By Chanita Teitz
I could write pages and pages about Hurricane Sandy. Last week when I wrote about it, I was only writing about what I saw in Kew Gardens Hills. Aside from some trees that were uprooted and store awnings and signs down, most of us were spared. We had electricity, and everyone I spoke to had dry basements. It was only later in the day that we started hearing and seeing the devastation in the shore communities.
Far Rockaway, the Five Towns, Long Beach, Staten Island, Manhattan Beach, and Seagate are all under water. No one expected, even though it was well publicized, the severity of the storm. Last year’s Hurricane Irene was not this bad, so this time people stayed home expecting high winds, downed trees, maybe some outages, and some flooding in the basements and in the streets. But they were taken by surprise when the water reached their first floor and then second floor, or when the water engulfed the streets. Then people tried to get out. There were some brave rescues, Hatzalah members literally risking their own lives to help others, but unfortunately there were some deaths, too.
But out of this catastrophe has come an outpouring of chesed in our community. We started hearing that people needed homes for Shabbos. Over 60 families in Kew Gardens Hills hosted storm victims. Every shul was packed with “refugees.” What a word to use, right? It is mind-boggling to think that today, here in New York, there are Jewish families who are literally homeless.
On Monday night, November 5, I attended a community gathering at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, where we heard more about the effects of the storm. Chaim Kurtz opened the gathering, thanking everyone for coming on such short notice, and he mentioned that there is a dire need for some basic items that can be dropped off at our local schools. Items such as pillows, blankets, linen, shoes, boots, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and toys, diapers, and formula. Items can be dropped off at Yeshiva of Central Queens, Bais Yaakov, Bnos Malka, Yeshiva Ketana, Yeshiva Tifereth Moshe, and Yeshiva Har Torah.
Rabbi Grunblatt, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, led the assembled in Tehillim and then we heard from Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, mara d’asra of YIKGH, who also thanked everyone for making time for this important meeting. He said that only after the water began to recede did the communities see the extent of the devastation, and besides basic items they need funds.
Rabbi Yaakov Bender, dean of Yeshiva Darchei Torah, spoke next and described in detail the dire situation for hundreds of families. He described what looks like a war zone. It is something we don’t generally expect to see in our communities, but hundreds of families literally have nothing. Over $2 million has already been raised from people in the Five Towns, but they estimate that they will need about $10 million to help everyone get back on their feet. Along with the financial effects, the emotional effects are equally devastating, as well as the effect on young children. Many families have no one to turn to and in Far Rockaway over one thousand people were given food erev Shabbos.
He went on to say that businesses have been ruined and entire libraries filled with seforim are destroyed. Rabbi Bender’s chilling remarks were followed by his son’s, Rabbi Boruch Ber Bender, the founder and director of Achiezer, the organization in Far Rockaway that is spearheading the help being given to the victims. He mentioned the neighborhood patrol that is riding around at night to help prevent looting. One member told him that when he was driving one night, he saw a family in their car, warming up with the heat on and feeding their children some hot soup.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder spoke next, stating that about 80 percent of his constituents were affected by the hurricane. But in all this, the outpouring of chesed has been amazing. People have come together from all over the country. He ended by thanking everyone for their help.
Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, Agudath Israel’s national director of government affairs, spoke next and asked us to applaud the work of Rabbi Bender, Rabbi Boruch Ber Bender, and Achiezer and Phil Goldfeder for all that they are doing. He said that although money has been raised, they need much more. He described a worker from FEMA who had been stationed in Afghanistan and now as he goes around the neighborhoods he cries at what he sees. It reminds him of a war zone. And then Rabbi Kalish told us that if we want to help, we should “write a check first and then do everything else second.”
For those who would like to volunteer to host a family or to help in another way, you can call the Achiezer hotline at 516-791-4444 or visit their website at www.achiezer.org/donate.php?event=sandy. Credit-card donations can also be taken online.
The entire Queens community is invited to attend the 74th anniversary in remembrance of Kristallnacht, honoring Raoul Wallenberg on his 100th birthday on Thursday, November 8 at 7:30 p.m. Keynote speaker will be Leon Goldenberg. Congregation Machane Chodosh, 67-29 108th Street, Forest Hills. Admission is free.
Carlebach davening at Yeshiva Kesser Torah this Friday night, November 9, Shabbos Mevorchim. Minchah is at 4:34 p.m. Men and women are welcome.
Sunday, November 10 at 8 p.m. is Movie Night at Havurat Yisrael. The film Kazablan will be shown. Contribution is $5. 68-60 Austin Street, Forest Hills.
Rabbi Shmuel Marcus, Rav of Kehilas Ishei Yisrael, will be speaking on “Jewish Education: Investments and Returns” at 8 p.m. on Sunday, November 11 at the home of Bob and Susie Garber, 147-37 70th Avenue, KGH. The event is to raise money for Our Jewish Children, a Queens community organization which donates money on behalf of families who are unable to pay full tuition and would otherwise send their children to public school. For more information call 718-268-2448.
The Erna Lindenfeld Hachnossas Kallah Fund of Queens will be having their annual tea on Tuesday, November 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Electric Buildingg on Parsons Boulevard and Jewel Avenue. The tea is sponsored this year by Judy and Morris Tuchman in memory of Judy’s mother, Mrs. Esther Gruss, a’h.
The Young Israel of KGH invites the entire community to hear scholar-in-residence Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought and senior scholar at the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University, on Friday night and Shabbos, November 16–17. Rabbi Schacter will speak at a Friday night oneg, on Shabbos morning, and at seudah shelishis. This Shabbos is sponsored by Mrs. Shulamith Leibler in memory of her husband, Harav Shlomo ben Chaim Nosson Hacohen, longtime chazzan of the shul, and by Dr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Weintraub in memory of their parents, Yonah ben Zev Halevi Cimbol and Yosef ben Yitzchok and Chaya bas Yitzchok Weintraub.
Yeshiva Madreigas HaAdam will be celebrating their bar mitzvah dinner on Tuesday night, November 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Electric Building in Kew Gardens Hills in tribute to Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz. Guest speaker will be HaRav Noach Oelbaum. For more information call 718-705-8803 or www.ymhad.org.
Lander College for Men, Sunday, November 11. For more info call 718-820-4884 or 4904.
Bais Yaakov of Queens, Wednesday, November 14 9:00–10:30 and 1:00–2:30. For more information call 718-847-5352.
Mesivta Chofetz Chaim, Monday, November 19 at 8:15 p.m. For more info call 718-263-1445.
Yeshiva Tifereth Moshe pre-school, Thursday, November 22, 9:30–11:30 a.m. For more information call 718-846-7300 ext. 119.
Mesivta Yesodei Yeshurun, Sunday, December 2, 2:30 pm. For more information call 718-261-4738.
As I am writing this column, I just received a phone call notifying me of the petirah of our neighbor, Rabbi Stanley Metzger. Our condolences to his wife, Bernice, and to the entire family. HaMakom yenachem eschem b’soch sh’ar aveilei Tziyon v’Yerushalayim.
Mazal tov to our dear grandson Eli Weiss on being chosen the talmid ha’shavuah at Yeshiva Ketana of Queens. We are proud of you! v
Chanita Teitz is a real-estate broker at Astor Brokerage, with offices in Kew Gardens Hills and Fresh Meadows. For all your real-estate needs in Queens, call her at 718-263-4500 or e-mail email@example.com.