By Shmuel Katz
It has been an incredible week. From the first predictions of doom to the naysayers who lived through Irene and dared Sandy to do her best, I don’t think any of us could have dreamt of what the week would bring. The devastation and destruction that resulted from a storm was one thing. The seemingly never-ending continuance of this story is what is shocking.
On Tuesday last week, as the first reports of damage were coming in, I was glad to hear that everyone I knew was OK, if without power and having suffered some damage to their homes. I have a friend who lost just about everything, but thankfully his family is fine. And I cannot imagine what they are going through right now in trying to reset their lives. And the people who still have no power, no communication, no anything . . . All I can say is, “Wow!” No other words will do.
I found myself thinking, “There but for the grace of . . .”; had G‑d not put us on the path to aliyah, we would have been right in the thick of things, with our old neighbors, friends, and family. I even posted a note on my Facebook page how happy I was to have “evacuated” the flood zone permanently six years ago along with the thousands of other olim who have gone from “there” to “here.”
Having seen (from afar) the storms and Irene, etc., and having watched our family and friends suffer through blackouts, floods, and damages, I was sure that most of the people would be back online with power, phone, etc., within days. Yet here I sit on Election Day (yes, I did vote) and many of you still do not have power—nor any hint of when it will be turned on. It boggles the mind.
And we feel powerless to do anything to help.
Israel sent a shipment of what I am sure were much-needed supplies to the disaster zone. Chaim spent a couple of days this week as a volunteer in Belle Harbor, cleaning debris and helping people begin the recovery process. We worry and daven for you. It is an unusual role reversal.
It actually reminded me (lehavdil) of the first Gulf War, in 1991. We were living in Chicago at the time. Whenever I heard about a new rocket attack on Israel, I would call my sister Bluma, who was living in Ramat Gan at the time. She and her family were huddled in her “safe room” with their gas masks, listening to the radio for news, which was slow in being released by the military censor.
So I would turn on CNN and call my sister to make sure that she was OK and tell her where the rockets landed. And worry.
Last week was the opposite. I was up all hours of the night and day watching coverage of the storm and floods. And I was messaging with people there with information for them and making sure they were OK. I think the worst post I saw was someone asking if anyone could come evacuate his family, as the water has begun creeping up the stairs to the second floor (yes, they are all safe).
And story after story. And here we are, a week later, and people are still suffering without power, food, communication, etc. All I can say is that we hurt for you and pray that things improve soon.
I’ll be in New York next week myself. It seems weird to be coming in, but the trip has been scheduled for a while and the Israel Night programs in high schools across New York and New Jersey are b’ezrat Hashem going on as scheduled. So, I’ll be there. I have volunteered to help out in the hours I am not working and I hope it helps. It seems like the least I can do for my friends. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a gap-year yeshiva opening in 2013. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.