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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776
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Jewish Communities Among Dozens Decimated By Hurricane Sandy

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“There is no power, no landline telephones, and if you are flooded you don’t have gas either,” said Annette Turner. “There are downed wires, water and debris everywhere and they are having difficulty just assessing the damage.”

Turner left Bayswater on Sunday to take her son to nearby JFK in order to catch a 3:25 p.m. flight to Israel. “The roads were jam packed, it was like a parking lot,” she said. “He missed the flight and we had to cancel his ticket.”

Staten Island resident Dovid Winiarz lost both a tree and his deck to Sandy’s wrath. “The tree fell against my bedroom window, which, Baruch Hashem, didn’t break,” he said. “My next door neighbor with whom we share a backyard fence came out despite the high winds to make sure that we were safe.”

Winiarz, director of special projects for the community Bikur Cholim, estimates that sixty-five percent of the Willowbook community lost power due to the storm. “Only one shul, Agudas Yisroel of Staten Island, had power for a while,” he said. “They immediately opened their arms to host the community’s vasikin minyan and Tiferes Elimelech transported their entire beis medrash to the Agudah. The kol Torah reverberated over the howling winds.”

North and west of the city, many Hudson Valley residents found it was the wind, not the water, that was the force to be reckoned with. With trees down all around the greater Monsey area, some residents lost power as early as 5 p.m. on Monday and remain in the dark as of the time of publication. Orange and Rockland Utilities estimates that most customers will have power restored within ten days.

On Tuesday, Orange and Rockland county officials offered free dry ice distribution at Provident Bank Park. A line of cars almost half a mile long queued up to get into the ballpark, which had approximately two hundred people waiting to receive just a single brick of dry ice.

Sifrei Torah drying on the pews at F.R.E.E. of Brighton Beach/Hebrew Alliance.

Getting around Monsey has been exceptionally difficult, with downed trees blocking many roads. On Wednesday, the East Ramapo School District closed for the third consecutive day. Local yeshivos are scrambling to get generators and several are operating on a limited schedule. Parents of fifth to eighth grade boys at Yeshiva of Spring Valley received an e-mail Tuesday night informing them that school would be open from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday; students were advised to bring both sweaters and flashlights.

In some relatively quieter areas, some were able to attend weddings. Rabbi Yosef Preis, for instance, married off his son at Torah V’Yirah on Fort Hamilton Pkwy and 53rd St. Monday evening. “It was a beautiful chassanah,” he said. The hall was full and, due to the weather conditions and dearth of other simchas that night, many guests stayed for the entire affair, Rabbi Preis said. The only concession made to the storm was holding the chuppah indoors (rather than outdoors) under an open roof, as per the advice of the Rachmistrivka Rebbe from Yerushalayim, Rabbi David Twersky, who served as mesader kiddushin.

Even neighborhoods that sustained little damage in the storm experienced dangerous moments. Crown Heights resident Sruly Meyer, a former South Florida resident, took proper precautions for Sandy, securing a heavy glass outdoor table by turning it upside down and wedging it between a brick wall and other heavy items on his narrow, second-floor porch.

On Tuesday morning, Meyer was at work when he received a text from his neighbor informing him that his table was lodged in the branches of an adjacent tree. Convinced his neighbor was joking, he ignored the text until he received another text asking him what to do about the table.

“I drove home and there was a giant glass table stuck at least twenty feet in the air, wedged in a tree,” said Meyer. “We called 311, but not surprisingly, on the day after a hurricane, we got no response. I called 911, concerned that if the table fell on any passersby the results could be catastrophic, but they yelled at me for calling and told me that if the table falls and hurts someone I should call them back.”

Elliot Resnick and Sandy Eller

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