Home is Where the Heart Is: NJ NCSY To Stay Home for Irene Clean Up

September 1, 2011

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS – OR AT LEAST THE TRASH BIN; AFTER TRAVELING THE U.S. WITH NECHAMA AND AMERICAN RED CROSS DOING DISASTER RELIEF, NEW JERSEY NCSY STAYS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD FOR IRENE CLEANUP

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Their representatives have traveled to New Orleans and South Texas, to Buffalo and Atlanta, to Minnesota and to Alabama to clean up after the ravages of Mother Nature. Now, following the devastation of Hurricane Irene, New Jersey NCSY is staying home.

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The local volunteers will not work alone. First, they were to be joined by representatives of NECHAMA, The Jewish Response to Disaster, a Minnesota-based organization that provides volunteer-based disaster cleanup assistance to communities, to coordinate relief work plans and locations. (Nechama means “comfort” in Hebrew.) NECHAMA will send a crew that will remain in New Jersey until the cleanup ends, wading into the mud together with the NCSY volunteers.

Then, NCSY and NECHAMA received an offer of assistance from a well-known responder to natural disasters: the American Red Cross. Clyde Roberts, Chief, Disaster Community Partnerships of the organization, wrote to Rabbi Katz, “The American Red Cross partners with other voluntary agencies, religious groups, private sector corporations and other non-governmental groups in an effort to best relieve the unmet needs of those person affected by disaster. I went to your website for your contact information and discovered that you are in New Jersey. I am very interested in making contact with you to see how we might partner together as we both work to bring order out of the recent chaos.”

Confronted with wind and rain and the ensuing floods that have turned local streets into quagmires and back yards into swamps, New Jersey NCSY, which for four years has organized teens from NCSY groups and local yeshiva and public high schools to go on the road to bring disaster relief following hurricanes and tornadoes, finds itself with enough work in Bergen and Essex Counties to plan for almost a full month of cleanup activities at its home base. In this case, because travel is not involved, NCSY is recruiting not only teenagers but adults as well to take part in another in a series of chesed (loving-kindness) activities that have become the hallmark of the Teaneck-based region.

Quite fittingly, the program will begin on Labor Day, Monday, September 5, and will go right up to the eve of Rosh Hashanah, September 28.

Rabbi Ethan Katz, Associate Director of New Jersey NCSY, who directs the program, explained: “We have worked with NECHAMA for the past four years creating innovative leadership programs; now our leaders will work with NECHAMA once again helping not only in the physical work but in coordinating the entire program and leading their friends there.”

“Given the natural disaster that Hurricane Irene was,” Rabbi Katz continued, “the time has come for New Jersey NCSY to do its wonderful work, in partnership with NECHAMA, in our own back yards, so to speak. That is why we encourage volunteers of all ages to join us in the effort, leading right up to Rosh Hashanah.”

According to Rabbi Katz, the work will include flood relief in basements, clearing debris, hauling trash to curbside, and ripping out ruined carpets and dry wall. Other volunteers will prepare sandwiches for the lunch break. With the school year beginning, teens will work after the school day ends.

When Rosh Hashanah comes and the local cleanup comes to an end, New Jersey NCSY will turn its sights to the road again, planning other disaster-relief activities. Given the fierce weather that does not seem to abate, the question is not whether the group will travel, but rather where it will go. “There’s no shortage of places to do chesed,” Rabbi Katz declared.

To volunteer with these relief efforts, contact the New Jersey NCSY office at 201-862-0250.

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