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Jersey Jews Mobilize for Hurricane Relief

November 29, 2012
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Tikkun olam, Jersey style: Volunteers from around South Jersey assembled at the Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties' donation and distribution center at the St. James School in Ventnor.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Maccabees are on my mind. How they found shelter in the synagogue, possibly in the cold, definitely in the dark. How adversity strengthened their community and their faith.

As Chanukah nears, the urge to relearn the lessons and celebrate the accomplishments of that band of brothers grows ever stronger.

I see Maccabee-like strength in today’s Jewish community. I see it in those who populate the geography of my childhood: Long Island, Staten Island, the Jersey shore.

I see that strength in Jews who embody the spirits of tzedakah and tikkun olam and donate money, food and clothes to those in need. And the need will continue for many weeks.

Through the cold and dark, the faith and community of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans will burn brightly for eight weeks, eight months or however long it takes to rebuild.

They will make the Maccabees proud. We will help them.

- Melissa Jacobs, South Jersey Editor

Sandy met her match: Jennifer and Andrea.

Jennifer Weiss is the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey. Andrea Steinberg is executive director of Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties. Weiss and Steinberg are best friends. Together, they crafted a Hurricane Sandy relief plan that mobilized South Jersey’s entire Jewish community.

“I knew that people in our area wanted to help and would respond quickly and generously,”Weiss says. “Our goal was to focus the donations and funnel them to the shore.”

Steinberg and Weiss created The Hurricane Sandy Community-Wide Relief Project. It was coordinated by JFSACMC, JFSNJ and its six agencies, the Tri-County Board of Rabbis and South Jersey synagogues. The list of requested items was spread by flyers and email, Facebook and phone calls.

South Jersey’s Jews responded in record-setting numbers. On Nov. 18, a caravan of more than 25 cars transported the donations from JFSNJ in Cherry Hill to JFS’s distribution and donation center at the St. James School in Ventor.

Approximately 200 bags of canned food were donated. “We also got donations of clothing from synagogues, businesses and individuals,” reports Lara Barrett, JFSNJ’s director of communications.

Twenty bags of winter coats were donated by the Ravitz family’s chain of Shop Rites. Congregation Beth El in Voorhees raised $1,000 worth of gift cards from Target, Walmart and Shop Rite. The Field Hockey Club of South Jersey found out about the relief effort through Temple Har Zion in Mt. Holly and raised $1,000 to buy winter jackets at Burlington Coat Factory.

And that’s only stage one, Weiss says. At the Jewish Federations General Assembly held in Baltimore from Nov. 11 to 13, Weiss and other Federation heads got advice from experts: leaders from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

“The lessons they learned in dealing with Katrina will shape our relief efforts for Sandy,” Weiss says. “What I know now is this: The need is long-term and it will change. We have to be patient, responsive, adaptable, and generous. This is the essence of tikkun olam, and it is needed right in our backyard.”

To help, contact:

Jewish Federation of Atlantic & Cape May Counties, 501 North Jerome Avenue, Margate, NJ 08402,

UJA-Federation of New York/Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, P.O. Box 4227, New York, NY 10261-4227,

See more photos here.

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