Yomim tovim since Hurricane Sandy have been treated with extra care and foresight thanks to the volunteers at Project Nivneh. A campaign to offer beautiful Purim cards for sale was headed by Ester Feuer and sold thousands of cards to raise much-needed funds for storm victims. Gourmet Glatt, Brach’s, Seasons, and other individual volunteers were instrumental in the effort.
Months passed and as Pesach was slowing approaching, the worry grew. In an effort to alleviate the stress and panic for many local families, Rabbi David Greenblatt contacted Nivneh with the idea of sending those families in need to a hotel for Pesach. Through the generosity of the Davis Memorial Fund, Nivneh helped place 60 families in hotels for Pesach. There were two hotels with which Rabbi Greenblatt made special arrangements and subsidized a portion of the cost to make it affordable for hurricane victims to be able to go away for Pesach.
Nivneh knew that a major effort would be needed to ensure that every hurricane victim could enjoy Pesach. Many families lost all of their Pesach items after years of collecting and carefully storing them away. Other families still did not have a functioning kitchen, and others have just moved back home and could not handle the financial and emotional burden of making Pesach this year.
The task seemed enormous, but with the endless hours and untiring dedication of the Nivneh staff and volunteers, along with all the amazing Partners in Sandy, team leaders, and committee heads, the enormous task was broken down to the last detail and the results were amazing.
The first need was to help those who literally had nowhere to go for Pesach and those who did not have a finished kitchen in their home. The Nivneh staff and volunteers worked for weeks to book every room they could secure to try to accommodate the specific needs and requests of each family.
The families spent the yom tov in either the Dolce Hotel hosted by the Tenenbaum family or the Sheraton Hotel hosted by the Meisner family. Some of the families who attended were also asked to speak and were very helpful in bringing chizuk and even entertainment to the hotels.
Dr. Benjie Stern, a psychologist with a practice in Brooklyn and the Five Towns, who is also a school psychologist, gave an inspiring and informative workshop titled “Managing Stress and Anxiety in Our Own Lives and in Our Children’s Lives.” Dr. Stern’s practical advice reflected his extensive experience and success in counseling children, adolescents, young adults, and their parents in the Jewish community. Dr. Stern’s presence at the hotel was very much appreciated by the families. Dr. Stern made himself available to parents, who frequently stopped by for advice throughout the stay at the hotel. Dr. Stern and his family sustained significant storm damage and lost a lot of personal items in Hurricane Sandy; his professional advice along with his ability to relate to the other guests who suffered great losses in the storm was a winning combination!
Mrs. Kira Schuckman gave an inspirational lecture to a packed crowd of women. Mrs. Schuckman fascinated her audience with her moving journey of how she came to be an Orthodox Jew.
Nathan Krasnovksy, executive director of the JCCRP, was able to arrange entertainment by the Areyvut Mitzvah Clowns sponsored by the JCCRP and Met Council, and a magician sponsored by Ohel/Project Hope.
The feedback has been very positive as the families expressed their gratitude for an amazing yom tov that would have been otherwise out of their reach. A guest who stayed at Meisner’s through the Hurricane Program relayed to Nivneh after Pesach that as Pesach approached she had felt so homeless and dismayed with the thought that this would be the first Pesach she would not spend with her daughter’s family in 30 years, as she could not host them this year. Joining the Pesach program allowed them to have most of their family in one place after feeling so displaced for months, taking them from the depths of despair and bringing them a wonderful yom tov where the family could enjoy the time together. One guest whose family stayed at the Dolce Hotel e-mailed her Nivneh partner saying, “It’s a beautiful hotel and the crowd is simple, heimish, and super-friendly. The day camp is perfect for my kids and in general the program is so relaxing.”
Another guest expressed, “The Pesach program gave all of us an opportunity to unite and spend time with our fellow neighbors who we often pass by in the street but never get a chance to spend quality time together with. It was not only our geographical similarities that bonded us, but also the experiences of Hurricane Sandy that we all share. It was a Pesach of inspiration, as we uplifted each other with the theme of Pesach and emunah, and gave each other even more strength to take on the challenges that life brings us every day. Thank you for allowing us to be part of this!”
To help ease the financial burden for those families who stayed home and even those who went away but needed to desperately restock Pesach supplies that were lost in the storm, Nivneh distributed to over 200 families a variety of Pesach housewares, including hot-water urns, hand mixers, measuring cups, and sets of pots and pans and dishes. Special thanks to Mrs. Beverly Goldberger of Town Variety in Queens, who took care of ordering and arranged to get everything for Nivneh at cost. In addition, over 500 Haggadahs were given out to families who lost theirs in the storm. Special orders were placed for Hagaddahs with mefarshim, and others for kids, with Sephardic or Ashkenazic texts. In the food department, Nivneh provided cooked food, raw food, and tons of gift certificates to Gourmet Glatt and Seasons. Nivneh also sent many families to the JCCRP to get the Pesach food items that they had available. Finally, Nivneh gave many vouchers for clothing for yom tov.
Now that Pesach is over, some families still have a long road to recovery. Nivneh is back up and running and reaching out to continue helping those in need. If you want to join the efforts and help with this mitzvah visit nivneh.org to donate or volunteer. v