June 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Mom Honors Son’s Chesed Org With Special Gift

In 2009, when Elie Lowenfeld was a student at New York University, he traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to help the community following devastating floods. He was disappointed by the lack of participation among his peers in the long-term recovery efforts. Lowenfeld returned to his campus and, feeling the need to involve the Jewish community in aiding victims of disasters, founded the Jewish Disaster Response Corps (JDRC), an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, to rebuild communities devastated by hurricanes, flooding and other disasters.

The JDRC has since become recognized as a national service-learning provider for domestic alternative breaks, and has worked with over 1,000 students nationwide to provide physical and emotional support for disaster-affected communities. The JDRC mobilizes Jewish and interfaith groups to participate in week-long service-learning programs, complementing rebuilding work with discussion, reflection and community building.

To promote the organization, and a sense of community among the volunteers, Lowenfeld created T-shirts for them to wear during the missions. In Alabama, JDRC volunteers were identified by a red T-shirt spelling the state’s name in Hebrew letters. Baton Rouge and St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, are among the places the JDRC has conducted successful missions.

Sallie Mendelsohn, Lowenfeld’s mom, who raised her children in Riverdale, has collected T-shirts from the many missions. “My kids left me all their T-shirts, and I couldn’t bear to toss them out. None of them had been worn; they were all sitting in the closet,” she said.

Mendelsohn had seen news about different T-shirt projects, and contacted her friend of 20 years, seamstress and clothing designer Leah Katz. “It is a lot of fun to recycle and personalize your material,” said Mendelsohn. “I collected all the T-shirts and handed them to Leah, along with two fitted queen-size sheets, a front and a back, and Leah created the rest.”

The seamstress started designing and stitching the quilt a little more than a month ago, finishing it in time for Mendelsohn to present it to her son and his wife as a Thanksgiving surprise.

“My accomplishment is to see the customer’s reaction when they see it completed,” said Katz. “That is a great deal of satisfaction for me.” Her store, LaRobeByLeah, is located at 1692 Central Park Avenue in Yonkers. Visit the website at www.LaRobeByLeah.com.

Robert Kalfus is a veteran news photographer and can be reached at [email protected] or 917 379-4165.

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