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Hanukkah Comes Early for Sandy Victims

Chanukah came early for children in Brooklyn after a toy store in Borough Park handed out more than $10,000 worth of toys to those affected by superstorm Sandy.

Yonasan Schwartz, the owner of Toys to Discover on 18th Avenue in the heavily Jewish area of the New York borough, gave out more than 600 packages filled with toys over the weekend to children living in Brooklyn and on Long Island whose homes were ruined by the worst storm to hit the northeastern U.S. in memory.

“After reading about all the ruins and how much people are suffering after the hurricane, I decided I had to do a little sharing,” Schwartz told JTA in a phone interview. “Everyone has been contributing a lot to the hurricane relief, we’ve seen a lot of kindness in the Jewish community, and this was the best way I thought I could contribute, since I can give out what I actually own.”

Schwartz, 43, of Brooklyn, handed out parcels with $150 worth of toys to anyone who came into the store and said their homes were affected by the hurricane. The parcel featured two types of building blocks games, several Jewish children’s books (including one in Yiddish), three packages of children’s Band-Aids, kitchen play sets and a doll set of little Jewish figurines.

He said he was prepared to hand out 500 parcels, but made an additional 100 after receiving an overwhelming amount of responses from families in the Seagate and Far Rockaway communities.

Toys to Discover posted its donation announcement to its Twitter and Facebook pages, and also placed an ad in a weekly advertising publication. Schwartz said that many came in to pick up toys to distribute while they volunteered.

“People have been so thankful for this contribution,” he said. “One person came to pick up a few parcels for an area in Far Rockaway where 52 families lost their homes.”

People collecting toys for needy families continued to trickle into his store as the week went on after the parcels ran out, so Schwartz said he would now offer heavy discounts to families in need.

“I’ve been in the toy business a long time, and I know how attached kids get to their favorite toys,” he said. “It’s sad to see how much children have lost when their families have lost their entire homes; they don’t have anything to play with. I hope they can become attached to these new toys fast.”

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