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November 9, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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November 9, 2012
 

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 9, 2012 Jewish community bears impact of Hurricane Sandy By Adam Sodof at the most populous region of literallyslicedthroughtheroof of comfort. "Compared to NEW YORK (JTA)--Less " than a year into her job at North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, N.Y., Rabbi Debbie Bravo sounded remarkably poised as she and her com- munity face one of their most powerful challenges together: Hurricane Sandy. Bravo's landline was dead. When she picked up her cell phone last Tuesday, she had just returned from the local police station. "I have a child who takes medication that has to be refrigerated," she said calmly. According to figures released by The Long Island Power Au- thority lastTuesday, more than 930,000 families--90 percent of all island residents--are without rower after Hurricane Sandy wlought havoc Monday night acnss the northeastern United Sates. Among those 930,000 are an estimated 139,000 .]wish househoolds. Hurri.ane Sandy, which washed a;hore just south of At- lantic Cite, N.J., t()ok dead aim the country, home as well to the majority of the country's Jews. In its wake, it left a trail of devastation that may take weeks to restore, if not longer. "Iwentover tothe synagogue a few hours ago, which is right next to a woodsy area," Bravo said. "Ten plus trees are down, including a huge one down on the front law. Everyone's saying this is a hundred times worse" than previous natural disasters that hit the island. 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. Early last Tuesday afternoon, David Weissberg, executive director of the 120-year-old Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in Falls Village, Conn., posted a photo of a tree that B'nai B'rith International opens Disaster Relief Fund (Wsh ington, D.C.)--B "nai B "rith International has opend its Disaster Relief Fund to help the victims of the msive and powerfui Hurricane Sandy that has cut a deailly and destructive path across the midoAtlantic and Northeast United States. The storm packed high winds and incredible sea surges as it downed trees and cut power to about six million people along the most densely packed portion of the country. "Even with detailed advance warnings, the destruc- tion Hurricane Sandy has left behind is extraordinary. B'nal B'rith has helped disaster victims since 1865. Each disaster we help with has its own unique chal- lenges. As always, we will carefully evaluate needs and provide assistance to address immediate needs and longer term rebuilding efforts," B'nai B'rith In- ternational President Allan J. Jacobs said. B'nai B'rith Disaster Relief Fund aided victims of the 2012tornadoes in the South and Midwest; provided aid to victims of the famine in East Africa; the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan; the 2010 earthquake in Haiti; and provided humanitarian assistance to the Somali refugees fleeing violent conflict to Kenya. "Each disaster demonstrates how we all must work together to help our fellow citizens. We will work with representatives of agencies and our members on the ground to provide assistance where it is needed in the wake of this unprecedented storm," B'nai B'rith Execu- tive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. To help, donate online at our secure website by visiting: http:// bbi.convio.net/site/Donation2?df_id=1415&1415. donation=form1 Or mail a donation to: B'nai B'rith Disaster Relief,, 2020 K Street NW, 7th Floor, Wash- ington, DC 20006. B'nai B'rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewi Community, is the oldest and mostwidely known Jewi.h humanitarian, human rights and advocacy orgavization. For 169 years, since 1843, B'nai B'rith International has worked for Jewish unity, security, contiuity and tolerance. Visit www.bnaibrith.org. Sudoku solution from page 7 852193674 341 765829 769824 1 35 6982 5243 1736 47351 18967 59248 2864 9375 4159 71593 82416 36782 over the center's main building. "We're looking in the short term how to work around that space and need to assess how long itwill ke to get that space repaired," Weissberg said. "It's an amazingly precise cut," he marvelled. "It fell at an angle perfectly perpendicular to the building, which will hopefully make the repair an easier one." Jewish communal organiT.a- tions, whose offices, landlines and in some cases e-mail serv- ers were closed or down last Tuesday, largely set up shop remotely as they set out to formulate a response. "The concerns of the Jew- ish Federations movement is focused on both those in the Jewish community and non-Jewish community as we work with local Jewish federa- tionsas well as local, state and federal emergency manage- ment personnel to assess the damage and look forward to recovery," said William Daroff, vice president of public policy and director oftheWashington office of The Jewish Federations of North America. Daroff noted that while watching the devastation un- fold, social media was a source visuals from New York and the Long Island coast, having a support structure and literally thousands of friends acquired through Facebook and Twitter helped me feel less alone as my family sat shuttering with gusts of wind at 50 mph." The Jewish United Fund/ Jewish Federation of Metropoli- tan Chicago set up a relief fund, with The Jewish Federations of North America and Union for Reform Judaism following suit the next afternoon. For those without power on Long Island, finding alternative to landlines was critical. "A lot of people are not getting cell phone service at home," Bravo said. "For one congregant, the only time I could talk to her was when she left her house." "IYuthfully in my mind, our options are try to use daylight," she said. As Bravo attempts to es- tablish and maintain contact- with the elderly and other congregants--including two with recent births--she also pondered the next moves for her synagogue's two b'nai mizvah this weekend, which in all likelihoodwill be conducted without power. Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center Facebook The main building at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center it Falls Village, Conn., sustained damage on Oct. 29 when Hurricane Sandy sent a lO0-year-old tree slicing through the roof. Jews took to Internet to share stories and appeal for help Peter Romano via Creative Commons Photos of storm damage, like this one from Astoria, Queens, were shared widely on Facebook and other Websites. By Ben Harris NEW YORK (JTA)--At 10 p.m. on last Monday, as the full brunt of Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on the north- eastern United States, film- maker Sandi Dubowski posted an urgent online message. DuBowski's elderly parents had declined to leave their home in Manhattan Beach, a neighborhood of southern Brooklyn that sits on a small peninsula flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Sheepshead Bay on the other. The neighborhood is in ZoneA, low-lying areas of New York City'that the mayor had ordered evacuated [the day before] in advance of the looming storm. .... The water has made it up to the first floor of the house," Dubowski wrote. "They have gone up to the 2nd floor. Is there inyone who can rescue them and their neighbors tomorrow morning before the next high tide? I am scared how much higher it will go. Their power and phone is out." A flurry of messages fol- lowed, including contact infor- mation for relief organizations and city officials and simple words of prayer and encour- agement. Friends reposted the appeal to their own Facebook walls to widen its circulation. "I'm so moved," DuBowski said last Tuesday, his voice betraying the strain of the night before. "Hundreds of people were forwarding this and searching for any avenue to help. Itwas aharrowing night." Finally, early Tuesday DuBowski got a piece of good news. A neighbor with a cell phone had reached his mother, who had barely enough time to tell him she was alright before the phone went dead. DuBowski duly posted the update on Facebook. I know they're alive," he told JTA. "I hope they're OK. I think they're OK." For many trapped in New York and other northeastern cities besieged by this veek's storm, social media outlets-- principally Facebook and Twit- ter--instantly transformed into lifelines, enabling resi- dents to commiserate, appeal for help (or offer some) and share information, including pictures and video from the storm. As the skies darkened Mon- day, video was posted showing the facade of a building in Manhattan being sheared off by the wind and of an explosion at a substation that knocked out power to most of lower Manhattan. Users linked to press conferences by the gov- ernors of New York and New Jersey, traded ideas for passing the time marooned at home in the dark, and even exchanged funny doctored photos to lighten the mood. One showed the Statue of Liberty taking cover behind her pedestal as Sandy approached. In the wake of the storm, Facebook emerged as a vital source of information in as- sessing damage. A photo of a tree breaking through the roof of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Con- necticut, posted on Facebook on Tuesday, garnered a dozen comments in under an hour, including a link to make a donation. But the real energy occurred as the storm was unfolding late last Monday and contin- ued even as the power losses began in earnest, with users switching to mobile phones to keep in touch. Often, their final messages were an- nouncements that power had been cut and they were going mobile, enabling their friends to construct virtual maps of the cascading power outages. "I could follow, Oh I know Ivan is on 34th and 9th. OK they're down," said Alexis Frankel, who lives in an area of Queens that was relatively un- scathed by the storm but spent hours posting dozens of storm updates. "You could follow the domino effect of how the storm was progressing, which I found particularly helpful." For some in less affected areas, Facebook became a means to experience what less fortunate friends were living through. "Friends in Philly were closing laptops and ask- ing, 'Are we in the same place?' said Ahava Zarembski, who lives in downtown ]hiladel- phia and never lost electricity during the Storm. "All of the excitement moved to the web and what's happening and totally not tapping into what's happening outside." For a brief period, Facebook functioned in ways that critics claim it never does: bringing people together for actual, in-person socializing. At Za- rembski's house, this resulted in a pre-hurricane lunch and dance party. "That happened because I was posting online what I'm doing, which was basically cookingand bakingand telling people to come over. And they did," she said. "People were stuck and getting cooped up. There was this weird energy and excitement, where energy meetsfear. People felt the need to be together."