With Gov. Phil Murphy’s stay-at-home order still in place to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, many residents have devised various ways to honor essential workers fighting on the front lines of the pandemic.
Every day at 7 p.m. on Oak Street, Elea Benshoshan comes out on her porch and uses an old microphone to summon the neighborhood to join her. Once outside on their porches, the neighborhood joins Benshoshan in a clap-out honoring Weehawken essential workers.
Many of her neighbors follow the 13-year-old’s lead each day. The Weehawken High School seventh grader has been running the clap-out since late April.
Oak Street residents cheer, bang on pots, display flags and signs of appreciation for essential workers. Some have loudspeakers to honor the front-line warriors.
Each night, Benshoshan acknowledges a different group of local professionals who have distinguished themselves during the pandemic, including nurses, first responders, police officers, firefighters, grocery store workers, street cleaners, teachers, and religious leaders.
“It is pretty cool to put that old microphone to good use and spread positive messages throughout the street at night,” Elea said.
She said that while the clap-out honors essential workers, the event is as much for the joy of her neighbors as it is for the essential workers.
“We need this because everyone is really at a weak point right now,” Elea said. “It is good for me and my fellow neighbors to hear that we are going to get through this together and be okay, and better together.”
From one household, to the whole neighborhood
While run by Benshoshan, the Weehawken clap-out was originally started by two of Elea’s neighbors on Oak Street, Tara Gamble and Janet Cobaon. Gamble and Coboan launched the the first clap-out on March 28.
But after almost a month of being the only ones out on their porches, Gamble reached out to her neighbors via Facebook to join her. Well, they did just that and came to adopt the event as their own, sparking a friendly rivalry with other neighborhoods.
“It then became a challenge on Twitter to be louder than Jane Street,” Gamble said.
Gamble created a Facebook page, “Oak Street Honors Essential Workers,” which now has more than 120 followers from across the township and growing daily.
“I’m fortunate to be able to work from home during this pandemic,” Gamble said. “However, the rest of my family are considered essential workers and need to leave the house every day. Clapping out takes a little bit of the worry for my family off of my mind. All of the essential workers are working hard to keep us safe, and a five-minute clap-out is just a small way of honoring their commitment. They deserve so much more.”
When the clap-out first started, it was just Gamble and her two neighbors’ families, but then gradually the whole street came out.
Teachers Appreciation Week
On May 5, Elea honored teachers in connection with Teacher Appreciation Week.
“We believe they are making a huge impact teaching online as much as any of the doctors and nurses,” she said. “And that includes anyone not a teacher but still involved in the school district.”
While Elea’s leadership has been outstanding during the pandemic, this is not the first time that she has taken charge of a situation where she saw a need.
“I am always trying to find a new way to benefit my community or school,” Elea said.
Last year, as a sixth grader at Roosevelt School, she realized many students who checked out books from the school library wished they could keep them and convinced the Theodore Roosevelt library to donate books to students.
She also started a schoo-wide book swap program that enables students to keep books. Her eight-year-old brother Levi, a third grader at Theodore Roosevelt School, participates in the book-swapping program.
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