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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Sandy’

Israeli Aid Missions Providing Relief to Hurricane Sandy Victims

Friday, November 9th, 2012

An Israeli delegation of trained rescue volunteers is departing to New York today, Friday, November 9, to assist victims devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The delegation is headed by Shahar Zahavi, CEO of IsraAID, the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) that has facilitated aid and relief program across the world, including in Haiti, Japan, Turkey, Kenya and South Sudan.

The 12-person delegation will be offering rescue, rehabilitation, and communal resource services to New York residents of Far Rockaway and Long Beach, as well as the Atlantic City-Margate area along the Jersey Shore. They will also be identifying areas with vulnerable populations and allocating resources to older people and families with young children who have suffered significant damages to their homes and have no power.

Financing for the mission comes from young Israelis and from Israeli businesses, alongside partner companies in the United States, which are supplying the Israeli crew with water, food, gasoline, clothing, blankets and storage facilities to distribute to people who have been evacuated from their homes.

According to spokesperson Tova Hametz the IsraAid delegation’s mission is to “rehabilitate, rescue, bolster morale and bring physical resources in the most effective, organized and expedient way.” She added that Zahavi has much experience in relief work following his mission in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

According to Israel’s foreign office, a number of Israeli NGOs are working to bring relief and supplies including food, fuel and generators to both victims and emergency workers in New York and New Jersey. Among those NGOs are Israel Flying Aid and Israeli Humanitarian Aid-LATET. Those efforts have been coordinated with local police departments, the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Jewish communities in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

One of the Israeli volunteers, Joel Leyden, helped organize an aid convoy from Connecticut to Long Island, bringing food and generators to first responders, fire departments, police, and to homes. He and other Israeli volunteers also passed out Dunkin’ Donuts to people waiting at gas stations.

“We wore our blue-and-white-Israeli hats to make sure they knew this aid was coming from the people of Israel,” said Leyden, according to the foreign office website.

Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricanes and the second-costliest after Hurricane Katrina. The October hurricane killed more than 110 people in 10 states, left more than 8 million homes and businesses in the Northeast without electricity, and tens of thousands of Americans homeless.

Sandy-Affected Voters in NY & NJ Can Choose Polling Place

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Voters in New York and New Jersey affected by Hurricane Sandy will be permitted to vote at any polling place in their respective states using a provisional ballot.

“Just because you’re displaced doesn’t mean you should be disenfranchised,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, a day before Americans went to the polls to pick their next president.

Some polling places were completely unusable due to the storm, and some voters had sought shelter far from their polling places.

President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney held final campaign rallies in key states on Monday and appeared on Monday Night Football.

Polls show Obama, a Democrat, and Romney, a Republican, in a tight race. The Jewish vote was being seen as especially important in swing states, especially in Florida.

It’s Not Always Critical

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Whether you live on the East Coast, or have relatives there, I’m sure that many readers had their ears and web browsers set this week to the development and results of Hurricane Sandy. Seeing the city that never stops in a blackout, viewing the pictures of flooded subway stations, and seeing mass evacuations even before the rain fell from the sky, truly set the stage for something major to happen, something so  critical requiring such vital preparation.

And indeed, the various adjectives used to describe Sandy were right on the dot. From “ the biggest to hit US mainland” to “the most dangerous” and “Frankenstorm,”  all the above authentically described the meters of water penetrating homes and cities, injuring and killing innocent civilians, compiled with endless damage to property and loss of power.

As the worse in now behind us, and yet with restorations efforts still ahead of us, I believe that the terms utilized so widely this week to describe a terrible predicament should force us to reconsider their use when, thankfully, tragedy doesn’t strike. Though my heart and soul are with those hurt by the storm, I am disturbed that so many of these very adjectives are commonly used to describe common occurrences, a far cry from the critical situation that so many Americans on the East Coast are facing.

It seems that every election is “the most critical in our history” and the issues on the table, before any election or vote, “have never been more vital to the existence of the Jewish people.”  An agreement between two parties to run a joint-ticket in the coming election resulted in a member of the party, firmly against this unified ballot, claiming the need to stop it “in order to save Israel’s democracy”! Not long ago, a certain Jewish group hit the barricades in order to prevent frum Sefardic children from entering their school, contradicting an explicit court order. Their leader branded their refusal to fulfill the order, with the threat of jail, as “the war of the generation.”

When a woman singing in front of men caused soldiers to walk out rather than violate the prohibition of Kol Isha, a controversy broke with a certain Rabbi claiming that “Troops will die rather than listen to women [sing].”  Demonstrators against women’s prayer groups at the Kotel  have gained the title of “warriors” and one joining a late-night Minyan to allow a mourner to say Kaddish was shown gratitude for his “Mesirut Nefesh”/Self-Sacrifice. Finally, about once a year, someone seems to refer to a local dispute than no less than a “Holocaust” with religious Jews and leaders using the term  “Yehareg Vaal Yaavor” (Give your life rather than transgress) regarding far more commandments and issues than the three cardinal sins!

Part and parcel of learning Torah is to clearly identify what is a Biblical commandment, what’s Rabbinic and what is custom. Though we are devoted to fulfilling all of the above,  it’s important to know the origin of a Mitzva so we can keep a sense of proportion.  I would not envy the nursing mother who would consider fasting on Yom Kippur in the same category as fasting on Ta’anit-Ester. While both are fast days, her personal situation would dictate a totally different mode of behavior on these two days, based solely on having a true sense of proportion between a Biblical edict and a custom. Similarly, forcing one to violate Shabbat and eat pig is not the same as forcing one to listen to a woman’s voice. Jewish children of diverse ethnic descent learning together certainly does not fit into the same group as the prohibition of idolatry.

Indeed, beyond the three cardinal sins,  at times, even a mere custom, such as the customary color of a Jew’s shoelace, can be so vital that one must give their life and not transgress [Tractate Sanhedrin 74b.]  And yet, when there isn’t a danger of uprooting Jewish life, we must be extremely careful not to make a mountain out of a molehill!

So frequently our Rabbis in the field are faced with issues and controversies that challenge them as they attempt to show professional spiritual leadership. Almost every one of them is faced weekly with the dilemma of when do they take a stand, when do they pick a fight, when do they back off, and even when do they give in. However, it is rather abnormal for a Rabbi never to have a dilemma, thus he is forced either to never take a stand or to always feel the need to create a controversy over every single issue, thinking everything is critical and life-threatening to the existence of the Jewish community.

Not every issue is as critical as the next. And therefore, we should be very careful to use the proper terminology so we dare not give the false impression, to our kids, neighbors or students, that “life depends” on your vote, that participation in a demonstration for a just cause is “crucial” and the need to write letters of protests is no less than “Pikuach Nefesh.”

I fully believe that passion is needed for the very issues that are so important to us. There can be deviation from person to party as to what those critical issues are. And yet, it seems uncanny that we are asked to be passionate about everything.

UJA-Federation of NY Releasing $10 million in Hurricane Sandy Emergency Relief

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

UJA-Federation of New York released $10 million in Hurricane Sandy emergency relief aid to its network agencies and synagogues.

The agency made the funds available on Monday morning; its board of directors had decided unanimously to make the money available in a special session the previous evening.

“The emotional and economic impact, especially on the isolated elderly and the poor, is acute and will remain so for a long time,” the agency said in a statement Monday.

UJA-Federation had set up a Hurricane Sandy relief fund shortly after the storm hit on Oct. 29.

The week before Sandy struck the greater New York area, the federation raised a record $45 million at its annual campaign kickoff event.

Uprooted

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Liad Arussy sent us this image of a collapsed tree in Fair Lawn, NJ, after Hurricane Sandy. She wrote: “Once stood so strong, now fallen in shame.”

Lying on its side, the tree is not dead, and the slab of grassy soil that was lifted along with its roots is alive, too, only not upright.

I hope whomever it is at the Fair Lawn municipality who is deposited with the responsibility of up-righting the uprooted trees will come over quickly, dig up the hole in the ground and replant this magnificent tree. I hope the orange ribbon, wrapped around the tree like some natural crime scene, doesn’t mean that the tree is slated to be hauled on a big truck and taken to be sliced up into convenient wood slabs.

We have enough wood, what we need are living, breathing trees.

Things You See from Over Here

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

A mega-popular song by one of Israel’s better female vocalists, Yehudit Ravitz, goes:

You took my hand in your hand and told me / Let’s go down to the garden / You took my hand in your hand and told me / Things you see from over there – you don’t see from over here.

I’ve been preoccupied by that notion since the crazy pictures of Hurricane Sandy started arriving here, in safe and dry Netanya, Israel. My initial reaction was a deep, overwhelming empathy. It’s people I know and love who are facing this monster of a storm, it’s the cityscapes of 37 years of my life which are being washed up and flooded; this is not a story about a tsunami in some anonymous far-eastern country where the images of terror and loss are somehow not completely real, unless the daughter or nephew of someone you know happen to be on a self-discovery journey over there, at which point that faraway tsunami turns very personal instantaneously.

I imagine that my friends in Israel experienced the horrors of 9/11 in a similar fashion. The friends who were most deeply affected were those who had spent quality time in NY City, and so they felt every bit of destruction on a very personal level.

It so happens that our daughter is back in the States, on a long trip to celebrate her 21st birthday, and so, naturally, our level of alertness and anxiety is that much higher. My sister lives in downtown Manhattan, in one of the Grand Street co-ops, close to where my wife and I lived for so many years.

We stare at the images of devastation, both to personal property and to the very shoreline of the Eastern Seaboard, and we are aghast. We receive the emails from all the local sources to which we still subscribe, out of habit, and we read about a life without power and water, with empty store shelves and gas pumps. We experienced something similar in the blackout of the summer of 2003, but the whole thing lasted a mere two days. I recall sitting on the porch on a Friday night and seeing how, neighborhood by neighborhood, the lights came back on. But today we read about whole neighborhoods who’ve gone a week without power and running water. That’s very scary and very personal.

Now we read of a new storm, a “nor’easter,” that’s about to hit the very neighborhoods that have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy. We cringe at the thought of what that would feel like. How can anyone just go on surviving one blow after another from “Mother Nature” – and winter has only just begun.

I don’t care, at this point, to engage in whether these disasters are the result of global warming, global change, or global everything is just the same. There’s no doubt in my mind that, for this and many other reasons, the United States of America is becoming a harsher place in which to reside. I must confess that I’m not seeing very good things happening in the near future in America. And I love America, I even believe in American exceptionalism – but one must be blind, or at least seriously nearsighted, not to see the writing on the wall.

My colleague Tzvi Fishman has been writing here for the past few months about how living in Diaspora is practically a crime against God (I’m stretching it a bit, obviously, but that’s the gist of it). I’m starting to think that living in Diaspora is plain foolish.

It used to be that Diaspora Jews were encouraged to come to Israel because Israel needed them. I don’t believe this is any longer the case. Israel is doing fabulously well at its current state. It has the highest employment record among all the Western democracies, it has one of the highest-growth GDPs, it has one of the best medical care systems, the finest highways, more institutions of higher education per capita than anywhere else in the world, more books published per capita than anywhere else, and fantastic produce. Despite some obvious security difficulties, it is damn close to paradise. Israel is doing fine.

It’s Diaspora Jews who desperately need Israel at this point. It’s a new concept to many. We’ve been used to thinking about Israel as the place where we look for spiritual experiences, where we discover our historic past, where we come to terms with our national feelings. But to view Israel as a much, much better place than the United States in terms of creature comforts – that’s not a widely shared notion. All I can say is, check it out.

Hurricane Sandy

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Hurricane Sandy 110212

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