When Superstorm Sandy pounded the Atlantic coast one year ago, it quickly, and devastatingly, separated the lucky from the unlucky. Shore communities took the brunt of the storm and the surge of water that flooded homes and swept away lives and communities. If you were lucky or you lived inland, you woke up with dangling gutters and downed branches; if you were unlucky, your neighborhood was under water and your house unrecoverable.
The storm also separated the talkers from the doers. The talkers yakked about the political impact of the storm, or quickly pointed blame at whatever government agency seemed to have been taken by surprise by the storm’s ferocity. The doers asked a simple question: How do we help? In the immediate aftermath, they opened their homes, businesses, and agencies to those who needed shelter, electricity, and food. In the following weeks they helped arrange longer-term solutions for the displaced and depressed. Across the region, communities with little in common built connections based on good deeds and voluntarism.
“Doers” were legion in the Jewish community. In our pages, we reported on a synagogue in Manalapan that hosted a delegation from the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ — including 10 Israelis — who came to help rebuild a ruined Union Beach home. We met the cantors who interrupted their annual meeting to volunteer at a relief center in Toms River. And we learned how the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County allocated over $100,000 in storm relief.
Of course, even after a year, the area has not completely healed, and it will be years before it does. Meanwhile, Jewish individuals and institutions continue to offer support and resources, from counseling to financial assistance to elbow grease.
“After Hurricane Sandy,” wrote Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, “the Torah of Thanksgiving teaches us that thankfulness is not limited to a solitary day. Gratitude is an ongoing consciousness that compels us to open our eyes and hearts and wallets to respond to the devastation around us, now and always.”