Hard times lead to heartfelt help


Children made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; volunteers sorted clothing; countless residents contributed batteries, canned goods, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, coats and even pet food, while others used some of their last gasoline to deliver relief. 

As local residents began to grasp the depth of need in the areas hardest hit by superstorm Sandy, they stepped up with great outpourings of generosity. 

“It’s just been remarkable to see hundreds of people coming together donating and tons of cars going out to communities in need,” said Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. 

Rabbi Ari Hart, also of HIR, said he made his first trip down to the Lower East Side last Tuesday to bring water and food to residents. 

Since then, he said, “We’ve just been ramping up our efforts,” noting that donations have already reached all five boroughs and that residents helped salvage damaged books, clean out basements and feed the hungry.

In conjunction with Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale and Riverdale Jewish Center, HIR sent out about 20 vans to Christian Fellowship Church on East Gunhill Road on Sunday to contribute to what Rabbi Bob Kaplan said would be a caravan to Far Rockaway.

“We talked about it a lot over Shabbat and said this is really a time for us to step up as a community,” Rabbi Hart said. 

The effort to help prompted HIR member Shira Berkowits, with family on Staten Island, to create a shared online “Google Doc,” to keep contributors informed of what items to give and where to give them.  

Riverdale Presbyterian Church took up a collection of blankets and batteries over the weekend, which were already delivered to Staten Island families.

PS 24 families amassed hundreds of water bottles, nearly a dozen bags of canned food, diapers, toothpaste and other toiletries, which were given to Sandy victims in Far Rockaway on Monday.

“Class moms” Liz Phelan and Carolyn Guarriello sorted out the school’s lost and found while preparing to wash and donate dozens of gloves, scarves and hats.

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