As the freak October storm and lengthy blackouts forced schools and Jewish institutions to close their doors, at least two synagogues opened theirs.
Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David offered free dinners to anyone in the community without power, while the Summit Jewish Community Center offered a free “lunch and learn” for kids who had no school the entire week after the Oct. 29 storm.
At AABJ&D in West Orange, synagogue members without power were “matched” with people whose electricity was still powering their houses. Tuesday, guests worried about overstaying their welcome — so within a few hours, Beth Indyk, a member who owns Herb ’n’ Spice Catering, prepared a free dinner at the synagogue, which never lost power.
The invitation drew 60-70 people. The meals continued on Wednesday, with takeout from Jerusalem Pizza in Livingston, and Thursday, with more of Indyk’s fare. E-mails went out to ensure every family without power had a place to go for Shabbat, and the synagogue provided a kiddush lunch on Nov. 5 following services.
“I couldn’t have been more proud as a rabbi,” said Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler of AABJ&D. “This is the true reflection of community — people should never feel alone. They should know there is always someone there to support them. This is why people should belong to a community. It’s not just about going to shul on Shabbos.”
Across the region in Union County, the Summit school district was closed the entire week following the storm. On Thursday, Nov. 3, Summit JCC religious school director Stacey David opened the school from noon to 2 for students in grades one-six to enjoy bagels and learning with Yael Safran.
Fifteen kids showed up on Thursday, 20 on Friday.
Younger children focused on crafts while older children learned some Hebrew. “The kids at the Summit JCC really needed a place to go since public schools were closed again,” said David.
“We also lost two days of religious school…and we wanted to give the kids an opportunity to catch up on their Hebrew,” David said.