When the lights went out, they found community

When the lights went out, they found community

Helping hands come from near and far

Congregation Sons of Israel in Nyack lost power on the Monday Sandy hit, and didn’t see it restored for a week. According to Rabbi Jeffery Abraham, several of the Conservative synagogue’s congregants were without power and had damage to their homes, as well.

Early in the week, Oheb Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Baltimore, caught wind of CSI’s plight. During just a couple of days, Oheb Shalom congregants collected clothes, food and other items, filling several moving trucks with goods to help relieve some of the losses in the area.

Abraham could not accept all of what was sent, and so he transferred some to the Nyack Center and the Salvation Army facility in West Nyack. Other trucks headed for Oceanside, Queens, and Toms River, N.J., said Caren Leven, the director of congregational engagement at Oheb Shalom.

“We put out a posting on our three Facebook pages, saying that we were calling a community meeting on Sunday, to help brainstorm what we could do to help those in need,” said Leven. “We had 40 people show up from that post.”

She had no idea there would be such an outpouring. Other congregations wanted to help, as well.

“We didn’t think it was going turn into this huge thing for the community,” she said. “People are still calling to see what they can do to help.”

The local federation collected a mountain of clothes, so much that it had to stop accepting donations, said Executive Director Diane Sloyer. Food donations are still welcome.

“There have been several hundred coats,” said Sloyer. Most of the goods will be taken to the YJCC of Washington Township, in New Jersey, and to the UJA-Federation of New York’s Westchester offices in White Plains, which will take the goods to Staten Island or Far Rockaway, she said.

In addition, Jewish Federations of North America, the umbrella organization for the North American federation system, will include Rockland County in its disaster relief. The local federation will get $10,000 from the fund, according to Sloyer.

“That will be used to buy food cards and given out to the community,” she said.

Food and gift cards are the best ways to continue to offer assistance, according to Diane Serratore, executive director of People to People, the county’s largest food bank.

Support for the food bank has been tremendous following the storm, with the JCC collecting peanut butter and jelly, non-perishable items that do not need refrigeration, and Temple Beth Torah agreeing to take up a collection for the food even while it had no power, Serratore noted. Temple Beth Sholom plans to send over 50 turkeys, a reminder that the winter holidays and a very busy season for the food bank are just around the corner.

During the storm, People to People lost power and when it returned it sparked an open gas line, which damaged the agency’s offices and lobby. Nevertheless, the organization has plugged on, distributing food to more than 600 families, when normally it would give to about 400 in a week, Serratore said.

“We’ve done what needs to be done to make sure everybody gets food,” said Serratore. “There’s never a good time for a fire, but now is a particularly bad time.”

Rockland Jewish Family Service is also collecting for store cards. “It’s a tangible way for people to help where an individual can decide how to use it,” said Maria Dowling, chief executive officer.

The organization had an extra Get Fresh delivery, which brings fresh produce from the Hudson Valley Food bank to the Rockland Jewish Community Campus, allowing several area food pantries and food programs to stock up.

“We had some calls from people without power and those concerned about older relative,” said Dowling. “But most of our calls have ben people wanting to help. They want to know how they can volunteer and donate.”

How to help
People to People

The food bank can use peanut butter and jelly and other nonperishable items, and gift cards to supermarket or discount stores such as Target. Cash donations are also welcome. Visit www.peopletopeopleinc.org/ or call (845) 623-4900

The Jewish Federation of Rockland County

It is no longer accepting clothing donations. Cash donations will go to its Hurricane Sandy relief fund. www.jewishrockland.org

Rockland Jewish Family Service

Donations can be made at www.rjfs.org

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