Little-Known Jewish Group Helps Sandy Victims

Minnesota-Based Nechama Steps In Like 'Angels From Heaven'

Little Known: Volunteers from Nechama help cart debris from the ruined ground floor of Messler’s home in Oceanside, L.I.
courtesy of nechama
Little Known: Volunteers from Nechama help cart debris from the ruined ground floor of Messler’s home in Oceanside, L.I.

By Seth Berkman

Published December 12, 2012, issue of December 21, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

More than a month after Hurricane Sandy swept ashore, Charlie Messler had all but lost hope of getting government help to rebuild the home that was originally built by his grandfather nearly six decades ago.

Desperate to restore the ruined ground floor, Messler considered selling part of his vintage car collection, which includes a pair of 1928 Chevys, to pay for the work.

But Messler, who is Catholic, first asked a local church and synagogue to put him in touch with private groups that might help.

Within days, a team from Nechama: Jewish Response to Disaster, a little-known Minnesota-based volunteer group, showed up at Messler’s door. Along with volunteers from AmeriCorps, the team gutted the wrecked floor in two days.

“I think they’re doing great,” said Messler, 39, a school custodian who lives in the bungalow with his disabled wife and their two children. “I saw immediately they were capable. They’ve helped out tremendously.”

Nechama volunteers did the same at the South Baldwin Jewish Center, the United Synagogue of Hoboken, and more than 50 other houses and buildings in the New York area.

Messler had never heard of Nechama. But even beneficiaries with a stronger connection to the Jewish community were mystified by the arrival of the largely unknown group that worked with pinpoint precision.

“I had never heard of them,” said Stacey Eager-Leavitt, president of the South Baldwin Jewish Center, on Long Island. “I actually had to look into it after they came. They were like knights in shining armor.”

Nechama didn’t fall from the sky, even though Rev. Alexander M. Santora describe in helping restore Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church in Hoboken, N.J., as, “like angels descended from heaven,” in an interview with WINS radio.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.