In the devastating wake of Hurricane Sandy, people across the New York Tri-state area and around the country sprang into action.
They checked on neighbors and friends, offering up couches and air mattresses to those who’s homes had been destroyed. They made donations of money, clothes, batteries, flashlights, and blankets. They travelled to Far Rockaway, Gowanus, Atlantic City, Staten Island, and other hard hit communities – on their own or with organizing outfits like Occupy Sandy – to carry supplies up to residents stuck without power on top apartment floors, or help clear out debris from people’s damaged homes. These volunteers’ stories were powerful, at times devastating, and always inspirational.
At the heart of all this action was Congregation Beth Elohim, a reform temple in Brooklyn. Just one day after Hurricane Sandy, the temple morphed into a temporary disaster relief hub – a place where people could drop donations, come by to volunteer, or gather supplies and be dispatched out to a community in need. Thousands of people showed up, and continued to show up for weeks after the storm.
Meanwhile, the seeds of another program were planted. Chef Rozanne Gold and her husband Michael Whiteman, who are members of CBE, organized a pop-up food relief effort in the temple’s kitchen. Along with a rotating crew of volunteers, they began preparing sandwiches and hot meals for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, packaging and delivering between 500-3,000 meals every single day.
As the months went on, and the immediate trauma began to subside for most residents, CBE continued making meals. Eventually they expanded their efforts beyond Hurricane Sandy victims, to other New Yorkers in need naming the program CBE Feeds. As CBE’s Assistant Rabbi, Marc Katz, said in an interview with Repair the World, “Hurricane Sandy helped to shine a light on neglected, impoverished areas in Brooklyn that needed help before the storm, and [continued] to need help after.”
Exactly one year after Hurricane Sandy, more than 2800 volunteers (synagogue members and not, Jewish and otherwise, individuals and groups) have participated and CBE Feeds continues to make 500 meals a day, 5 days a week. Those meals are delivered to local soup kitchens, churches that host meals for the underserved, and women’s shelters. Recently, CBE’s Senior Rabbi, Andy Bachman, celebrated the group’s 100,000th meal with the volunteers. Meanwhile, CBE Feeds received over $300,000 from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office of Storm Recovery to continue their program over the next few years.
365 days after the hurricane, CBE Feeds continues to stand out for successfully turning a short term relief effort into a sustained act of chesed (loving kindness) and tzedakah (justice/charity). As Ms. Gold wrote in a statement about CBE Feeds, “I realized that I never really knew anyone who was hungry. And the awareness and appreciation of this plight became a focus of my thinking, because the need continues to be great.”
Find out how you can get involved with CBE Feeds. Do you know of another program thriving 1 year after Hurricane Sandy? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting @repairtheworld.