Oct 2, 2017

With Rakes, Saws and More, DKJA and KYHS Teens Help Hands-On in Key West

Among the South Palm Beach County Jewish community’s extensive Hurricane Relief efforts was an eye-opening, heartwarming, hands-on experience in Key West for twenty-two high school students from Rosenblatt High School at Donna Klein Jewish Academy (DKJA), and Katz Yeshiva High School (KYHS). They took off at 6:00 am on Tuesday, September 26, ready for a long day of clearing debris and cleaning, in a charter bus loaded with supplies and equipment. But they encountered and accomplished more than they’d imagined before arriving home after 10:30 pm that night.

“Although power had just been restored to the neighborhood where we were headed, our drive south through areas severely affected by Hurricane Irma had some delays, including when a powerline fell onto the road ahead of us,” said Rabbi Josh Broide, who organized the trip and accompanied the students as Director of the Deborah and Larry D. Silver Center for Jewish Engagement at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, which sponsored the bus. Both high schools are located on the Federation’s 100-acre campus west of Boca Raton.

Also accompanying the students were Shira Englander, Director of Student Activities at Katz Yeshiva High School, and Rabbi Boruch Shmuel Liberow, Director of the Chabad Student Center at Florida Atlantic University.

Their time in Key West started at the Chabad Center with Rabbi Yaakov Zucker at the Chabad Jewish Center in Key West. After unloading and putting to use their donated 40 pairs of gardening gloves, shovels, rakes, heavy duty brooms, trash bags, power drills, hand saws, chainsaws, garden rakes and more, they set to work removing fallen trees and other debris, as well as cleaning up.

“Throughout the day, we had to consider how to clean up areas without causing any further damage,” said Rabbi Broide. “Our greatest challenge was removing a tree over the mikvah. It required the students to work together to plan the best approach.”

From the Chabad synagogue, they headed to three Jewish family homes that were covered with trees and all sizes of parts from other buildings. Broide described a house where the front was completely blocked by a huge piece of the hotel roof that had blown off two blocks away.

In a video from Key West, students Justin Goodis of DKJA and Sivan Mussaffi from KYHS described how grateful they were to the Federation for the opportunity to accomplish so much to help a community devastated by Hurricane Irma, and how amazing it was to work together throughout the day.

“The trip was incredibly inspiring and changed my perspective,” said Rabbi Liberow, who has also traveled with FAU students to provide hands-on hurricane relief. “We are all one and we have to be there for each other. But it is one thing to talk about helping and quite another to actually do the work in person. As I told the students, real life is when you leave your comfort zone on behalf of another who needs your help.”

“Our time in Key West was a once in a lifetime experience for our students,” said Shira Englander. “After seeing the devastation on the way there, they were eager to jump right in and provide some relief to the Chabad and their neighbors. The students experienced what it means to give back through sweat, hard work and physical labor, and working alongside students from another school was an added bonus. We are so grateful to Rabbi Josh Broide and the Federation for affording us this opportunity. It was a day none of us will ever forget.”

“This was one of the myriad of activities generating from our community in response to so much destruction in so many areas from the recent storms,” said Rabbi Broide. “Our work will continue as long as we are needed.”