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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rockland County’

Coping With Irene’s Wrath: New Yorkers Tell Their Stories

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011


As Hurricane Irene barreled toward New York late last week, city officials, still smarting over what critics called a tentative response to the great blizzard of 2010, acted proactively, shutting down mass transit and ordering a mandatory evacuation in zones expected to be directly in the path of the massive storm.


The mandatory evacuation order, which covered Manhattan Beach, Coney Island, Seagate, the Rockaways and parts of Staten Island, was issued Friday afternoon, with people told to leave their homes by 5 p.m. the next day. While that gave residents more than 24 hours to make their preparations, thousands of Orthodox Jews living in the designated areas as well as in neighboring parts of Nassau County, including the Five Towns and Long Beach, had just hours until the onset of the Sabbath. They all wrestled with the same question: Where to spend Shabbos?


Phone calls, text messages, e-mails and posts on Jewish news sites were used to circulate information, including a steady stream of evacuation updates and halachic guidelines for which emergency actions were permissible on Shabbos.

 

 


Downed tree in Brooklyn testifies to Irene’s fury.

Hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm

but left penty of damage in its wake.

 

The Orthodox Union issued hurricane guidelines originally produced by Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, advising people to keep yahrzeit candles and flashlights lit over Shabbos and to have a radio on at a low volume in a side room for emergency bulletins. In the event that Irene made landfall on Shabbos, the guidelines urged everyone to daven at home and to assume their eruv was down, but allowed for carrying, preferably in an irregular fashion, in case of medical need, danger to life and limb and for the elderly and small children.


Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Meisels, the Seagate Rav, urged residents of Coney Island and Seagate to leave their homes to avoid potential chillul Shabbos should they be forced to evacuate on Saturday, and the Agudath Israel of Bayswater sent an e-mail at 4:38 Friday afternoon informing area residents of Zone B, which included Far Rockaway, Bayswater and Belle Harbor, that if they had a place to go for Shabbos they were halachically required to leave the area.


Several shelters were opened to accommodate those who needed food and lodging for Shabbos, including in Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv in Far Rockaway and in Young Israel of Bayswater.


Achiezer, a Far Rockaway-based community resource center, offered placement for families in both West Hempstead and at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in Kew Gardens Hills.

 

 


 


Water reached almost five feet high at the

Sun Circle Bungalow Colony in South Fallsburg, N.Y.

 

Some sought temporary shelter with friends or relatives. Others were steadfast in their decision to stay home. Many found they simply did not have enough time to pack up and leave before Shabbos and were left wondering if they would be forcibly removed from their homes once the evacuation deadline passed.


As it turned out, Irene had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it arrived in New York. So for most area residents, the much ballyhooed monster hurricane was at worst a soggy inconvenience. But in at least three cases in the Jewish community, the hurricane left tragic consequences in its wake.


David Reichenberg, a 50-year-old Orthodox Jewish father of four from Spring Valley, died saving a father and his 6-year-old son from a downed power line. Reichenberg came into contact with the live wire and was electrocuted.


Reichenberg had stopped to help the boy and his father who were viewing damage outside their home in Rockland County. The boy had touched a metal fence electrified by a fallen wire. Reichenberg pulled the two from the fence, but could not escape himself, witness Moishe Lichtenstein told the New York Daily News.


“When I got there the victim was on the ground and he was touching the wire, which was in the water,” Lichtenstein said. “When emergency officials got there, they couldn’t touch him. We were standing there for like five or 10 minutes. We were just praying, ‘God help this man.’ “


In an interview with JTA, a longtime friend of Reichenberg, Rabbi Avrohom Braun, described the deceased as an “upbeat person with unshakable faith.” Rabbi Braun is director of admissions and education at Ohr Somayach yeshiva, which Reichenberg attended 25 years ago. Every morning, Reichenberg, who ran a sign-making shop, would attend 6 a.m. classes before opening his store, Rabbi Braun said. He also said Reichenberg regularly volunteered to help coordinate Shabbos meals for impoverished families in Rockland County, which has a large population of Orthodox Jews.


Michael Kenwood, 39, also died while attempting to help others. A volunteer first aid worker from Princeton, N.J., Kenwood was checking a submerged car that rescuers thought was occupied when he became untethered and slipped. Kenwood was swept away by the current and later was pulled unconscious from the waters.


Rozalia Gluck, a Holocaust survivor originally from Russia, died after she was trapped in a Catskills motel that was swept away by flood waters during the storm. She was 82.


In all, as of Tuesday afternoon some 48 deaths had been attributed to Irene.


* * *


Many of those who survived the storm encountered difficulties of their own. Among those who opted to stay home for Shabbos rather than evacuate was Chana, a resident of Bayswater who declined to give her last name. Living on the second floor of a residence located on higher ground, away from the bay, she felt confident she was out of harm’s way. Chana found Shabbos to be rainy but uneventful, though several rabbis told her she should have left the area.


After Shabbos, Chana and her neighbor heard news reports saying that power might be cut in their area and they decided to spend the night in West Hempstead. By about 9 a.m. Sunday, the house where Chana was staying had no phone, Internet or cable service. Across the street, there was no electricity and two houses had been hit by fallen trees, one of which had been split in half by lightning.


Chana left West Hempstead with her neighbor in the early afternoon; the area looked like a slalom course, with downed trees dotting the roads. Returning to Bayswater, an area that was supposed to be much harder hit by Irene, Chana reports that she saw only two fallen trees.


“I got home and everything was exactly where I had left it,” said Chana. “The garbage cans, the plants, the rosebushes, not a single item had been damaged. Bayswater was supposed to be the dangerous place to be, but it turns out that the place I went to escape Bayswater was hit even harder by Irene. I should have listened to my instincts and just stayed home. I think after Katrina and the big blizzard this year, everyone just panicked.”


Cedarhurst resident Sholom Jacobs had been contemplating going away for Shabbos with his family. Hearing news of the evacuations sealed the deal and the Jacobs family packed up their car and headed north, spending Shabbos in Monsey and Motzaei Shabbos at the Pearl River Hilton, also in Rockland County. Heading back to Cedarhurst, he noted downed trees and some flooded streets. Jacobs was grateful to find everything in his house both dry and in working order, though friends informed him that many people in the low lying areas had water in their basements and numerous homes in Cedarhurst were without power. “I think Monsey and upstate got hit harder than we did,” said Jacobs.


Jacobs said he has no regrets about leaving for Shabbos.


“There is no way to predict exactly where these things will land and what the damage will be. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”


Joseph Horowitz of Lawrence was one of those who stayed home for Shabbos, but found the day very stressful.


“It was so close to Shabbos by the time we were told to leave that we weren’t comfortable leaving,” he said. “With so many people leaving the area and so much traffic, who really had time to get anywhere? Besides, many people stayed because they just didn’t have anywhere to go.”


In Shaaray Tefila, where Horowitz davens, those who stayed behind were clearly on edge. There were regular hurricane updates during the day and a visit from the mayor. Conversation centered around whether or not Maariv would be davened at the earliest possible time so that people could evacuate.


“Shabbos just didn’t feel like Shabbos,” said Horowitz.


While many people evacuated the Five Towns, there were some hardy souls who braved the elements and actually traveled to the evacuation zone for Shabbos.


“My friend was making a bar mitzvah in Cedarhurst,” explained Mindy, who only gave her first name. “We were almost at our destination when we found out about the mandatory evacuation order. We didn’t have enough time to turn around, sit in the traffic that was piling up on Rockaway Turnpike and still make it home in time for Shabbos. My friend came to my son’s wedding in the middle of a blizzard. Was I really going to miss her son’s bar mitzvah for a hurricane?”


Mindy and her husband found Shabbos to be rainy but calm. As Shabbos ended, there were people going around to the various shuls telling people to leave the area, so Mindy and her husband packed up and they drove home. They passed a few flooded streets but made it home in record time.


“Ten minutes after we left Cedarhurst they shut down Rockaway Turnpike,” Mindy said. “By the time we got home both Mayor Bloomberg and the Nassau County executive were telling everyone to just stay where they were. Thankfully we got out at just the right time.”


* * *


While New York City was hit less hard than anticipated, some rural vacation spots were not as lucky.


Menachem Bornstein of Far Rockaway spent last weekend with his wife’s family in Camp Morasha, located in Lake Como, Pennsylvania, where the torrential rains began after midnight on Motzaei Shabbos.

 

 


Workers at Camp Morasha remove a fallen tree from on top of a bunk.

(Photo courtesy of Menachem Bornstein)

 

“While we had a minyan over Shabbos, I had to drive about eight miles for a minyan on Sunday morning,” said Bornstein. “On my way back it was extremely windy with branches falling down, and as I got to the camp there was a huge fallen tree blocking the road. I stopped my car and that was when I began to smell smoke. I turned around and saw that there was smoke behind me – a tree had fallen and hit a power line.”


Bornstein called 911 and managed to get back into the camp by going with a janitor who had appeared on the scene.


By 11 a.m. Sunday the camp had neither water nor electricity. There were twelve fallen trees in the camp, including an extremely large tree that had fallen on Bornstein’s in-laws’ cabin but miraculously did not crash through the roof.


Camp cooks prepared the food by candlelight and large generator-powered floodlights were used in the dining room to provide light for the meals. While water was restored to the camp at 8:30 Sunday night, it took until late Monday afternoon for the electricity to come back on.


Despite the soggy weather, winds and other difficulties, Bornstein said his children had a great time.


(Additional reporting by JTA)

Rabbi Muschel A Hero

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

   The Jewish Federation of Rockland County recently ran a contest to elect a Rockland Jewish hero. Rabbi Muschel without question had my vote hands down.

 

   I can personally attest to Rabbi Muschel’s excellence, loyalty, and dedication in the field of academia throughout his lifetime. His passion and expertise in the educational arena has been stellar. There is no question that Rabbi Muschel has made a positive and lasting impact on children and adults nationwide.

 

   I have entrusted all my children to Rabbi Muschel’s as the principal of ASHAR during their formative years. My entire family graduated from ASHAR elementary school and I feel fortunate with the foundation provided as a springboard to succeed in life in both Judaic and secular studies.

 

   Rabbi Muschel has certainly proven the test of time. Rabbi Muschel is exemplified as a paradigm educator and consultant in curriculum development, whereby teachers and administrators from the surrounding communities refer to Rabbi Muschel for guidance and advice.

 

   I have Rabbi Muschel to thank for imparting his love of Israel and positive Jewish values he so deftly infused as part of the school’s daily lessons, curriculum, and overall approach. Rabbi Muschel, of all people, successfully fulfilled his vision and dream come true for the benefit of all those around him. Now, wouldn’t you call that a hero?

Rabbi Muschel A Hero

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

   The Jewish Federation of Rockland County recently ran a contest to elect a Rockland Jewish hero. Rabbi Muschel without question had my vote hands down.

 

   I can personally attest to Rabbi Muschel’s excellence, loyalty, and dedication in the field of academia throughout his lifetime. His passion and expertise in the educational arena has been stellar. There is no question that Rabbi Muschel has made a positive and lasting impact on children and adults nationwide.

 

   I have entrusted all my children to Rabbi Muschel’s as the principal of ASHAR during their formative years. My entire family graduated from ASHAR elementary school and I feel fortunate with the foundation provided as a springboard to succeed in life in both Judaic and secular studies.

 

   Rabbi Muschel has certainly proven the test of time. Rabbi Muschel is exemplified as a paradigm educator and consultant in curriculum development, whereby teachers and administrators from the surrounding communities refer to Rabbi Muschel for guidance and advice.

 

   I have Rabbi Muschel to thank for imparting his love of Israel and positive Jewish values he so deftly infused as part of the school’s daily lessons, curriculum, and overall approach. Rabbi Muschel, of all people, successfully fulfilled his vision and dream come true for the benefit of all those around him. Now, wouldn’t you call that a hero?

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

Dej? Vu

The story of the abandonment of the Jews during the Holocaust, retold in Marvin Kalb’s marvelous front-page essay (“Misreporting the Holocaust,” Oct. 22), is of course a sad one. Kalb reminds us how Franklin Roosevelt, an aristocratic blue-blood, and The New York Times with its weak Jewish owners, cared little about the Jews.

It should be noted that America unwittingly paid a heavy price for its anti-Jewish attitudes in the 1930′s and 40′s. This country did not prepare for war with Germany because it was under the delusion that what was happening in Europe was only “a war between the Jews and Hitler.” Part of the price paid was Pearl Harbor, the loss of the Philippines, and thousands of American lives.

Has the world learned? Not very much, especially the newspapers which play the same old game of blaming the Jews for the world’s problems – which in our day means branding Israel the culprit in its fight for survival against its antagonistic Arab neighbors.

Papers like the Philadelphia Inquirer have only slightly moderated their tone, and even that slight improvement came about only because of heavy criticism from Jewish readers. Has Europe learned anything at all, even after being nearly decimated? Not much, as the Europeans, seeking to make money deals with the Arabs, are more than willing to put the Jews on the table as bargaining chips.

This is why Jews must fight to support Israel, and Israel must fight to avoid being extinguished by the new “Final Solution.” That fight would involve not relinquishing Gaza.

Jerry Boris
Philadelphia, PA



Admonishing Sharon

The following are some of the points I made in a recent letter to Prime Minister Sharon:

I am an independent Baptist pastor in Oklahoma City who loves the nation of Israel. I am director of the organization Yedidim of Israel, and as a friend of Israel I assure you that I pray for the nation of Israel every day.

On Oct 2, 1947, after returning from a trip to the Holy Land, Dr. J. Frank Norris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ft. Worth, Texas, wrote President Truman that “the issue is whether we will take the authority of the Bible of our mothers, or the Koran with it’s sword and flame.” He pointed out to Truman many of the scriptures making it plain that God gave that land to the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 17:19, 28:13; Deut. 30:3-5; Psalms 105:9-12).

Mr. Prime Minister, American Christians are not in favor of giving one inch of the Gush Katif or any other territories to the Palestinians. You have gone through four years of a relentless Palestinian war of terror. I was at the King David when a bus was blown up nearby. We went immediately to the site. I could smell the smell of death.

Mr. Prime Minister, you were long the settlement movement’s most ardent champion. Don’t let the U.S. State Department, the EU, or anyone else goad you into giving up one centimeter of the land that Almighty God gave to the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Jim Vineyard
Windsor Hills
Baptist Church
Oklahoma City, OK



The Copepod Debate

David Berger’s op-ed essay on the copepods, while it struck an emotional cord, could have taken a more technical and halachic approach (“On the Prohibition of Water: An Appeal to Poskim,” Oct. 22).

1) To categorize a copepod as “h’ayin sholet bo” (something visible to the eye) when it was in our water supply for over a hundred years without being seen until someone spotted it with the help of a buglight – this is a difficult stretch of logic.

2) To say the shiur (size) of an item that makes it impermissible is so small that for more than a hundred years no one spotted it and therefore transgressed – this would appear to violate the basic principle of “Torah lo bashomayim he” (Torah is not in the heavens).

3) If you want to hypothesize that prior to the advent of the buglight this size was not assur but after the buglight was invented the shiur is now lower, you violate the principle of “im cain nosata d’vorecha l’shiurin” – you can’t have different sizes for different people.

Zevi Wolf
(Via E-Mail)



Courageous Article

The Jewish Press is the only Orthodox publication I know of that would have published Dr. Berger’s courageous op-ed article. If we learn anything from studying the lives of our great sages and rabbis, it is that a Jew can be completely devoted to Torah and mitzvot and still use his or her brain. Unfortunately, today we see less and less of that in the yeshiva world, which by and large has retreated into a cocoon of mindless ritualism and a “can you top this” chumraism.

Thank you, Dr. Berger, and thank you, Jewish Press, for refusing to succumb to the current climate of obscurantism and worse that has settled over large parts of the frum olam.

Michoel Strauss
New York, NY



Worthy Holocaust Project

I am an 8th grade student at the Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School in Rockland County, New York. For my bat mitzvah, I began a mitzvah project to try and collect six-million pennies by May 5, 2005 – Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The plan is to have the pennies on display through Yom Hashoah and then converted to currency; a portion will be donated to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and a portion will go to the Holocaust Museum of Rockland County.

My project began with a simple concept. A penny these days has very little value – there isn’t anything you can buy with one. Until now. A penny saved can represent a human soul that perished in the Holocaust. Each penny can help the memory of that soul live on forever and help us all keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. Although my friends and I are always being taught about all of the terrible things that took place during the Holocaust, I don’t think we can fully understand just how huge a number six million is.

I believe the sight of six million pennies on display will help everyone comprehend the number of lives that were lost during that time.

With my project I hope to ensure that this new generation, and every generation after, will remember the Holocaust and the atrocities associated with it. Because as survivors fade to few in number, the voices of those who say “it never happened” will become stronger.

Though simple in concept, my project is an enormous undertaking. To accomplish my goal, I’ll need a lot of help. I’m asking everyone to save pennies in 20 oz. soda bottles (each of which, we estimate, holds 800 pennies). Participants should label all filled bottles to my attention – Jessica Feuerstein – and include their names, their cities and their states. Bottles can be dropped off at Uncle Louie G’s, 1361 Coney Island Avenue (between Avenues J and K) in Brooklyn.

I’ve asked all my friends to start collecting while spreading the word. That, however, will not be enough. I need everyone who finds this project worthy to also collect and get the word out. Working together as Klal Yisrael, the goal can be achieved. Those interested in getting involved with this project can e-mail me at pennyproject@optonline.net with questions, or just to let me know they’d like to help.

I thank The Jewish Press for publishing this letter, and I hope readers will try to help me reach my goal of making sure we always remember, from one generation to the next.

Jessica Feuerstein
(Via E-Mail)



Flawed Editorial?

In a recent editorial, you condemned the Union for Traditional Judaism as a “(watered-down) bastion of halachic rectitude” for failing to come out unequivocally enough against the Montauk Minyan’s inviting Rabbi Steven Greenberg, an openly gay Orthodox rabbi ordained at Yeshiva University, to give a sermon on Rosh Hashanah. You also decried the notion that the halachic views of one who violates a fundamental Judaic precept are deserving of respect. You even claimed that such an idea “would indeed come as news to generations of codifiers and explicators of Jewish law, spiritual giants whose priority was sanctification, not homogenization.”

I could not disagree more. The UTJ response to the Montauk Minyan’s invitation to Rabbi Greenberg deserves commendation precisely because it stands in stark contrast to the scorched earth approach taken by too many rabbis and others on the hard right of the Orthodox spectrum, an approach which (wrongly) condemns homosexuality (even though the oft-quoted Vayikrah verse condemns homosexual sex, and not homosexuality per se). One need not agree with the entirety of “Trembling before G-d,” the film in which Rabbi Greenberg was featured a couple of years ago, to understand that this self-defeating approach has only driven gay people away from Judaism, rather than helped them to understand traditional Jewish views on the subject.

The UTJ did not attack Rabbi Greenberg’s character. Nor did it condemn his scholarship. It defended a principle without trying to destroy an individual who it felt did not meet its standards. The UTJ had the courage to acknowledge that which some rabbis less secure in their Judaism do not: Rabbi Greenberg deserved a chance to present his case in some forum, even if his ideas are considered by the majority of traditional leaders to be inconsistent with Halachic principles. The principle of open inquiry requires no less.

It is utterly incorrect to claim that the halachic views of one who violates a “fundamental” Judaic precept are unworthy of respect, assuming for our purposes that the invocation against homosexual sex is a fundamental Judaic precept. (My personal view is that homosexuality is very, very far down on the list on the threats we face as a people if it is on the list at all.) The Talmud, where disagreements over fundamental Jewish practices are common, is inclusive of the views of those who violated what are considered today fundamental principles. Pirkei Avot, our ethical lodestar, includes the views of heretics like Elisha ben Ahuvah. There are rabbinic figures of our own times whose opinions are properly valued though their ethics, sexual and otherwise, have been called into question.

A final point: I cannot help but note that even the UTJ makes the mistake of referring to homosexuality as a “lifestyle.” This kind of terminology, by suggesting that the raison d’?tre for the existence of a gay person is his or her homosexuality, perpetuates the destructive approach I am talking about. The purpose of referring to homosexuality as a lifestyle is clear; by reducing a person who happens to be gay to his homosexuality alone, one can ignore the rest of the person’s attributes, those things that might endear him as a human being to one who otherwise believes that homosexuality is inconsistent with halacha. (It also begs the question of just how people who have seemingly spent little time with homosexuals know so much about the “homosexual lifestyle.”)

Michael Brenner
Woodmere, NY

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-76/2004/11/03/

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