IN THE FACE of widespread electrical, telephone, and Internet outages; gas rationing; water limitations; and damage to homes and property, the Jewish Educational Center offered assistance to community members displaced by superstorm Sandy, providing both material and emotional assistance.
Although school was closed — it reopened Nov. 5 — the JEC had power and opened its headquarters in Elizabeth as a public respite center.
JEC’s associate dean, Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz, said, “As the umbrella organization for the Elizabeth/Hillside Orthodox community, opening up our facility was a no-brainer. We are a family, and when some of us are hurting, it is up to the rest to stand strong and be there.”
The organization reached out via e-mail and web notices but, recognizing that many people still did not have Internet access, embarked on a word-of-mouth campaign across the community.
Within one hour of the initial e-mail announcement, said Adina Abramov, the JEC’s chief marketing officer, the center filled up and a steady stream of visitors kept the stations busy up until the arrival of Shabbat Nov. 2.
Among the amenities provided by the JEC — besides light and heat — were charging stations outfitted with multiple power strips and outlets, toys and sports equipment for students of all ages; and kosher refreshments.
Pinchas Kasirer of the local kosher One Stop Kosher Mart donated many of the refreshments and disposables and sent over several trays of pastries and hot cholent on the cold evening of Nov. 1.
“It is important to greet people b’sever panim yafot,” with a pleasant demeanor, said Adina Abramov, the JEC’s chief marketing officer who spearheaded the efforts. “It is one thing to open up our facility but is another level entirely when we do it with benevolence and grace.”
Parents brought their children over for an opportunity to get out of the house and play in a safe and open environment, while they socialized with friends and neighbors over hot coffee as their cell phones and laptops recharged. Middle and high school students set up teams for ongoing basketball play and some men were even spotted sitting comfortably in the warmth studying Torah texts.
The JEC’s efforts post-Sandy continue, and students in all three divisions are working on initiatives to assist those affected by the hurricane. Students from its Bruriah High School for Girls and Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy high-schoolers have also participated in the Jewish Family Service clean-up and distribution campaign as well.