It was a sight to behold: Two hundred people in a yeshiva foyer surrounding a 14-foot aluminum flat-bottom boat. To understand this seemingly strange sight one would have to go back a few months when Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe, Menahel of Mesivta Ateres Yaakov, became aware that the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department needed a urban rescue boat. During Hurricane Sandy, the brave volunteers utilized an inflatable pontoon boat to rescue people who were trapped in their homes and had to be evacuated through the dangerous flood waters. Should the need arise again, they felt that having a second, more sturdy, vessel would greatly add to their capabilities and make their dangerous work that much safer.
Rabbi Yaffe knew that his students are inculcated with a tremendous desire to help their community, and he knew that they would agree that helping the LCFD–practically a next-door neighbor–would be a worthy endeavor. The Mesivta had been in the forefront of helping the community deal with Hurricane Sandy, especially when it made its building available for a Town Hall meeting and hosted 400 of our neighbors seeking to address community issues. Our students also had tremendous respect for the LCFD, who had responded with alacrity several times in recent years to emergencies at the yeshiva.
Rabbi Yaffe suggested that MAY’s Student Government Co-Presidents, Naftali Engel and Yoni Arshadnia, undertake raising the necessary $1,500 from the student body. Together with senior Yosef Neman, the project was quickly embraced and the required funds were raised in less than a week. Volunteer fireman Zev Adler coordinated all of the arrangements, including the purchase, painting, and branding of the new boat as a gift from the students of Mesivta Ateres Yaakov to the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department.
At that day’s event, the entire body of the Mesivta gathered in the foyer in the presence of local officials, most notably Cedarhurst Mayor Andrew Parise and representatives of the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department. Rabbi Yaffe then gave a moving address and called forward the three main students involved, who formally presented the boat to Chief John McHugh and Deputy Chief David Campbell. In addition, although New York State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg and Nassau Legislator Howard Kopel could not attend the ceremony, they had visited the students the previous day to congratulate them on their efforts. The brief dignified ceremony concluded with Rabbi Yaffe thanking the LCFD for this opportunity and giving a blessing that the boat never need to be used. v