July 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Local Teens Take On Storm Damage

Fourteen local teenage boys volunteered to help with flood relief in Boulder, Colorado as part of a joint NCSY-NECHAMA trip recently.

About two months ago, Boulder was hit with 17 inches of rain—half its annual rain fall—in only two days. Most of the town of Lyons, about 15 miles north of Boulder, still doesn’t have power or running water. They even have a police blockade by the entrance to town to ensure no looting happens while the town gets repaired.

It was there that NECHAMA, a Jewish disaster response foundation, decided to help out together with Bergen County NCSY. They were able to get 10 boys from Torah Academy of Bergen County and four from public schools with connections to NCSY summer programs to help out.

They spent the majority of their three plus days removing mud from under the floor beams of a house so a new crawl space could be created for the installation of electricity and plumbing. Additionally, they demolished sheds and dismantled a wing of the house that had been deemed irrecoverable.

“For many of the guys, this was their first time traveling for an exclusive chesed purpose,” Rabbi Rael Blumenthal, the city director of the Teaneck NCSY, wrote in the online blog about the trip.

And that was part of the goal, “We want to take the students out of their comfort zone—both physically with all the work away from home they will do, but also religiously by interacting and living for a few days with some public school students. Not only do the public school students learn from the TABC students, but vice versa as well,” Rabbi Josh Kahn, dean of student life at TABC, said.

Being out of their comfort zones did not stop the boys from doing an exemplary job, stopping not even for the poor weather they had their first day. “Later [that first day], as it began snowing, Dan Hoeft and Marc (the foremen from Nechama) called us together to relate that they had just spoken to the owner of the house. He was humbled and grateful for the effort we were contributing and was shocked that despite the weather, no one gave up. Dan asked us to look around to the other work sites in the area, all left vacant by the onset of bad weather and commended us on the kiddush Hashem achieved today. We all left exhausted, but satisfied,” Blumenthal wrote.

Their kiddush Hashem did not go unnoticed. Complete strangers would sometimes stop by just to thank them for their work and kindness and, on the plane, the crew announced that the group was on board and what they’d come to Boulder to do. The passengers applauded.

“This positive recognition impacts the students; they realize they can do things to help people. It’s true we could just send the money they spent on this trip and hire people to fix the home up and maybe that would be more efficient. But when a group of 14 young teenage boys come halfway across the country to help rebuild, it helps not only with the work but to get rid of the feeling of being lost after the tragedy. That is the greatest lesson these boys could get,” Kahn said.

It is a lesson they will never forget. As Blumenthal wrote, “In the words of Judah Stiefel: ‘What we did was take a person with no house, no hope and no place to turn and gave him all three. With every shovel of mud and stroke of hammer we didn’t just take a step towards the reconstruction of someone’s home, but also a step towards a rebuilding someone’s life.’”

By Estee Kahn

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