Students from Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in New Jersey sort garbage bags of clothes at a synagogue on Staten Island.
Pausing to rest, I wiped a drop of sweat off my forehead. I looked around and was astounded that the once-overflowing mountain of garbage bags — filled with donated clothes — had become only a measly mound. Next to me I noticed stacks and piles of sorted and folded clothes. Within the piles, I saw a variety of clothing ranging from infant shirts to a pair of extra large adult pants. I took a deep breath and continued to sort and fold.
As I organized the clothing, I thought how impressive this scene must look: a large group of students helping out with relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy. The hard-working group was comprised of Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School (RKYHS) students who gave up their time and volunteered to aid those in need.
“[It was an] important thing to do, and it was a good way to spend our day off,” said Rachel Zucker, a junior at the school located in Livingston, N.J. “I thought it was truly a humbling experience.”
At the end of October, the Eastern Seaboard was walloped by a superstorm known as Sandy. The hurricane ripped apart much of the tri-state area, leaving hundreds homeless and hundreds of thousands powerless. After regrouping from the damage, the staff of RKYHS refused to stand by as thousands suffered. Faculty members Jeff Reiss and Chana Baila Krupka contacted the Bikur Cholim of Staten Island, Young Israel of Staten Island and Congregation of Toras Emes of Staten Island and arranged for students to help out with relief efforts.
When the last student boarded the bus on Monday, Nov. 5, both teachers were astounded by the fact that over 60 kids decided show up — on their own. (There was no school that day because the building was without power.) “Unbelievable . . . beyond my wildest expectations,” said Reiss, who teaches history. “The hearts of Kushner’s students are incredible.”
A couple hours later the bus arrived at the Young Israel where students packed food into boxes and moved the boxes to the side of the Bikur Cholim building, ready to be handed out. Then the students returned to the bus and headed to Congregation of Toras Emes. They were divided into two groups: one group sorted through clothes, the other organized food donations. Max Chosak, a freshman, accurately described the event. “Meaningful and important to those who aren’t as fortunate,” he said.
The group sorting clothes carried heavy bags to the front of the building. The bags were torn open and students slowly made their way through heaping piles of shirts, pants, scarves, mittens and more. When they finished folding the articles of clothing, items were neatly repacked into bags to be given out to people who needed them.
Meanwhile, the group organizing food donations unloaded an immense amount of crates filled with canned and boxed food. The cases contained a wide variety of kosher and non-kosher food such as pasta, cereal, crackers and cans of tuna and soup. Students sorted the goods and placed them in designated areas to be distributed to people in need.
While all this was going on, the seniors were sent to New Dorp High School. They moved boxes filled with aid supplies and replaced them with tables and booths for Election Day.
The impact the students made was tremendous and truly amazing. The way they helped out families who were in need of the food and clothing was unimaginable and a true sanctification of God’s name. Not only did the assistance impact hundreds of families, it also had a huge impact on the students themselves.
The storm called Sandy affected us all; whether it tore through your neighborhood, caused you to lose power for a few days or created harm to a loved one, it all hit us where it hurts most. The students at Kushner showed a great act of kindness by aiding those who are in need and we should all be inspired by their actions. If we continue to reach out to the victims of Sandy and support them in this difficult time, we may be able to get through this disaster quicker than we thought.