"We lost everything. AC units, washers, dryers, beds, furniture, wedding albums, all our clothing. We lost our garage and cars. We have no place."
"A woman needs help whose apartment was totally wiped out. Her insurance claim was denied because renter's insurance doesn't cover flooding."
"I desperately need a place for a family with 6 kids for 2-3 weeks. This family has no home left. It's gone."
"We had been frantically trying to find my brother's in-laws. Nobody had been able to reach them since the storm hit... We found them cold, scared and unable to communicate with the outside world.”
“A woman came with bags full of dirty laundry, together with her children so they could eat lunch. She came on foot because she was afraid her car would run out of gas.”
Hurricane Sandy: If you were a victim, you don't need a reminder of the tragic destruction. For the rest of us, our hearts go out for the victims. We wish there were something we could do.
There is something. The Talmud exhorts: Share the burdens and the suffering of your fellow. (see 48 Ways #39) Indeed, Sandy has prompted an outpouring of New Yorkers (not always known for camaraderie!) opening their homes and banding together to help each other out at this time of need.
Amazing Five Towns
Here’s how one Jewish volunteer service corps, Achiezer, summarized activities in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway area of New York:
Food: Due to overwhelming requests received, we have set up two food distribution centers. There will be fresh meals in Rockaway/Lawrence at Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv, and also at Young Israel of Woodmere. Lunch and dinner will be served at both locations, with meals starting at 12:30 p.m. and continuing through the evening.
Clothing: Dozens and dozens of brand new racks of clothing are now available to anyone in the community. They will be distributed to anyone who needs, in a dignified manner, with no questions asked.
Laundry: We have received many requests regarding the inability to wash fresh laundry due to the lack of electricity. Through the dedicated work of several individuals we have been able to work out a special service. There will be 3 drop-off points. Each family may drop off 2 full bags of laundry (please close bags well) and we will have it returned within 24-36 hours.
Cleaning/Pumping: We have several crews available to help clean, shlep, and pump out water-filled basements. If you require such a service, call our hotline. If you are able to volunteer for these services, please contact us as well.
Electricity: We are in need of generators and RV's. If you know of anyone who can help with either, please contact us ASAP. This need is urgent; lives are at stake.
Shelter: Numerous people from our community were graciously hosted over the weekend people throughout the New York area. If you are still in need of shelter/temporary place to stay, please call our office and arrangements will be made.
FEMA: There are an endless amount of questions and confusion regarding FEMA claims, insurance filings, and legal questions. We are in the midst of creating a community task force that will exclusively deal with all of these issues. We are working to gather and make available as much information as possible, and hope to have this vital service available to the community by the beginning of the week.
Shaimos: There will be a truck parked for people to drop off holy books that were ruined by flooding, and require proper burial according to Jewish law.
It is now more than a week since the storm hit. Subway service is back in order; the Brooklyn Tunnel has re-opened. The memory of Sandy is fading. Life is returning to “normal.” After a few days of commiserating, we could easily find ourselves going back to our hectic routines as if nothing ever happened. It's difficult to shake ourselves out of our complacency.
But we can do better. And we must.
Community-wide schools were formed, ensuring that no child be left behind.
The Talmud (Bava Basra 21a) states that if not for Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Gamla (a High Priest from the late Second Temple era), the Torah would have been forgotten from Israel. What did he do which was so revolutionary and far-reaching? He instituted a school system. Until his day, parents were responsible for teaching their children. Those who were blessed with parents studied, while orphans did not. Rabbi Yehoshua saw to it that community-wide schools were formed, ensuring that no child be left behind.
This begs the question: Only the orphans – perhaps 10-20 percent of the population – would have been left out. Yet the vast majority would still be studying as normal. How can the Talmud state the entire Torah would have been forgotten from Israel? What about the 80-90 percent who would have been studying?
My teacher, Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt”l, explained: The point is not that some of the unfortunates, a small fraction of the youth, would not have lacked the opportunity to study. Rather, if the rest of us had continued going about as if everything was normal, ignoring the plight of the minority, the Torah would have been forgotten. If we could think, it's really too bad about all those orphans, but at least we're okay, then we may have mastered the Torah's texts, but we would have failed to absorb its most basic message. We would have failed to “share our fellow’s burden,” and the Torah would have indeed been forgotten from Israel.
It shouldn't require a tragedy like this, but let us take this as a wake-up call to stand together.
The good folks at Achiezer have launched an Emergency Relief Fund for those who have been affected financially by Hurricane Sandy. 100% of the funds raised will go directly to those who have been hurt. If anyone holds a communal meeting or appeal, a team of local rabbis has volunteered to speak with any group and explain clearly the detailed needs.
Achiezer has raised over $1.2M locally, but they need a lot more money to help families who are in desperate straits from the flood and storm damage.
It is time to open our hearts – and our wallets. There was so much lost; there is so much rebuilding to be done. It is time that we all faced it together.
Click here to help now.