31 October 2012
Jewish groups are launching hurricane relief funds to channel donations to those affected by Hurricane Sandy. At least 15 people in the United States and 68 outside of the country have been killed so far in storm, and more than 6 million people in 13 US states are without power. A Jewish couple in their twenties was killed in Brooklyn by a falling tree while they were walking a dog, the ‘New York Observer’ reported.
The hurricane, which hit at the most populous region of the United States on Monday night, has severely affected the majority of the country's Jews. According to figures released by the Long Island Power Authority on Tuesday, more than 930,000 families - 90 percent of all island residents - were without power on Tuesday after Hurricane Sandy wrought havoc across the northeastern United States. Among those 930,000 are an estimated 139,000 Jewish households.
The greater New York area, home to the largest population of Jews in North America, took a harsh hit as severe winds and flooding toppled trees, triggered electrical fires and flooded public transportation systems. The result: mass evacuations of apartments and dormitories, widespread school closings and damaged homes and community institutions. A Reform synagogue in Neponsit suffered heavy damage due to flooding, although Torah scrolls could be saved. In nearby Breezy Point, a fire that rapidly spread destroyed more than 80 houses (see aerial picture below), though no-one was injured.
Jewish communal organizations, whose offices, landlines and in some cases e-mail servers were closed or down on Tuesday, largely set up shop remotely as they set out to formulate a response, JTA reported.
The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago was the first to establish a relief fund on Monday evening, with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) following suit the following day.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those adversely impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, adding: “The magnitude of damage is difficult to comprehend, as is the work that will be necessary to even begin restoration. But we know our nation, and our community, will rise to the challenge.”
The JFNA announced the opening a hurricane relief fund to contribute to recovery and rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. “Seeing the response of communities across the region to the devastating storm, we are awed by the strength of the American people. The Jewish community and the Federation movement send our support and prayers to those affected by the hurricane, and we will stand beside them during the recovery and rebuilding,” the organization said in a statement.
MEanwhile, the Claims Conference established a fund of US$ 250,000 to be used for emergency assistance grants to Holocaust survivors to address crisis situations arising out of the devastation of Sandy. Grants will be distributed through Jewish social welfare non-profit organizations that are currently recipients of Claims Conference grants. "About half of all Shoah survivors in the United States live in the New York City area, including New Jersey and Connecticut. Survivors live in some of the hardest hit areas and many have been evacuated to shelters and have seen their homes destroyed or damaged by the punishing winds and flooding brought by the storm. Of course, like many residents, countless numbers of survivors are without power, heat and water," Claims Conference Executive Vice-President Greg Schneider said in an emailed statement.
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