By Stephanie Manley
LONG BRANCH – The Jewish Federation of Monmouth County is giving back to the shore community so devastated by Super Storm Sandy.
The federation has created a weekend beach retreat – The Shore House for Sandy Relief – for summer volunteers.
The project, funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation with programming assistance from Moishe House and the Jewish Federations of North America, offers dozens of young adults, specifically Jews in their 20s to early 30s, an opportunity to do community service while experiencing a relaxing weekend at the beach with peers.
Several months ago, the Jim Joseph Foundation, a private Jewish foundation devoted to supporting the education of Jewish youth, approached the Jewish Federations of North America wanting to fund a service project for Sandy relief. The Jewish Federations of North America, already aware that one of its subdivisions was interested in experimenting with a similar project, paired the Jewish Federation of Greater Monmouth County with the Jim Joseph Foundation. Shortly thereafter, the idea for The Shore House for Sandy Relief was born.
Located on Second Avenue in Long Branch, the house is within walking distance of the beach. With six bedrooms and many beds, the house can accommodate about 15 guests per weekend. Additional visitors are welcome to join for social events and meals.
A typical weekend for the volunteers consists of Shabbat dinner on Friday night, a beach day on Saturday with a Shabbat lunch, community service on Sunday and a barbecue to end the retreat. The volunteers pitch in to help prepare meals and take part in different Jewish rituals.
The major components of this project are Jewish ritual and community service. Weekend volunteers stay in the home where all types of Judaism are accepted. Giving back to those who were impacted by the super storm last October also is a main focus of the project. Volunteers at The Shore House are helping people throughout the community who have lost homes or are in need of other assistance, regardless of their religious affiliation.
Three coordinators – Melanie Krutzel, 23, Howard Levi, 23, and Israeli-born Roey Wieser, 28 – live in the house full time and are responsible for maintaining the home and leading the volunteers. Volunteers pay $99 for the weekend ($125 for the upcoming Labor Day Weekend) and participate in community service in exchange for beach passes, meals and an unbeatable experience, organizers say.
Levi said the project gives young Jews the chance “to help people and have an amazing weekend on the beach at the same time.” It’s all about having fun and giving back.
“Very different groups come every weekend, which makes for an interesting experience,” Krutzel said. Single volunteers, couples and large groups filter in and out. The feedback the coordinators have received from each departing group is that everyone has had a good time. Some people who already volunteered this summer have contacted coordinators with the desire to come back again at some point.
Since it opened on June 21, The Shore House has had great success, the coordinators say. Volunteers are working on beach cleanups and are helping rebuild a home in Union Beach.
They are “shoveling sand off resident’s properties and we also completed a community outreach in Monmouth Beach,” Krutzel said.
For the rest of the summer, the coordinators plan on creating emergency kits and cleaning up Special Strides, a camp in Monroe.
Coordinators at The Shore House are constantly trying to connect with organizations and individuals who might need assistance. Levi says he’s spoken to people who want help organizing the various goods that have been donated, or putting up new buildings while others want help demolishing damaged buildings.
The community response – from both from the Jewish community and the Jersey Shore community – is positive.
“No federation has really taken on an experiment like this,” says Ariella Lis Raviv, director of community impact for the Jewish Federation of Greater Monmouth County. “People are impressed that we are giving young adults a chance to have a meaningful Jewish experience.”
Additionally, people affected by Super Storm Sandy are thankful for the help they have receive from The Shore House volunteers.
“Every single person has been very receptive,” Krutzel said One Sea Bright resident told the volunteers that she was “beyond words” and “so grateful” for their help.
“We want to redefine what it means to be a Jewish philanthropy,” Lis Raviv said.
The Shore House appears to be making strides toward that redefinition. The retreat has created a community among the volunteers and together those volunteers assist a community in need. First and foremost this is “about the Jewish community going out and doing something to help those affected by Sandy,” Lis Raviv said.
Additional information about The Shore House for Sandy relief is available by emailing to sandyreliefhouse@ gmail.com or visiting sites. google.com/site/sandyreliefshorehouse/home/signup.