Jews in Middlesex County donated “thousands and thousands” of nonperishable food items, clothing, and cleaning supplies to victims of Superstorm Sandy.
Spanning the generations, families brought the items to the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County’s South River offices on Nov. 18 as part of a “Community Action Day” for storm victims.
In addition, the federation’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund has received close to $52,000 as of press time in donations and gift cards, according to federation executive director Gerrie Bamira.
“We’ve been very welcomed in this community, and we want to give back to our neighbors,” said Bamira.
The event was held in lieu of the annual Super Sunday fund-raiser, which was rescheduled for Jan. 13, 2013.
The food was donated to the kosher food bank of the Jewish Family and Vocational Service of Middlesex County and the Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach and Distribution Services. The latter collects and distributes nonperishables to more than 70 food pantries and soup kitchens.
Clothing and articles such as blankets and household items are being given to the Salvation Army, said Bamira.
Money from the relief fund will initially go to JFVS and the Jewish Social Service Committee of New Brunswick and Highland Park, as well as the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe. Chabad provided kosher self-heating meals to seniors sheltered in the municipality’s senior and recreation centers during the storm.
The rest of the money will be shared with other local relief agencies, particularly those helping residents of Sayreville and South River, who were in some cases left homeless by the high winds and severe flooding.
Bamira said that Jewish and non-Jewish residents of East Brunswick and South River who were particularly hard hit by Sandy have been coming to the federation’s offices.
“They heard we had items to donate and have been coming for weeks,” said Bamira. On Nov. 20, a young couple with three children under the age of five who had lost everything were given clothing, cleaning supplies, toys, and gift cards.
‘Almost our duty’
The federation offices became a swirl of activity during the action day event. Cars packed with donations snaked through the parking lot and onto the street. Teen greeters helped bring supplies inside, where a large table was stacked with donated items several feet high. Volunteers quickly sorted through the piles.
The Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley in East Brunswick sent a contingent of students to lend a hand. The school also sent supplies and $600 raised by its eighth-graders as part of Terrific Thursday, an annual school fund-raiser for the federation. Terrific Thursday raised $1,665 for various projects.
In a back room, children and adults helped to wrap huge stacks of toys and games while young children made accompanying cards. Still other youngsters made cards for Israeli children left traumatized by the recent wave of violence.
When asked why she was there, six-year-old Phoebe Struminger of East Brunswick put down her crayon and said, “People lost stuff in the hurricane. If we lost stuff, it would be kind for people to give us stuff.”
“This is almost our duty,” agreed Yoni Wechsler, 13, of North Brunswick as he helped sort coats. “This is what we’re supposed to do.”
Marlene Herman of Edison, a cochair of the Super Sunday event, took pleasure in the large number of children offering assistance.
“This is exactly why I wanted to participate in this,” she said. “I wanted to show children what charitable action is. Children don’t see when their parents write a check but they can see here what it means to give charity and help others.”
Paula Storm of East Brunswick helped wrap toys and games with her children, Addison, six, and Ethan, seven, who attend religious school at Temple B’nai Shalom in East Brunswick.
“This is a very important lesson to teach your kids, to help people who are less fortunate than us,” she said. “They’ve learned about tzedaka at Hebrew school so they know, but it’s still important to show them they should share their good fortune with others.”