Rachel: When you first heard about the destruction in New York, what was your initial thought?
Rabbi T: We were braced pretty strongly for stuff here so, when we dodged the bullet, I think I just breathed a sigh of relief. Originally I thought elsewhere also got less damage than anticipated, and my initial thought was- what a major inconvenience, no electricity for them. Then we saw actual pictures of the utter devastation and destruction.
Rachel: What steps have you taken to aid the relief effort?
Rabbi T: I have addressed our MesorahDC participants during the Friday night services and dinner about this week’s parshah which describes the great acts of kindness and hospitality that Abraham showed to those less fortunate. I appealed to them to see this as a tremendous opportunity to put their values into practice. We need to be creative and think of what we can do to help- even if we can’t physically be there, just calling/emailing someone and sharing their anguish will go a long way. We must arouse our empathy, and not fall back to our personal routine without keeping them in our thoughts and prayers as well. Just THINK about it– no home. Aside from the financial stress, this also means a sense of being displaced and people need a home for their emotional security. Even for those that still have a home, it’s not just the lack of heat that’s problematic but the darkness that a candle cannot fully dispel. It can be depressing and makes it hard to function productively. We organized a canned food and clothing drive-there was a very nice response (some even called to help with the organizing as well as to offer donations).
Rachel: Has Mesorah DC teamed up with any other organizations for the relief?
Rabbi T: Mesorah teamed up with an organization in Baltimore to truck all the supplies that we collected to the New York area.
Rachel: Do you have any personal connections in NY impacted by the hurricane?
Rabbi T: As a native New Yorker (I know you can’t tell from my accent…), I know many people in distress. My own family. I have 2 brother-in-laws and their families still without electricity. A close friend of mine has been told that he won’t have power for up to 7 weeks. Another friend’s business, an assisted living home, was totally leveled so he has no income (all the residents were, thank God, evacuated safely). These are just a few stories. As difficult as this is, it’s also heartening to hear about some of our “regular citizens” that have become super heroes. A friend of mine owns a catering business- he opened up his catering hall for ANYONE to come in and have a meal. ALL day! There are many other great stories.
Rachel: How can people continue to aid the relief effort?
Rabbi T: We can all do something to help. Our great heritage teaches us that we can do tzedakah with our money. Even greater sometimes- we can do kindness with our bodies. Get physically involved, collect canned food, call people that are under duress, etc. Anyone that is still interested in assisting, please contact us at info@mesorahDC.org. We will point you in the right direction. Unfortunately, this will be a long recovery process.