Chabad Relief and Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Faith-based groups continue to mobilize to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy. On the East Coast, volunteers across the spectrum are serving food, providing shelter and helping with cleanup in a massive relief operation. This week, many of those efforts were hampered by even more bad weather. Kim Lawton has more on the efforts in one community.

KIM LAWTON, managing editor: A week after Sandy, Rabbi Shneur Wolowik of the Chabad Lubavitch movement is in the devastated Rockaway Beach area of New York. He’s visiting some of the many families in his congregation whose homes are unlivable. When Sandy hit, this family awoke to the sound of water rushing in.

RABBI SHNEUR WOLOWIK: Where were you at the time?

UNIDENTIFIED HOMEOWNER: I was in bed and then I heard the back door bang open from the force of the water from the lake. It filled up the steps going to the basement and then after the water got to a certain level, it just knocked the door right out.

LAWTON: Wolowik is director of the Chabad Center of the Five Towns in Cedarhurst. He says the needs in his community are overwhelming.

WOLOWIK: We find ourselves in an unprecedented historical hurricane which uprooted hundreds of people, their homes, their belongings, their lives, their valuables.

LAWTON: At the Chabad center, the rabbi’s wife, Connie, is organizing and passing out supplies, such as space-age blankets for families that haven’t had electricity since the storm.

CONNIE: You put these over you, and then you wrap yourself.

LAWTON: There are also hand warmers and socks to help take the edge off the cold. Volunteers are making deliveries for those who can’t get to the center.


CONNIE: These volunteers are going in a car, packed with blankets and hot food, gloves, warmers. They’re knocking house to house on damaged homes; they’re finding out if they need anything.

LAWTON: The center has been providing up to two thousand meals every day.

IVAN COHEN: It’s a lifesaver. It definitely is.

JUDITH COHEN: We’re wiped out and we have nothing. We have no heat, no electricity, of course, no–nothing.

CONNIE: We are all one family.

LAWTON: With thousands still waiting for power to be restored, donated generators have become prized possessions. Wolowik says they are doing what they can to help.

WOLOWIK: To be warm, to be sustained, to have the energy to continue. People are working in the cold. When you walk up to a person with a smile, a hot soup, a fresh pie of pizza, something to drink, and just tell them Chabad is here for you, whatever it takes.

LAWTON: Given the severity of the situation, they may have to keep doing that for a long time to come.

I’m Kim Lawton reporting.