Jewish Federations Continue to Provide for Hurricane Sandy Victims November 28, 2012
Behind the closed doors of a New York City housing complex, up 22 flights of stairs, sat elderly Jews waiting desperately for food, warmth and a friendly smile. Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, they still shivered in their apartments without electricity or running water. Shani Lachmish, a volunteer for the UJA-Federation of New York, who flew in from Israel to help hurricane-stricken New Yorkers, went door to door with warm meals, water, flashlights and cans of food. After her provisions ran out, she continued to knock on doors, even when all she had to offer was a hand and a hug.
“More than anything else, I felt that they needed somebody who wanted to hear them, who knew they were there, who would give them a warm hug,” said Lachmish. “They showered blessings on us, and they cried. Here, the Jews have come – our brothers and sisters – all the way to the 22nd story of this building to help us!”
Several weeks after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Eastern seaboard, many in the path of the storm continue to suffer its destructive effects, even as they focus on recovering, rebuilding and trying to re-establish life that has been forever changed.
Jewish Federations across the continent have raised nearly $5 million to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. The funds have already gone towards basic amenities like food, clothing and housing, and will continue to be allocated for medium- and long-term needs.
Just days after Hurricane Sandy hit, JFNA’s Emergency Committee authorized $500,000 for immediate humanitarian needs in the New York metropolitan area and New Jersey. The funds, which were distributed to UJA-Federation of New York, 10 Federations in New Jersey, as well as Federations in Rockland County, N.Y. and Connecticut, were used for cash disbursements, food, shelter, clean-up kits and other basic necessities. An additional $150,000 was allocated in the weeks that followed. The JFNA Emergency Committee, in consultation with Federation and JFNA leadership, will meet in the coming weeks to allocate additional funds for storm victims, communal agencies and others.
“The outpouring of support for victims of Hurricane Sandy speaks volumes about who we are as a people, and what we stand for as a community,” said Cheryl Fishbein, chair of JFNA’s Emergency Committee. “Now that we’ve addressed the most immediate situations, we need to turn towards recovery and rebuilding. There will still be significant needs after Hurricane Sandy disappears from the daily headlines.”
Jewish Federations across New York, New Jersey and Southern Connecticut have been on the ground since Hurricane Sandy hit, responding to immediate needs and collecting and distributing basic amenities for both the local Jewish and broader community. While the task of hurricane clean-up remains immense, stories of tikkun olam are emerging from Federations up and down the East Coast, demonstrating how the generosity of the North American Jewish community has made a profound impact.
In New Jersey, the Jewish Federation of Ocean County and its agencies distributed food cards to several hundred members of the Jewish community in affected areas. The Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, in collaboration with its agencies, distributed over $100,000 in food and financial assistance, the majority of which went to food cards and cash grants to senior adults. The Federations in Northern New Jersey and Greater MetroWest worked with the Jewish community in Hoboken to restock provisions and provide new freezers for the city’s food pantry. The cross-community collaboration enabled the food pantry to open in time in time to provide Thanksgiving meals to hundreds of homeless people and shelter residents last week.
Federations in Connecticut used hurricane relief funds to restock kosher food pantries and provide direct assistance to Russian-speaking elderly and some Holocaust-survivor populations.
And in New York, UJA-Federation of New York has dispatched dozens of agencies and thousands of volunteers to hard-hit areas from Long Island to the five boroughs of New York City. In the wake of the hurricane, the Federation committed up to $10 million for immediate assistance, and in the weeks since, its agencies, synagogues and volunteers have mobilized to provide aid for many that are still without basic amenities.
In Coney Island, Far Rockaway and Brighton Beach, Federation and agency volunteers have delivered food, water, flashlights, batteries and more to the large Jewish senior population. Volunteer Russian-speaking doctors have checked on residents and provided prescriptions, as many pharmacies have been looted or closed. In Staten Island, JCC staff contacted more than 2,600 seniors to assess needs for food, water, clothing, shelter and other amenities, even traveling to the affected areas where entire enclaves of people hadn't received services. In Cedarhurst, Federation volunteers delivered 100 donated Thanksgiving packages, feeding more than 500 people.
Funds are still needed for recovery and rebuilding efforts. Donors should contribute to their local Federation’s hurricane relief fund or directly to the JFNA Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund online. In addition, donors may text RELIEF to 51818 on a mobile device to pledge a donation or send checks to our national mailbox at The Jewish Federations of North America, Wall Street Station, PO Box 148, New York, NY 10268. Please indicate "JFNA Hurricane Relief Fund" on all checks or in the designation box online.
In addition, Jewish superstar Matisyahu has generously pledged to donate the proceeds of his new song, “Happy Hanukkah,” to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy through JFNA, from now through December 16th. Go to matisyahuworld.com to learn more, download the song and give back.
JFNA and Jewish Federations are committed to care for victims of global natural disasters, and have emergency relief plans in place to aid people in need. Last year, Jewish Federations raised funds for those affected by widespread storms around the U.S., and more than $1 million for victims of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. Federations also raised $10 million in the aftermath of the southern Asia tsunami in 2004.