Driven to Help: A Florida Congregation’s Hurricane Sandy Story

by Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Brockman

Five minutes is all it took us to find two drivers. It all started as an email from a congregant asking us to send up some winter coats in boxes to the needy families in the mobile park her family owned in Moonachie, N.J., that was now devastated by Hurricane Sandy. That turned into one truck going to two places, New Jersey and Staten Island, where another congregant knew of needs. Just five minutes after we decided we were sending the truck, congregant Andrew Levy (whose wife Rebecca is from Staten Island) volunteered to drive it.

The next day, a call came through from Ron Gallatin, the founder of Hands On Tzedakah, who had seen our drive to collect goods to be sent up north because we had emailed local Jewish organizations about it. Ron wanted to fund a second truck and fill it with more supplies! Five minutes after this funding came through, our rabbinic assistant’s husband, Barry, signed up to drive the second truck.

Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Brockman behind the wheel of one of the trucks that drive donations from Florida to New jersey and Staten Island.

Using social media, email, and word of mouth, donations of cleaning supplies, diapers, toiletries, and winter clothes came pouring into the temple from communities as far as an hour’s drive away. The Sunday morning the trucks were packed up to leave, hundreds of volunteers and students organized, sorted, boxed, and loaded them up for the drive north.

Jennifer Shapiro, who started the drive, emailed me when the truck arrived at her family-owned mobile home park in New Jersey:

I just received a call from Bill, a tenant and employee from our park. His words were so moving, I wanted to share them.

Bill told me that he felt so lucky to work for a family who stepped in and made such a difference in the town and in the morale of the people of Moonachie. He thanked me for seeing that they were real people, as the donations have not been ample for those living in trailer parks. The employees, with the help of Barry Lippner – Joanne’s husband, helped to unload and truck. The staff distributed goods to all of those in need. Bill took it upon himself to load up our trucks and distributed to those in need at the mobile park home next to ours as well. The people were so appreciative. He said many thanked him with tears and blessed our family for sending this truck.

Bill says he is in awe that I stepped up and did what I did. I explained that this was truly a group effort and that we had assembled and amazing team and were blessed with an amazing donation. I am so proud to have been part of this effort. I know I always say it, but I am honored to be a part of the Temple Beth El family.

Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Brockman serves Temple Beth El of Boca Raton in Boca Raton, FL.

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