When the staff was e-mailing with each other last week, I asked people to let me know what kind of volunteering they were doing. I know many people in unaffected areas dropped off clothes and cleaning supplies, and helped out at shelters, but I was really moved by this e-mail from Amanda Lanceter, Manager of Curriculum and Teacher Programs and a resident of Staten Island.
Once our power was restored on Wednesday morning after a period of about 36 hours with no electricity, I saw on Facebook that a number of my friends here in Staten Island were contributing to local relief efforts. I was inspired by their efforts to do what I could, especially considering that we had been so lucky to have gotten through the hurricane with what really is just a minor inconvenience. I collected many of the food items and water that I bought in preparation for the hurricane (and thankfully did not need), as well as other essential items that I had as backups in my closet. I drove over to a nearby school that was serving as an emergency shelter.
Dropping off the supplies at the shelter was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Knowing that so many people here lost everything both saddens me and reminds me of how lucky my family and I were to make it through this as well as we did. This crisis truly brought out the best in people. There was a constant flow of cars coming to the shelter, and the generosity I saw from others was incredible. Seeing this community pull together and care for each other, when everyone here has their own Sandy-related problems to worry about, made me hopeful.
At the Museum of Jewish Heritage, we teach students about the meaning of tzedakah, of charity and justice, and its importance within Jewish communities. We tell students about how communities care for each other and support those who are less fortunate. I witnessed many acts of tzedakah over the last few days, and I was inspired by all of them, large and small. It is refreshing to see that in a time of crisis, there is still so much good in people and so much willingness to care for others.