Last week, a two-alarm fire ripped through the High Point apartment complex in Lakewood, NJ, affecting at least 35 people and nine families. The devastation left several people injured and many more in need of housing assistance, including 20 students.
Project Chai, Chai Lifeline’s crisis, trauma and bereavement department, immediately stepped in and made its resources available to local families, counselors and educators. Rabbi Sruli Fried, LMSW, director of Chai Lifeline New Jersey, worked closely with members of the Lakewood public school district to ensure appropriate support was provided for the children who had witnessed and experienced the raging fire.
Four Project Chai handouts, “Children and Trauma,” “Crisis Guidelines for Teachers and Parents,” “Help for Parents after Tragedy,” and “Helping Preschoolers in the Wake of Trauma,” were translated into Spanish and distributed throughout the district.
On Monday, September 9, Rabbi Fried attended a press conference held at the Lakewood Board of Education offices, which updated the media on the conditions of the victims as well as the efforts underway to assist families.
“During these times, it is important for those affected, the children, to know that the people who are the closest to them and love them most, are there for them,” said Rabbi Fried in his remarks. “That first line of defense includes their parents, their teachers, their counselors, their school. What’s important is to be able to train them and guide them in times like this, how they should be their best for their children.”
On Tuesday, September 10, Rabbi Fried delivered an hourlong presentation to 30 local guidance counselors and senior administration at Oak Elementary Public School on how to deal with the students’ reactions to the tragedy. A follow-up discussion was scheduled for the first week of November.
“As someone who has been born and bred in Lakewood for 42 years, I know that the DNA of this community is to come together in times of crisis,” said Rabbi Fried. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the families affected.”