his parents always stressed the importance of helping others, and he has taken that value to heart. He volunteers weekly delivering food for Tomchei Shabbos of Bergen County and picks up leftover food from local kosher restaurants for distribution to needy families through Shearit HaPlate of Bergen County.
For the ongoing clothing drive, he picks up donations — usually from individuals — and brings them to the social-service department of the nursing homes for distribution.
“This is the second time an organization has participated as a group; Congregation Beth Tefillah in Paramus donated previously,” he said.
Ms. Sandrof recognizes this effort as an act of tikkun olam — fixing the world.
“Dr. Carr deserves kudos for his concern for his patients and for organizing and undertaking this ongoing act of tikkun olam,” she said, adding that the synagogue’s social action committee “would certainly collect again next year” for the cause.
No Jewish story ever ends without a small-world twist. Ms. Sandrof found out that many years ago, the uncle of one of the synagogue’s members was the director of Daughters of Jacob. “She remembers visiting her uncle there,” Ms. Sandrof said.
Nate Goldman, the Daughters of Jacob’s administrator, said that the home was founded in 1896 as the first Jewish nursing home in New York City. It first opened on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When it moved to the Bronx, it had a synagogue, a study hall, and kosher kitchens, for a largely Orthodox population. In fact, Dr. Carr worked as a weekend kosher supervisor there while he was in podiatry school.
“Unfortunately it has not been a ‘Jewish’ facility in years,” Mr. Goldman said.
But thanks to the Bergen County Jewish community, it still benefits from the Jewish value of giving.
“My philosophy is that there are two types of mitzvahs: between man and man, and between man and God,” Dr. Carr said. “Some people are very strict about mitzvahs between man and God but are lax in treating their fellow man well. I believe they are equally important.”