Madraigos’s Community Resource Division launched the Chanukah Café for local families affected by Hurricane Sandy, drawing crowds of over 3,300 people throughout the week of Chanukah. In line with the objectives of Next Step Initiative, a communitywide program to address trauma resulting from Hurricane Sandy, the message of the Chanukah Café was “Supporting our Youth and Strengthening Our Community in the Aftermath of the Storm.”
Staffed by the Madraigos clinical office, the aim of the cafe was to provide a warm, inviting place to enhance the Chanukah celebration for local families recovering from the storm. Madraigos provided social workers and interns to give guidance and support to local families affected by the storm. Families completed surveys describing how the storm affected them so that Madraigos can better meet their needs and offer the appropriate services as they embark on the second phase of the Next Step Initiative.
The Madraigos Lev Tov Toy Drive, the highlight of the project, gave children the opportunity to choose gifts for themselves to replace toys destroyed in the storm. Every child was also encouraged to choose a toy, gift wrap it, and write a friendly note for Israeli children who are victims of terror, showing that they empathize with their plight and want to help them feel less alone.
Top notch entertainment included live concerts by Lipa Schmeltzer and Eitan Katz, magic shows, face painting, a photo fun booth, interactive games for younger children, and live music—all free of charge. Madraigos thanks these individuals for coming out to uplift Chanukah in the community.
Delicious, gourmet meals donated by local food establishments including Brachs, Central Perk, Delicious Dishes, Gotta Get a Bagel, Gourmet Glatt, Hapina, Le Chocolate, Seasons, Shula’s Pizza, Sushi Tokyo, and Traditions made it possible for the café to serve its participants in impeccable style. Tasty meals featured the popular Chanukah doughnuts and latkes but went way beyond to include more unique gourmet fare. Families displaced from their homes especially benefited and enjoyed wonderful meals together.
The Chanukah Café was the brainchild of Mr. Ephraim Kutner, chairman of the board of Madraigos, who spearheaded the entire project from inception to completion, planning every detail while soliciting vendor donations and rallying support from public officials. “The response to the café far exceeded our expectations. I’m very pleased that we were able to express heartfelt support in a concrete way to families who are faced with unbelievable challenges as a result of Hurricane Sandy. If we were able to alleviate even a small amount of stress and make their Chanukah a little brighter, it was worthwhile.” Mr. Kutner stated.
Hundreds of teen girls from local high schools volunteered their help, enabling them to serve the community in a hands-on manner and have fun in the process. Many other volunteers helped in a variety of ways during Chanukah and beforehand in preparing for the event. Madraigos thanks each and every one of them for their hard work and service.
Based on research published by the University of Michigan, engaging in community service like the Chanukah Café can increase students’ personal, interpersonal, and social development, increase motivation, student engagement, and school attendance (Billig 2000), and lead to new perspectives and more “positive lifestyle choices and behavior.” (Civic Literacy Project 2005).
Faigy Kutner, who recruited and managed all volunteers, commented, “The volunteers had a great time while learning an important lesson in helping others in need. They felt they gained more than the attendees. It was a win-win situation.”
Rabbi Dov Silver, founder and executive vice president of Madraigos, remarked, “Madraigos is honored to have been able to serve the community in such a meaningful way this past Chanukah. The program was a product of the tremendous heart of Ephraim Kutner. Every aspect had his fingerprint on it.”
Madraigos would like to express special heartfelt gratitude to Basser Kaufman, Inc. for donating the rental of prime retail space on Central Avenue which proved to be the perfect location for the café. Without the generosity of Mr. Steven Kaufman, the event would not have been the huge success that it was. Madraigos acknowledges the help of Governor Mario Cuomo who sent a wonderful collection of toys for girls and boys with the National Guard. Mr. David Lobl, special assistant to Governor Cuomo, who visited the café one evening, accepted public thanks on behalf of the governor for this donation of toys. Madraigos also recognizes Mayor Andrew Parise of Cedarhurst and Mr. Ari Brown for their invaluable support and constant involvement in making the program an effective endeavor.
Madraigos appreciates the local newspaper publicity, a key to the success of the event. Many thanks to Jerusalem Florist, who sent beautiful fresh flowers to the café, and Luxe Event Rentals, who donated the wonderful furniture. Their generosity made the atmosphere festive, yet welcoming and comfortable. Madraigos also expresses special thanks to the K.I.D.S. Foundation (Kids In Distressed Situations) who donated exclusive toys and dolls.
“It was a privilege to see how so many people from different venues came together for a wonderful cause. They rolled up their sleeves and collectively made it happen,” noted Dov Snow, who managed the project and helped bring it to fruition.
For more information about The Next Step Initiative of the Community Resource Division at Madraigos, please contact clinical director Eli Shapiro LCSW at 516-371-3250 ext. 2. For donation and sponsorship opportunities, please contact Rabbi Josh Zern, executive director, at 516-371-3250 ext. 5. To learn more about all of Madraigos programs and services, please visit www.madraigos.org.