Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
In a nearly dark corner of lower Manhattan, in an area otherwise known as Tribeca, Rabbi Zalman Paris stands tall, cellular phone in hand, to answer another call from a young volunteer eager to offer assistance. Days after Hurricane Sandy left millions across New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey without electricity, food or water, there are plenty of people who want to help victims and their communities recover.
From his window, Paris, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Tribeca and SoHo, watched the storm hurl itself into the homes and lives of residents nearby. The storm prevented him from venturing outdoors, but the moment he was able to, the rabbi assembled a plan and a team to help his neighbors.
“Many organizations have joined us in our efforts to help those in need during this hard time,” he said.
Paris partnered with Rabbi Levi Shmotkin of Chabad Young Professionals, Ari Teman of JCorps, and Julie Menin, a candidate for Manhattan Borough President.
“We brought in a paramedic to aid the elderly, who with no way out of their buildings needed immediate medical attention,” Shmotkin relayed.
Menin detailed that she kept the 10,000 people on her contact list updated by email.
“People would email that they needed food, water, diapers and baby formula. I then sent an email blast to Rabbi Paris,” said Menin.
All told, more than 100 volunteers traversed lower Manhattan, crisscrossing the city’s streets to visit nearly 3,000 apartment units in one day alone.
One longtime JCorps volunteer named Jillian described her experience as “eye opening.” More than 100 volunteers assisted the Tribeca effort.
“Today we visited some housing developments of the lower east side to bring food and water to the elderly and disabled citizens who are without,” she said. “You really become thankful for what you do have during a time like this.”
With the Sabbath approaching, they are hoping that the electricity will be restored.
“We may not have power, but we will definitely be spending the Sabbath with the many people and volunteers who are here with us,” said Paris. “Although many fled the neighborhood prior to the storm, our focus was on those that didn’t have anywhere to go.”
About the Author: Chabad.org is a division of the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, under the auspices of the Lubavitch World Headquarters
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