What an ordeal. And that’s not because we are spoiled or have been spoiled—as many of us have. It is for many reasons that this can only be described as an ordeal. I know that many of you are still living elsewhere and enduring extreme inconvenience and difficulty. Many have lost everything and will have to deal with crawling back to life the way it once was. But rest assured you will get there. We will get there.
I have to say this—through the darkness a bright light was shining on the 5 Towns and Far Rockaway communities. In fact it shone from a multiplicity of directions, continues to shine and will shine for as long time to come.
I was in Brachs on Sunday morning collecting foodstuffs to be delivered to the Chabad House in Cedarhurst. A man walked over to me with tears in his eyes saying that he was from Long Beach, that his house and all its contents were lost and that he was taken in for Shabbos by people in Cedarhurst who he does not know. In fact, he said, there were five families in all taken into this one house.
On Sunday I was at the temporary headquarters of the Achiezer organization that has been spearheading much of the outreach, assistance and restoration activity for the 5 Towns and Far Rockaway communities. Baruch Ber Bender who founded the organization just a few years ago was flying around the room literally jumping from meeting to meeting answer questions that run the gamut posed by people from Seagirt Avenue to Silver Spring, Maryland.
On Seagirt Avenue in the senior citizen housing complexes there was a crisis that needed to be dealt with. Elderly people were living alone, their phone service was out with the electricity, many had no cell phones, there was no water and an effort had to be coordinated to go door to door in the building helping people out.
I overheard a volunteer call out to Rabbi Bender telling him that there was a man on the phone from Silver Springs. They had chartered a bus and were ready to leave for New York and they wanted to know where the manpower they represented could be best used. Wait a second, I thought, a group of people are on a bus from Maryland to New York, they have no idea where they would be needed or what it is they could do. All they knew was that people needed help and they were on their way to offer assistance.
On Monday I received a call from a young lady in Chicago. She said that the community had hired a trucker to transport things they were collecting from the local Jewish community for people in needs. She said they had collected or purchased baby formula, diapers, new clothing and household items. She wanted to know what I thought was needed but I really did not know. I directed her to Rabbi Wakslak at the Young Israel of Long Beach who is coordinating much of these efforts over there.
In Cincinnati, Ohio after last Shabbos a group of people got together to raise money for the rescue and recovery effort here. The e mail I received said that over a few minutes $14,000 was raised and was being sent to Achiezer to assist. Perhaps the most agonizing challenge for victims of the storm was the overt immediate need. Money for food and perhaps other expenses and the like would be available from FEMA but first the submission of painstaking paperwork would be required. To address that issue Congregation Heichel Dovid in Lawrence quickly put together a fund that would allow immediate funding for those qualified and in need.
More in this weeks 5TJT.