Boys sorted the heated socks, teenage girls played and colored with younger children, the women cooked food and brought it out to families, men moved generators on dollies, and volunteers readied to go out on another run delivering needed items to distressed community members as snow from a nor’easter fell on Nov. 7.
That activity has been on going at the Jean Fischman Chabad Center of the Five Towns in Cedarhurst. Hurricane Sandy struck the area and stories began flooding in how the superstorm had displaced many due to the conditions of their homes.
“The Five Towns is the most beautiful community in the world,” said Rabbi Shneur Wolowik, this Chabad’s director said, in explaining how this beehive of volunteerism began. “Chabad is community,” he added, saying that hundreds of volunteers have helped approximately 2,000 people through the past few weeks as the Center has provided meals, guidance, comfort from the cold and a place for people to rest and recharge their electronic devices.
Without power in her Cedarhurst home due to the hurricane, Tamara Steinman, a mother of three girls, was staying in North Woodmere with a few other families. Her parents, who were also displaced from their home in Belle Harbor that suffered severe water damage, are with cousins in Cedarhurst. “I’m glad that Chabad is here to help us out,” said Judith Cohen, Steinman’s
Steinman said she came to Chabad to help and finds it comforting, especially for her 3- and 4-year-olds, who are entertained with games, drawing and have pizza to eat. Her 4-year-old is a kindergartener at the Hebrew Academy at Long Beach and the 3-year-old attends the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway. She also has 3-month-old. “It is kindness and helping others,” Steinman said, as she held her infant daughter. “People can get food, feel welcome and wanted, and share their stories with others.”
Saying that he is more used to managing a crisis than being one, Cedar Bay Park resident David Welcher learned of Chabad being open through emails and came to the Maple Avenue building because his flooded home was cold and he and wife had nothing to eat in the house. A financial and technology consultant, Welcher lost personal and work computers, cameras and business and personal records due to flooding.
“At Chabad there was friendliness, no questions asked and they were happy to help,” Welcher said. “It is a positive note in a lot of negative stuff. The way people have responded shows that they displayed their finest efforts unselfishly.”
Rabbi Wolowik said that Chabad will continue with the assistance as long as people need it. And borrowing a phrase repeated by many, the rabbi reiterated why, no matter the emergency, it will be overcome. “Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” he said.