Larry Krule, a resident of Teaneck, sponsors frequent programs at his home as founder of the Davar Institute, a 12-year-old Modern Orthodox group that invites prominent scholars to speak about Jewish art, culture and philosophy.
Last weekend the Institute served another purpose – the spark for a collection of clothing and other items to be distributed to people who had lost their possessions in the floods of Hurricane Sandy.
The hands-on work “filled a strong need to put our ethics and philosophy into action,” says Krule, who is an investor in distressed companies. “This was an opportunity to help our immediate community, Jews and non-Jews.”
Sabbath-observant, he decided on Saturday afternoon, sitting in “the dark and cold” of his home, that he wanted to help people who had suffered losses during the storm. Saturday night, he went to the home of a friend who had not lost electric power. Krule sent an email to the Institute’s 400-person membership list: he would collect needed items the next morning, from 8:30 to 10 a.m., he wrote. People who read the email showed up; so did Teaneck residents who drove or jogged by.
His effort netted more than 150 bags of food and clothing and baby care goods – and more than 100 coats, “all in good shape. Plus sweaters and linens and blankets.” The stuff filled seven vans, “jammed to the gills.”
Krule and six volunteer drivers took the items to two institutions he felt could most efficiently distribute them: the JCC in Manhattan, and a shelter on the Upper West Side.
By noon, everyone was done.
Afterwards, Krule said, “people thanked me for creating the opportunity for them to do this.”
Some other stories from the week of Sandy:
The writer of “My Kaddish Year,” a blog about the year of mourning for her mother, decided not to venture out, at the height of the storm, to the home of a neighbor who was sitting shiva last week. After the danger passed, the writer went to the neighbor’s home. “I asked him whether he had gotten a minyan for each prayer service. I was expecting a negative answer given the extraordinary weather. But he told me there was a minyan for every service.”
Adam Scheldt, a fifth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College, spent the weekend after the storm volunteering at the Red Hook Initiative, a small community center located in low-income government housing in Red Hook, Brooklyn. “When I arrived, they needed a good schlepper more than they needed pastoral care, so I began to carry boxes of cleaning supplies to another relief center and then headed a team of three other volunteers to deliver battery operated lighting and supplies to residents without electricity or heat,” Scheldt says.
“I was able to give my pastoral muscles a good workout as we delivered supplies to an elderly survivor of both a heart-attack and a stroke who was caring for her grandchildren, as well as a poor mother of three very young children who had neither power or heat,” he said. Then he worked at the information/triage desk. “So many came to help and to donate that we actually had to begin turning volunteers away,
“The work of clean-up for those who have no insurance, the work of feeding those who are hungry, and the work of bringing warmth and light to those in dark places (both literally and metaphorically) is hard work,” Scheldt says. “But it is good work.” He intends to continue to volunteer in the days and weeks ahead. “It was, and is a gift,” he said.
Synagogues in areas that had power, from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Kew Gardens Hills in Queens, experienced a surge in attendance this past Shabbat. Many congregants were hosting relatives and friends who were without power.
A Red Cross shelter in West Hempstead High School, L.I., accommodated religiously observant who turned up there, offering kosher meals served on paper table cloths, and separate sleeping areas for men and women.
Rabbi Mendy Kasowitz of the Lubavitch Center of Essex County in New Jersey loaned his generator to a local kosher bakery to make sure that a supply of challahs would be available for Shabbat. The rabbi hand-delivered many of the loaves to homebound seniors and other people unable to leave their homes.
In Flatbush, a tree fell on a police car – two officers inside – in an area marked off by yellow tape. Sparks flew from a severed power line. A staff member of the Jewish Community Centers Association reported that her neighbor quickly removed his kippah to use as a makeshift glove, opening the glass-covered car doors and rescuing the officers.