By Chaim Leibtag
Despite internal challenges, including offices that have been closed since the hurricane as their building in lower Manhattan took on over eight feet of water and lost all heat and power, the National Council of Young Israel announced “An Evening Together,” the first post-Sandy concert event to benefit all victims and communities affected by the storm.
The concert, which stars Lipa, Elli Kranzler, and Sherwood Goffin and is being produced by Gershon Veroba, with music by Neshoma Orchestra, will take place Thursday, December 6 at NYC’s Town Hall. The NCYI’s hope is that aside from bolstering fundraising efforts on behalf of the synagogues and communities ravaged by the storm, it will also draw attention to the size and scope of the destruction.
“While everyone is aware of the loss and damage Sandy caused, the scope of the loss is presently focused on specific areas when the reality is you’d be hard pressed to find a near coastal NY or NJ community that hasn’t been affected. While the NCYI is a national organization, its DNA has always been about working with all Jewish communities on a grassroots level,” said a spokesperson. “Because of this, our representatives have seen firsthand the swath of devastation and how it’s impacting individuals, families, and communities—and will continue to impact them even as winter approaches.”
Farley Weiss, the recently elected president of the organization, said, “As the devastating impact becomes clearer, the need to continue to raise great sums of money becomes more and more critical…Doing so via a music-related event sends a message, as music has been a hallmark of the Jewish people—it is our universal language of simcha and hope. Through the musical talent that we have brought together—and more importantly the people who come out to enjoy them, we will be able to begin the healing process and mend those communities that have been broken by the terrible storm.”
Numerous Young Israel synagogues suffered major electrical and infrastructure damage as the seawater destroyed electrical and heating systems. Steve Frohlich, president of the Young Israel of Brighton Beach, stated, “If you would look only at the outside of the building, you would never guess how badly the raging waters destroyed the basement and parts of the first floor…In our case, we were lucky that none of our sifrei Torah were destroyed, but the electrical and heating systems will cost in the area of a quarter of a million dollars, and we were not able to get flood insurance…We are located in a working-class Brooklyn community, with a membership comprised primarily of first and second generation Russian immigrants—all of whom count on us as their kesher (connection) to a heritage they were denied while in the former USSR.”
The Young Israel of Oceanside also saw extensive damage both structurally and to its sifrei Torah—which despite being moved to higher elevations still ended up being submerged and essentially ruined. On their website a tally of the losses comes to over $300,000 and includes the Torahs, thousands of sefarim, youth program equipment, and the inevitable structural damages—most of which is not covered by insurance.
As extensive as this damage is, it unfortunately pales when compared to the losses in areas like Canarsie and Belle Harbor where Young Israels and other synagogues were nearly completely destroyed. As many of them are smaller synagogues with aging populations, they may never recover. Shuls like the White Shul in Far Rockaway provided siddurim and chumashim so the members would have prayer books to daven from. The Yeshiva in Belle Harbor has relocated and cleanup continues with some sections still without power.
While many Young Israel branches around the country have organized their own efforts—case in point, the Young Israel Shomrei Emunah of Greater Washington which raised over $150,000 and organized a bus to bring impacted families to DC for the weekend, the level of help doesn’t yet match the level of need.
“Everybody knows somebody who has been affected by the storm. Because of this the scope of the devastation—and understanding of what’s needed—escapes us. We called our event ‘An Evening Together’ because that’s what it is on many levels. Lipa, Elli, and Sherwood are all signature performers…having them share a stage sends a message that ‘we understand we’re all in this together.’ And to ensure the evening is as dynamic as possible, it’s being executive produced by Gershon Veroba, an A-list headliner in his own right. This is one of the first major shows being produced by a performer. Veroba is someone who knows how to work with talent because he is talent…he’s also worked with each of these performers (as well as special guest star Yosi Piamenta) in the past and is using that experience to produce a show that’s going to electrify the audience. We were founded on the principle of being there for the klal, from our involvement with the Vaad Hatzalah during the Shoah, to our connections with the Soviet Jewry Movement, to our support missions to Israel, being the ones to answer the question, ‘What can we do to help’ is what An Evening Together and the NCYI is all about,” concluded the spokesperson.
Concert tickets range from $36 to $125 and can be purchased at www.youngisrael.org/concert. Tickets are also available by phone at 212-929-1525, ext. 120. Special “Sponsor A Family” opportunities are also available.
The National Council of Young Israel is the parent body of nearly 200 synagogues in the United States, Canada, and Israel. For over 100 years the name Young Israel has been associated with dynamic Orthodox synagogues, youth programming, unwavering commitment to the State of Israel, and Jewish causes all over the world. v