Just before Shelly Fine went to sleep Tuesday night, he posted his contact information and an appeal seeking volunteers for the Hurricane Sandy relief effort on a popular Upper West Side blog. When the 63-year-old woke up the next morning, he had 163 responses. Together with other volunteers, Fine is helping to orchestrate a grassroots effort to help out at the city’s local shelters.
“The response of the Jewish community up here has been amazing,” Fine told JTA. “Synagogues, organizations and individuals – everyone has been coming out to volunteer. We’ve been sending people with medical training around to the evacuation sites to make sure everyone is OK, people are showing up and handing out cooked food, fresh clothing and games for children.”
Fine is just one of a number of Jewish volunteers stepping up to bring relief to New Yorkers affected by Hurricane Sandy. Tens of thousands of residents across the five boroughs still have no heat and electricity after the storm ripped through the city earlier this week, tearing down trees, homes and power lines. Many residents evacuated to local shelters or, stuck inside their homes, were relying on volunteers to bring them food and supplies.
Uri L’Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice organization, hit the streets of New York City Wednesday to hand out food and supplies to those in need. After placing an announcement on Twitter and Facebook, some 45 volunteers showed up to distribute candles, batteries, flashlights, water and food.
“We brought just about every flashlight we could find, and eventually just stood on street corners and handed out water to anyone who needed,” said Uri L’Tzedek’s Yael Keller. “A lot of people approached us telling us about elderly people stuck on higher floors who needed company and supplies. We climbed stairs.”
In Brooklyn, Masbia, a network of kosher soup kitchens serving that usually provides 500 meals a day, has been making more than four times that number since the storm. The organization originally prepared to close its facilities ahead of the storm since many employees live in affected neighborhoods. But Masbia’s executive director, Alexander Rapaport, told JTA that after receiving several calls from shelters in need of food, he gathered a team of volunteers and has been working around the clock to provide meals to thousands of people in three public shelters in Brooklyn and Queens.
“We’ve been sending most of our meals to the seniors evacuated to Park Slope Armory, which is part of the government’s evacuation plan,” Rapaport said. “There were hundreds of people being bused in, on stretchers and in wheelchairs. We usually aren’t equipped to make this much food, but we’ve had a lot of volunteers. People understand the sense of urgency to help these older people.”