Spring Hills of Cherry Hill played host to a “Synagogue Without Walls” during Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on the morning of Jan. 20.
A full house of first responders and police officers from Cherry Hill and Voorhees – along with members of the greater South Jersey community – gathered with Cantor Scott Borsky and Spring Hills residents to pack and distribute sensory bags.
The relatively small, mostly brightly colored bags contained items such as fidget spinners, keychains, earplugs or headphones, and stress gauges in order to help those on the autism spectrum deal with the stresses involved with situations where first responders are called to duty.
“The reason we did it at Spring Hills is I serve as the Jewish chaplain here,” Borsky explained.
“I asked Esther (Nicholas), the activity director, and she said ‘of course.’ It was packed. I said, ‘The next time we do this, we need to do it in the town center.’ When you take into consideration the residents here who helped, the grandparents with grandchildren, parents who brought their children, teens with the day off. It was an absolute blessing to see so many families.”
Borsky said he was also touched to see every department of first responders in Cherry Hill and Voorhees were represented at the event: police, fire, EMT and paramedics. His work in the greater South Jersey community was more than enough reason for them to show support.
“I’ve served as Chaplain for the Voorhees police ever since they started the program, it just started a little over a year ago. Cherry Hill’s had it for a while, other localities have had it for a while. When I was asked (by Voorhees), I said ‘of course.’ I’m a chaplain, and a cantor.”
Borsky is the founder of SWW, an organization for Jewish families in South Jersey who are not affiliated with a house of worship, but still have a need for Jewish life and events and who still want to come to Jewish services.
He stressed that service events in which he participates are not strictly for those of the faith, but open to all, like the MLK Day of Service, or the upcoming Special Needs Super Bowl Party, scheduled for Feb. 2 at Spring Hills.
Though busily chatting with first responders, corralling their kids and packing the bags during the half-hour-long event, several participants offered their thoughts on the service opportunity.
“It was a day off and the kids were looking for something to do and this was a worthwhile event to help the community. I think it’s so important to be able to help kids on the autism spectrum, and it helps first responders when they come into these situations,” said volunteer Matthew Ryan, a Cherry Hill native who attended with his wife and children.
Added Emmy Abdill, a loan officer with Movement Mortgage, “I love the idea of it. I think if there’s any time where we can educate others on things that might not be as familiar, helping those in need and who need a little more assistance, especially in situations that can be a little overwhelming, that’s fantastic.”
Borsky ended by echoing a sentiment common to all singular events which bring a diverse swath of citizens together.
“Every single week, every single month, there are opportunities to make our world a better place. Opportunities to bring blessings to not only our community but to the world as a whole,” he said.
“It’s nice that folks come together on this day, but throughout the year, there are ways to bring wonders and miracles.”