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The Brandeis Men's Club works with Nechama to help Hurricane Sandy victims

 

On Sunday morning, December 16th, 2012, 14 hearty Men’s Club members and their sons set out from Temple Israel, headed for Far Rockaway, NY to help Nechama with the cleanup after Hurricane Sandy.  That is was a cold, rainy day, did not dampen the spirits of our group!  Most homeowners were very touched by our help, and some were somewhat ambivalent.  In the end, we know we made a difference, and we were all better off having helped complete strangers in a time of significant need.  I would suspect that we might be back!  Thanks to all the men and young men who gave up their Sunday to make a difference.  We should all be proud to have volunteered for this project.   Below, are the personal observations of some from our group as well as some pictures of the day.


Howard Schreiber, President
Brandeis Men’s Club, Temple Israel, Ridgewood, NJ

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It was very rewarding to work with Nechema on Sunday.  Steven and I were happy to have our boys able to help those in need of assistance.  It is important in this time of year when so much of their experience is focused on parties and Chanukah presents to give back and realize that others do not share in the luxuries of their everyday life.  We spent most of the morning with the majority of the group doing demolition of sheet rock, cabinetry and appliances.  After lunch, Andrew, the project leader,  asked us to go to a different house closer to the ocean where we did similar work alongside a group from Long Island.  The afternoon work was tricky since there was no flooring, and we moved from joist to joist or balanced on plywood that we had thrown over them to secure some footing.

 

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We felt accomplished knowing  that we helped a few of the home owners in Far Rockaway . We took for granted the fact that our lives are back to normal; after Sandy we were complaining that we didn’t have power for 8 days and those people out there are without power for more than a month and half and counting . I saw one  family with small children coming back home just as we left and only turn on the generator for the night to warm their house and save money on fuel  . The house that we worked on was in so bad shape that we had to gut out everything in the basement. Sheet rock, insulation, nails, carpet, refrigerator  and toilet were all taken .

 

I have friends that have their summer house in Sea Side, New Jersey and their house got ruined; not to underestimate their damage or devastation.  The poor people in Far Rockaway, this is their  only  house without any  flood  insurance or money to fix the damage Sandy caused.  It felt good helping them, and a  mitzvah to help.
Everyone worked as hard as they could in the dark smelly rooms and  on a gloomy day.  Kudus to everyone for the hard work!!!

 

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I had a mixed experience, mostly good.  The people who I worked with were great.  I came home a told Carly I found her future husband.  A good looking guy with a nice personality and more interest in helping people then material gains.  The person I am referring to has been volunteering there for over a week.  When I asked him what he did before (thinking to myself how is he supporting himself) he told me he just got back from the Peace Corp. Another person there was a woman named Rachel (I think). She is from Malvern, Long Island and this was her second time helping.  What had me concerned was the owner of the house.  In looking at the shape of the walls on the floor we were gutting, I did not think the house was inhabitable so I asked "does anyone know where the owner is staying?"  I was told she was upstairs, living in the house on the floor above.   Perhaps she was tired if she worked earlier.   That said the devastation speaks for itself. The amount of refuge still in the streets six weeks later and the amount of work still to be done to restore some semblance of normalcy to that area and others is mind boggling. I appreciated the signs I saw that said "Occupy Sandy".  As I was driving home I saw an SUV with a Maine license plate with a sign that said "Occupy Sandy, We Will Not Forget You."

All in all it was a good experience, a humbling experience and one I intend to do again soon.

 

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Sunday was a quite an eye opener for me. From the minute we reached the proximity of Far Rockaway I noticed the wake of destruction Sandy left. Some sewers were still flooded, branches were on the side of the street and homeowners were still working on their houses. Then, when we got to the house we were assigned, it fully hit me. The quality of life, the damage, and not to mention, the smell. Even with the mask I could smell the harsh smells of the homeowner’s basement. Nevertheless, everyone got working right away, taking screws out of the metal supports, taking down dry wall, pumping out water still in his basement! It was hard work, but I was more than glad to help this man. And on the contrary to Manny's experience, the homeowner was right by our side working with us.

 

Sometime, around 2pm, my Dad, my brother, and I went over to a neighboring household and took down the dry wall and ripped out the carpet in the house's entrance. Like Andrew, one of the Nechama's volunteers, said it’s really easy to see the work you accomplished. The wet dry wall and carpet was there, now it's not. It really gave us all a sense of productivity and helpfulness.

And while this alone was a unique experience, there was one thing for me that stood out the most from the trip. It wasn't the destruction, it wasn't slow, but evident repair, nor was it the sense of community that was tangible in the air, but the satisfaction I got knowing I was doing something good and helping someone. And what made this so clear, and 'powerful' to me was the grateful thank you I, and we, received from the homeowner. His tone made it evident it was sincere and from the bottom of his heart, that our work really meant something and really helped. It brought him one step closer to a fully repaired home. There will always be some tough bumps on the road but I know he will get through. His final 'G-d Bless You' to all of us, is what made my experience what it was, and if he and the community of Far Rockaway (or any community struck by this disaster) need some more, I would be glad to go back again.

 

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Last Sunday, I participated in the Men’s Club hurricane Sandy clean up in Far Rockaway, NY.  I saw many things there that were very shocking to me.  The way that people live there is much different than the way that we live here.  After the storm, many of these houses were greatly affected.  Our job was to handle the chainsaw and cut dead trees that were hazardous.  At one house in particular, a man’s house was left inhabitable after the storm.  We took out the floors, the kitchen walls and everything on his deck.  I felt like i was doing something great for this man because he really needed the help.  As soon as possible he wants to rebuild his house.  There were many other volunteers at this house too.  At another man’s house, we cleaned out his outside deck and helped a few other people with simple but very useful tasks, that as a group took us a short time, but for this elderly man, it would have taken days, if he was able to do it at all.

 

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