Their homes and businesses out of power days after the passage of Hurricane Sandy, Jewish families in West Orange, N.J., were facing the prospect of not being able to celebrate the approached Sabbath with the traditional bread known as challah. Rabbi Mendy Kasowitz of the Chabad-Lubavitch Center of Essex County would have none of it.
“I spoke to the baker and told him that he should take my generator,” Kasowitz said Thursday evening. “The community needs challahs.”
A student who works with the rabbi stood in line for two hours to fill up gas cans so that the baker could run the generator all night. By midnight, he already had a few hundred of the tasty loaves made. Kasowitz plans to hand-deliver many of them to homebound seniors and others still stuck in their darkened homes. The rest will be eaten at small community-wide dinners held at those few homes that are lucky enough to have power.
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“We’re going to have small, quiet meals,” said the rabbi. “People are happy to hunker down for a nice meal with their neighbors. That’s the feeling after one of the worst storms in history.”
With Chabad-Lubavitch centers, synagogues and schools across the northeast in various stages of recovery, their directors are still working to make the first Sabbath after Sandy one to remember.
Kasowitz’s synagogue has power, so volunteers will be cooking trays of frozen food, and welcoming congregants from nearby synagogues to pray and join them for a large meal.
“Everyone’s welcome,” he said, speaking of how he and his wife, co-director Altie Kasowitz, have been checking in on area residents and preparing for the influx of guests. “We’re going to ask everyone to chip in and come and be here and socialize.
“We really have so much to be grateful for: We have so many loving friends and neighbors. Everyone’s there for each other, it’s unbelievable,” he continued. “It’s just a wonderful sense of community.”
In Freehold, N.J., there’s still no electricity and most phone lines are down, but Rabbi Avrohom Bernstein has still invited people over for Friday night. There won’t be much, but there’ll be challah and soup for those who want something warm.
“It should be nice,” he said. “It’s a very meaningful time, because people really put things into perspective. There are things that we take for granted so many times.”
Chanie Zaklikovsky, co-director of the Chabad of Monroe Township in New Jersey, said that despite the lack of lights and running water, she and her husband are still working hard to get people hot meals.
“We’ll do the best we can under the circumstances and cheer everyone up, and we hope that soon everything will turn back on again,” she said.
Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky has been distributing self-heating kosher meals to Jewish college students in nearby shelters, and is trying to get a generator so that prayer services can take place in the synagogue.
“We’re trying to get hot soup as well,” he said. “Our spirit is strong. The damage is great, but we’re trying to move on.”