As one of the largest temples on Long Island, Temple Beth Torah (TBT) feels responsible to help out in any way its congregation can. Immediately after the worst of Hurricane Sandy had passed, congregation members began dropping off anything they could spare. These donations included food, water, clothing, toys, and other various items. Ironically, the teen youth group of TBT had planned a trip to New Orleans a week after the arrival of Sandy to help with the relief from Hurricane Katrina, even though the storm had left its mark seven years prior.
It seemed odd to most in the group that they would be helping out with a disaster that had happened seven years ago when a tragedy had occurred in their own backyards a week before, but it was important to the teens of TBT to help those who knew what they were experiencing. “I had an amazing time helping others, even though I knew that people needed help here,” said East senior DiDi Poliak, “It was a very rewarding experience to help people that have needed it for years.”
Her twin, Nicki Poliak, added, “The trip allowed me, as well as the other members of our group, to help out people affected by Sandy, and we got to use our [new] skills and what we learned to make a difference here at home as well [as in New Orleans].”
The trip to New Orleans consisted of helping out at a food bank, painting and restoring a post-hurricane home, and assisting a farm that provides fresh produce to the community. Although the population of Long Island itself is larger than the whole state of Louisiana, the situation helped put things in perspective for the TBT teens. They learned that things could have been much worse, and that it was possible that Long Island could still need help getting back on its feet in seven years.
As soon as the teens returned, the relief effort on Long Island meant so much more to them. Since their homecoming, TBT has brought together the congregation to make sandwiches and deliver them to people in Long Beach who had no food or were helping to rebuild the community. It was especially rewarding to all participants who could empathize with these affected people.
Temple Beth Torah continues to help all those whom they can. Any person who wants to contribute to the effort can drop off items at Temple Beth Torah in Melville, or donate money or canned foods to Island Harvest. Go to www.islandharvest.org for more information.