Frankenstorm’s Chicken Soup for the Soul

Frankenstorm’s Chicken Soup for the Soul

By far my most wonderful memory from Arden Rd., the block where I spent 14 years of my childhood, dates back to one of the worst blizzards in Baltimore’s history that took place when I was 7.

The snow was up to my chest and the city would only be sending snowplows in a few days. So while we kids built snowmen and made snow angels, our mothers and fathers flew into action. From early in the morning the Freedmans and the Levys and the Levines and the Hornsteins and the Ripkins worked side by side shoveling snow after so many years of living their own separate lives, with few interactions except for a polite “good morning” as they rushed past each other with their car keys in hand, or when a neighbor made the annual request to collect her newspapers and mail so that any thieves walking by wouldn’t know her family was on vacation. And the highlight of that unforgettable day? When the street was clear, and the older couple across the street invited us all in for chicken with gravy and rice. My mouth is watering now as I remember that magical meal celebrating the day when neighbors went from being strangers to friends.

Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman tells a similar story about what took place in his community of Passaic, New Jersey on the first Shabbat after Hurricane Sandy. This story originally appeared in Mishpacha Magazine.

Electricity and heat had been off since Monday at 2:21 p.m. The schools had been closed for the week and many men could not go to work. Everyone made do with pasta and peanut butter, since the kosher grocery was also closed. Parent’s nerves were becoming frayed by the minute.

But Shabbos was coming and rice cakes and jam a Shabbos do not make.

The problem: How to feed everyone with no power or electricity?

A caterer was found and sponsorships arranged. We announced that everyone (with or without a reservation) should come to eat, as no Jew would be left hungry.

Finally, Friday night arrived. The shul was packed beyond capacity as 400 people crammed into every nook and cranny. As we entered the hall I looked around. There were Jews from all over town and from every shul. There were elderly men and women who live alone and singles who had nowhere to go for Shabbos. There were children who were eating their first hot meal all week and families who were fast becoming friends, courtesy of Sandy.

As I was finally leaving the shul late on Friday night a little girl came over to me, urged by her mother to “tell Rabbi Eisenman what you wanted to tell him.” The girl shyly looked up and after a bashful pause said, “Thank you for giving us hot chicken soup. I thought Hashem was mad at us. After the nice meal tonight I know He still loves us, ‘cause we still have Shabbos.”

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