Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tamar Snyder and Staff reportsAs this week’s blizzard blanketed New York City in snow, Jewish Community Councils and other organizations scrambled to continue providing much-needed services in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, as well as meet emergency needs.

“All of our home care workers got to the homebound clients across the city,” said William Rapfogel, executive director of Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, adding that the agencies serve some 2,500 clients a day. In addition, the organization’s affordable housing has been able to serve as a resource for not only the residents but in some neighborhoods, the community as well. “Some of our residents in places like Sea Gate, Brooklyn, and Co-Op City, The Bronx, have been able to help others who came in for a warm place,” Rapfogel said.

As the first flurries began to fall on Sunday, a group of volunteers from Groove Phi-Groove, an African American social fellowship organization, pitched in to help serve meals at the Masbia kosher soup kitchen’s Flatbush location, enabling it to stay open late into the evening. Unfortunately all four of the kitchens’ locations had to close on Monday and Tuesday as the snow accumulated as high as 20 inches in some areas. Above, a child played in the snow on Sackett Street in downtown Brooklyn.

“We braved every blizzard since 2005,” said Masbia’s director Alexander Rapaport. “But it was just impossible. Our van got stuck and couldn’t make deliveries.” The kitchens in Flatbush, Borough Park, Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Rego Park in Queens were to reopen Wednesday but weekend package deliveries will be suspended.

Most of the two dozen Jewish Community Councils around the city have been operating with a skeletal staff because of the terrible conditions in the outer boroughs. The Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, for example, was still closed on Tuesday. But many staffers who could not come into work have been calling to check in on the elderly, Rapfogel said.

At the Bronx Jewish Community Council, Executive Director Brad Silver said that he and his staff are working very hard to keep the services, primarily home care, in place by locating substitute workers and encouraging families to help out where they can. “We haven’t really gotten any emergency calls from anyone in the community,” he said.

Many area yeshivas were closed Monday and Tuesday and at least one, the Hebrew Academy of Five Towns and the Rockaways, was to close Wednesday as well. In upstate East Greenbush, near Albany, a Jewish Girls Winter Retreat attended by over 65 girls from as far away as Atlanta, Baltimore, and Chicago was scheduled to end Monday morning, but it was extended an extra day for 30 participants because of the weather.

At Kennedy Airport, a flight to Tel Aviv filled with participants in several Israel prograns scheduled to leave Sunday night was delayed over 26 hours, finally taking off on Tuesday morning around 11:30 AM, according to an iReport account on CNN’s Web site.

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