The “Collective” Comes Through

They’ve come from Baltimore, New Orleans, Silver Spring, Md. and Israel, to name a few – all to assist with the clean-up efforts from Hurricane Sandy in the greater New York/New Jersey area. The power of “the collective” working at its best.

Over the past three weeks, many organizations have provided supplies, financial backing and volunteers. Following is a partial list of the heroic efforts of many organizations, and individuals, helping life return to normal as quickly as possible (providing organizations listed in alphabetical order):

AVI CHAI Foundation

  • The AVI CHAI Foundation and UJA-Federation of New York announced the Disaster Relief Assistance Fund for Day Schools and Yeshivot, recognizing the supportive role these institutions play for their faculty and families during times of crisis. The fund consists of two programs:
    1. Emergency Assistance for Educators, where schools in the 5 Boroughs, Westchester, and Long Island submitted the names of faculty members who live in Zone A or on the South Shore of Long Island and, as a result of Hurricane Sandy, suffered significant damage or loss of home and personal property. Decisions and distributions of funds were made on Wednesday, November 14.
    2. Tuition Assistance for Families, providing tuition assistance for students from families who live in Zone A or the South Shore of Long Island and whose Hurricane experience has created or exacerbated financial distress that significantly impacts the ability to meet tuition commitments for the current school year. Applications will be available to schools on December 1 and distribution of funds will be made by December 15.
  • The Jewish Day School Video Academy is collecting and showcasing short videos created by day schools in which they apply the skills they have gained from the Academy in order to document their relief efforts. This could include implementing an idea from the PEJE blog of ways schools can help each other or other forms of expressing their concern and support for those affected by Sandy.

COJECO (Council of Jewish Emigre Community Organizations)

(working hand in hand with friends and colleagues from UJA, Kings Bay Y, Shorefront, JCH, Congregation Beth Elohim, COJECO member organizations – RJeneration, RAJE, etc.)

  1. Visited Jewish seniors in Coney Island, Far Rockaway, Brighton Beach and delivering food, water, flashlights, batteries, etc.) Great help from the UJA-Federation’s Women’s Division and ELP who came on the bus from Manhattan and visited seniors with us.
  2. Teams of volunteer Russian-speaking doctors went door to door, check on residents, provide prescriptions. Many pharmacies were looted/ closed. Volunteers go to pharmacies in areas not hit as hard and get the medicines.
  3. Connected families (getting e-mails and calls from relatives in Israel, FSU, Germany, other states unable to connect with their parents).
  4. Hurricane aftermath video:
  5. Hundreds of volunteers visited the elderly in 300 high rise buildings in the affected areas


IsraAID and its local partners on the ground:

  • Are clearing debris from hundreds of homes in the hard hit areas of Breezy Point and Roxbury.
  • The teams are assisting hundreds of families in the gutting of their homes, so that damage is contained, and health hazards minimized.

JDC Entwine

Sixty young adult volunteers from JDC Entwine – the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s young adult engagement platform – traveled to south Brooklyn and made home visits to homebound elderly, including Holocaust survivors and former Soviet immigrants, in the Brighton Beach area in partnership with the Marks JCH of Bensonhurst. The young people, many whom were alumni of JDC Entwine’s overseas service programs, also brought food and other supplies to donate to the local community.

Jewish Communal Fund of New York

Jewish Communal Fund, the Donor Advised Fund of the Jewish community of Greater New York, has granted $100,000 from its endowment to support the UJA-Federation Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. In addition to this institutional support for relief efforts in the greater New York community, JCF’s donors have donated $1.8 million (updated Nov. 22nd) to date to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts through their donor advised funds at Jewish Communal Fund.

Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty

Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty has been working around the clock to serve the high-need areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Met Council’s efforts include the following services:

  • More than 50,000 pounds of food was quickly distributed and Met Council’s Crisis workers were deployed throughout the five boroughs to aid with disaster relief efforts and check-in on our clients to ensure they were safe and secure.
  • In the past week alone, Met Council served 30,000 meals to individuals and families in need.
  • More than 200 volunteers recruited by Met Council have packaged and delivered food, water, toiletries, batteries, candles and lanterns, hand sanitizer, blankets, toys for Hanukkah, cleaning supplies, diapers, critical information flyers, and have even helped to salvage furniture in affected housing sites.
  • Met Council’s Project Metropair staff is continuously going door-to-door in the hardest hit Rockaway neighborhoods to provide emergency assistance. Staff members are performing critical home repairs of severely damaged homes in the community, preventing injury and securing unsafe conditions. This includes removal of debris, ripping up floors, removal of walls and materials to prevent mold growth, and salvaging furniture.
  • Met Council safely evacuated 106 occupants of our Abraham Residences I and II, both located in Seagate, Brooklyn. The elderly and formerly homeless residents were in immediate danger without electricity and heat. Social workers were sent door to door to help each person evacuate, access their needs, and offer emotional support. Our staff rallied together to create a temporary shelter for seniors at Council Towers III and helped transport them safely.
  • Emergency cash assistance is being allocated to those who need to make repairs, provide food vouchers, pay medical bills, replace vehicles, and attend to other critical needs not covered by government or insurance.
  • Met Council has Benefits Enrollers on the ground in devastated areas. These culturally sensitive case workers screen clients for eligibility and use a quick, one-stop application for food stamps and other critical benefits.
  • Three-person clean-up crews have been deployed to help clean up homes damaged by flooding and remove debris from outdoor areas.
  • Volunteers assisted Masbia, our network of free kosher restaurants, prepare thousands of meals and packed bulk food for evacuees throughout Brooklyn.
  • Supplemental security was provided in the Rockaways over Shabbos, and generators were made available for several shuls.
  • Targeted outreach has been conducted by Social Workers to individuals, families, and the frail elderly in the communities most affected by the storm.
  • Met Council has collected over one million dollars in hurricane relief donations.
  • Met Council has set up an emergency shelter for 30 individuals and can surge this capacity to 200 with the proper resources in place.

Moishe House

There are six Moishe Houses are located in areas heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Since the Hurricane, houses:

  • immediately opened their homes and extended resources to community members who had been more severely impacted, in many cases hosting guests for over a week.
  • organized meals for their friends and neighbors, using social media to post updates and information, authoring blog posts and articles and initiating volunteer efforts.
  • mobilized groups of Jewish young adults to contribute to relief efforts, including volunteering in Red Hook, Coney Island, Manhattan Beach and Hoboken, as well as purchasing items to take to a Sephardic Bikur Cholim in Brooklyn all within one week of the storm. Moishe House residents continue to organize and publicize volunteer events for their communities.
  • Worked with Repair the World to provide dozen of volunteer opportunities for themselves and others.

The Jewish Agency for Israel

A delegation of 15 Russian-speaking Israeli young adults arrived in New York on Thursday morning to assist elderly Russian speakers and families whose homes and community centers have been destroyed or severely damaged.

The Israeli volunteers are from families that immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union. Half the group are “Shinshinim”, members of an elite cadre of 18-year-olds who deferred their military service for one year to perform community service throughout the Jewish world. The other half are Israeli Scouts and former counselors at Jewish summer camps operated by The Jewish Agency in the former Soviet Union.

Members of the delegation will integrate into the UJA Federation of New York’s ongoing relief efforts. In addition to delivering hot meals and essential supplies as well as paying social visits to seniors stranded in their apartments, the volunteers will conduct needs assessments; clean up damaged homes, schools, synagogues and community centers; and work with local community councils to sort through and distribute donated items.

Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)

The Union for Reform Judaism’s Hurricane Relief Fund has now collected $326,000 for Hurricane Relief, including recent donations from the National Association of Temple Administrators and from the Women of Reform Judaism’s YES Fund toward the Scholarships for Youth Impacted by Sandy.

Many Reform congregations from outside the affected region have mobilized to help those in distress. Temple Oheb Shalom in Baltimore, MD has dispatched six trucks filled with food, clothing, personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies, pet supplies, and more to Staten Island, Freeport, Tom’s River, Upper Nyack and Oceanside. And Temple Shalom in Naples, FL, is coordinating with Temple Sinai in Massapequa, NY, to sponsor a Shabbat dinner for all the congregation’s families.

UJA Federation New York

  • UJA-Federation of New York’s Westchester office worked directly with the Jewish Community Council of the Rockaway Peninsula to assess the needs in Far Rockaway and to deliver food and supplies that were collected via a community-wide Families Feeding Families relief drive that mobilized synagogues, agencies and donors throughout Westchester.
  • SYNERGY brought trauma support teams to Long Island to train rabbis in how to help congregants. Social workers from UJA-Federation of New York’s network are being called upon to help as well as Talia Levanon from the Israel Trauma Coalition, created by UJA-Federation in 2001.
  • SYNERGY has worked with New York synagogues and movement partners to assess needs, gather and disseminate resources and information, and make connections between synagogues who need help and those who can help. UJA-Federation funds have been supplied to those synagogues in directly impacted communities to provide emergency cash grants to affected congregants.
  • UJA-Federation of New York network agencies and volunteers are working with FEMA on Staten Island to provide food distribution, medical support, and insurance help. The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), a network agency, is assisting people with legal matters.
  • The Staten Island JCC, a UJA-Federation of New York network agency, coordinated the recovery efforts together with UJA-Federation’s Connect to Care, and many other network agencies and area synagogues.
  • UJA-Federation coordinated the work of beneficiary agencies including Kings Bay Y, Shorefront Y, COJECO, Met-Council and others to provide door to door wellness checks for Russian-speaking elderly and disabled who were trapped in high rise buildings. Russian speaking doctors performed wellness checks and wrote prescriptions. Volunteers brought food, water, flashlights, batteries and prescriptions to these residents. Once power restoration began, Russian-speaking case workers are helping families register children into new schools, secure breakfast and lunch programs, after school care and ESL services for children with rudimentary English-speaking skills.
  • UJA-Federation is coordinating the work of teams of Israeli volunteers who first delivered food and water and are now engaged in door to door clean ups and ripping out wet materials before restoration can begin. This work is on Staten Island, in Seagate and Far Rockaway.

Lastly, we learn from Dave Weinberg, the Director of Freedom 25 – a national coalition aimed at commemorating the Freedom Sunday March and the Soviet Jewry movement, that on the first weekend [following the storm] the Silver Spring community, [spearheaded by Weinberg], helped organize the following:

Young Israel Shomrai Emunah, Silver Spring, MD

  • Sponsored buses for Sandy victims to come for Shabbos. 150 Silver Spring families opened their doors to host guests.
  • Produced a sold out Greater Washington benefit concert which raised $15,000.
  • Sent a bus filled with with water, gas cans, cleaning supplies, batteries and flashlights to Far Rockaway and Bayswater, NY.
  • Raised an additional $8,000 so far through

As a result of a direct request from MetCouncil and JCRC NY, Weinberg along with Dani Klein and Israel Schachter built Gift Card Relief two days later. Gift Card Relief connects tax-deductible donations to brands who activate gift cards en-mass and send them directly to Met Council for distribution to local relief-based needs organizations and individuals. (See Top 5 reasons why Gift Cards are a good way to help victims of Hurricane Sandy from JCF-NY.)