Hebrew word of the week: Hazzay (weather) forecaster


The Bible includes names of male and female prophets, some of whom had visions of the Divine Presence and prophesied events in the future, including the end of history, aHarit ha-yamim. But probably none of them forecast the next day’s weather. So, the word Hazzay cannot be found in the Bible, but its root H-z-y is quite common in Hebrew and Aramaic.

Related words in the Bible and in modern Hebrew: Hazah (mostly poetic/prophetic) “beheld (the face of God)” (Psalms 11:7; 63:3); Hozeh “seer, prophet”; Hizzayon “vision, revelation”; Hazon “(prophetic) vision”; Hazut “(grand) appearance, sight”; Hazuti “visual (dictionary)”; taHazit “forecast”; maHazeh “show, play”; maHaza’ut “playwriting“; maHazemer “musical (show)”; HitHazut “impersonation, posing, making yourself looking like someone else”; Hozeh “contract,” “covenant,” “vision” (Isaiah 28:7).

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

Israel enduring hottest August in 5 years


Temperatures in Israel topped 110 degrees as the country experienced its hottest August in five years.

The northern town of Tzemach experienced heat of 111 degrees, while the temperature in the West Bank settlement of Gilgal reached 115 degrees. In the southern city of Beersheba, the high was 109.

Israel’s Meteorological Service said it was the hottest August since 2010, according to to the Israeli news site Ynetnews. Several Israelis have needed medical treatment due to heat stroke or dehydration. Israeli authorities are urging Israelis not to hike during the heat wave, which is expected to last through the week.

Full Tel Aviv Marathon canceled due to heat forecast


The full Tel Aviv Marathon, which was postponed a week due to oppressive heat, was canceled.

The Tel Aviv municipality nixed the marathon on Monday, four days before the 26-mile race, after Israel's Health Ministry said the forecast for hot and drier than normal weather would endanger the runners. The race had been rescheduled for Yarkon Park.

On March 15, one man died and some 80 people were hospitalized with heat stroke after running the half-marathon of 13 miles. The start time of the race had been pushed forward in order to avoid the day's heat.

Tel Aviv residents and political opponents have called for the resignation of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai in the wake of the death of Michael Michaelovich, 29, in the half-marathon.

The Health Ministry has set up a committee to set official guidelines for weather conditions and public events.

Oppressive heat postpones Tel Aviv Marathon


The Tel Aviv Marathon was postponed for one week because of expected oppressive heat in Israel.

The Tel Aviv municipality announced Tuesday that the full 26-mile marathon scheduled for Friday would be postponed because of the expected extreme high heat and in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of Health.

Other races, including a half-marathon and a fun run, as well as marathon festivities, will go on as scheduled. The half-marathon start time was moved up to 5:45 a.m. to avoid the heat of the day.

The postponed race will be held at sprawling Yarkon Park instead of throughout the streets of Tel Aviv, as originally planned.

Temperatures in Tel Aviv on Friday are expected to hit 90 degrees. Some 35,000 runners from around the world were expected to participate in marathon activities.

Last year, a 42-year-old marathon runner died after experiencing heat stroke during the run.

Snow falls in Jerusalem, northern Israel


Snow and hail began falling in the Jerusalem area and continued to fall in the north of the country.

Areas of the West Bank, including Hebron and Ramallah were also blanketed in snow.

The snow in Jerusalem is expected to accumulate, and residents have been requested to avoid going out unless absolutely necessary. Mayor Nir Barkat also called on visitors ready to converge on Jerusalem to witness the rare snowfall to wait until it stopped falling.

Schools in areas throughout the country were closed over fears of dangerous travel due to the snow, continued flooding and loss of electricity.

At least three feet of snow fell on Mount Hermon as snow continued to fall heavily in Israel's north.

Two Palestinian women who were riding in a car swept away by flooding near Nablus on Tuesday night were found dead in Tul Karem on Wednesday morning. The driver of the car was rescued and is hospitalized.

An Israeli man holds ropes as he stands near a car which was swept away during flash floods near Jerusalem on Jan. 9. At least 17 people have died due to a winter storm in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Meteorological agencies in Israel and Lebanon both called it the worst storm in 20 years. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Wild weather slams Israel


Rain and high winds have caused damage and power outages throughout Israel.

Storms raged across the country and temperatures dropped to below normal on Monday. Flooding closed the Herzliya train station and the main Azrielli shopping mall in Modiin, while traffic lights went out in cities. The power outages have been caused mostly due to falling tree branches.

Hospitals are preparing to deal with hypothermia from the expected lower temperatures.

The wild weather is expected to continue throughout the week.

Snow falling on Mount Hermon caused the closure of its ski slopes and visitors center. More snow is expected for Jerusalem and possibly the West Bank beginning Wednesday.

The water level in the Sea of Galilee rose 2.5 inches from Sunday morning to Monday morning.

israel

The Mediterranean Sea on a stormy day at Nitzanim beach, Israel, on Jan. 7. Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

Weeks after Sandy, enormity of human and economic costs are becoming clear


Kenny Vance's multimillion-dollar beach house has stood proudly on the Long Island shore and weathered all manner of storms since 1916. Then came Sandy.

Vance, a 68-year-old musician who has lived in Belle Harbor, N.Y.,  for most of his life, was preparing  to perform on a cruise ship when newscasters first warned of a major storm heading for the East Coast. But Vance had seen this movie before and knew the protocol. He boxed up his most precious belongings, rolled out the storm shutters and left. From a ship docked in Puerto Rico he watched superstorm Sandy destroy everything he owned.

“Once I saw the size of the storm, and heard the winds were coming from the south, I knew I was screwed,” Vance, who gained fame as the lead singer of the Planotones, told JTA. “The winds blew off the top of my house, and the rest of the structure basically crumbled. Everything is gone.”

Among his losses are countless pieces of precious memorabilia accumulated over the course of a nearly 50-year music career: his priceless collection of vintage guitars, a slot machine from the 1900s valued at $20,000, and a lamp that belonged to the late New Mexico artist Tony Price. Not the least of his worries, Vance is now homeless and living at a hotel on Staten Island.

“There’s just no way to get these things replaced, and I just redid my kitchen and bathrooms,” Vance said. “My grandkids would come stay here with me every summer; I’ve lost all that. And my feral cat I lived with for over fours years, she’s gone, too.”

Some three weeks after Sandy washed ashore, power has been largely restored in the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and, for most people, life has gradually returned to normal. But for some, normal has been forever redefined.

“The history of our temple is now just moldering pulp,” said Amy Cargman, president of the West End Temple in Neponsit, a neighborhood just west of Belle Harbor on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.

“Everything was completely decimated,” Cargman said. “We took the Torahs out, fortunately, but everything from prayer books to pews to the rabbi’s personal library is gone.”

Residents of Belle Harbor and Neponsit, both affluent areas, perhaps were better equipped than most to weather a catastrophic weather event. They had cars and cash and cruise ship evacuation routes — unlike many of their neighbors in the Rockaways and nearby Brooklyn and Staten Island. But even with comparatively deep pockets and up-to-date insurance payments, few will ever fully restore their lives.

“Even if I fix my home, our banks, our schools, our gyms, our temples, our restaurants are all gone,” said Laurie Musumeci, a 56-year-old real estate agent who lives near Vance and also is a member of the West End Temple. “It doesn’t feel like home. I’m right on the ocea,n but it’s hard for me to look at it right now. I can’t believe something I’ve loved my whole life did this to us.”

Musumeci's family lost the five cars that were in her driveway when the storm hit and the basement of her home, which her grandfather built in 1939 and also had served as her office and her son's apartment. Musumeci estimates she needs $64,000 for repairs — the $2,700 she's received so far from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is “a joke,” she says – and has had to tap into savings set aside for her daughter's college tuition.

“Our insurance will only cover things they say is expected in the basement, like our boiler and heat system,” she said. “Everything else is gone.”

Elsewhere in the Northeast, residents had more immediate concerns than inadequate insurance payouts and lost guitars. In Atlantic City, which produced some of the most dramatic images of the storm's devastation, some 6,000 homes were estimated to have been severely damaged and more than 600 people were made homeless.

Three weeks later, city shelters are closed, and in a city that already had a homeless population of about 3,000, other agencies are stepping in to fill the void.

“We're providing 150 families a day basic necessities of clothing, supplies, food,” said Beth Joseph of Jewish Family Services of Atlantic and Cape May counties. “Many people's houses were flooded with their electrical systems and furnaces destroyed, so you're looking at hundreds of people displaced. Also, tons of businesses were ruined and it might be a year before they are opened, so we need to account for the unemployed who can no longer support themselves.”

Joseph's organization has raised more than $50,000 to provide temporary housing for families ineligible for federal assistance, a sum that hardly scratches the surface of what is needed. And the situation is likely to get worse once FEMA pulls out.

“There's still so much to do, and the money we've raised so far will not be enough,” Joseph said.

Millions of dollars have been raised by Jewish organizations and countless volunteer efforts have been mobilized. UJA-Federation of New York has allocated some $10 million for relief in eight counties, including the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester and Long Island. The federation, the country's largest, raised an additional $2.5 through its website.

So far, $3.2 million has been disbursed to beneficiary agencies to provide food, water, shelter and other necessities, but the organization is beginning to look ahead as well — to permanent housing, trauma treatment, and services for the poor and elderly who don't have insurance.

“Even though it's a few weeks after the storm, the basic needs are not going to go away so fast,” said Alice Blass of the the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, which has raised $54,000 for storm relief, about half of which has been disbursed to agencies.

Nationally, the Jewish Federations of North America, the umbrella group of all the local federations, has raised about $3 million for hurricane relief — about $2.2 million from other federations and the rest from its own coffers. About $250,000 was allocated to New York and $350,000 to federations in New Jersey and Rockland County, north of New York City.

And that's not counting dozens of smaller volunteer efforts that have drawn support from across the Jewish community. More than 60 carloads of supplies were donated by area synagogues to coastal New Jersey communities. And a synagogue in Baltimore bused hundreds of volunteers to the heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood of Seagate, which even now still has the feel of a disaster zone.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, volunteers wearing boots and masks filled the streets. Kids worked on assembly lines to help rip out the basements of homes and teenagers weaved through the narrow streets on ATVs handing out cleaning supplies. Shomrim, the Jewish neighborhood watch group, had set up a command unit and was handing out hot food and drinks. Along the beach, gaping holes in waterfront homes offered a peek at what was lost inside. Broken china, pieces of detached roofing and scattered electronics littered the beach and sidewalks.

Pinny Dembitzer, the president of the Seagate Homeowners Association, put on a brave face as he helped organize the cleanup, directing ambulances, food trucks and cleaning supplies to the proper destinations while answering three cell phones. Dembitzer hopes the neighborhood will come back stronger than ever. But surrounded by ruination and confronting untold rebuilding costs, that future was perilously hard to imagine.

“Nobody here was spared,” Dembitzer said. “Every single house you’re looking at had damage, and it will take millions to see repairs. I’ve been here 30 years, and I’ve never had a flood. Ninety-five percent of the people here don’t have insurance.”

Sandy stories: Destruction, recovery and human kindness


A week after Sandy swept into the New York area with fierce winds, driving rain and a high tide for the history books, the nation’s largest Jewish community was still picking up the pieces. JTA gathered stories from around the storm zone about Sandy’s destruction, the recovery and the remarkable tales of human kindness.

Houses of prayer as places of refuge

Some synagogues in the stricken area have seen more congregants this week than during the High Holidays. Many came for prayer, but others flocked to shuls for their offers of shelter, hot food, heat, recharging of electronics, wireless Internet and children's programming.

Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, N.J., hosted a free pizza night, but the real draw for area residents was the offer to charge electronics. In White Plains, N.Y., in suburban Westchester County, Jewish community members used an email listserv to trade information about which gas stations were open and where the lines were shortest.

In Mahwah, N.J., near the New York State border, locals packed into the social hall at Beth Haverim Shir Shalom to use tables set up with power strips so they could go online.

“I’ve been using my synagogue social hall as an office,” Joe Berkofsky, managing director of communications for the Jewish Federations of North America, told JTA. “I’ve been powering things up and have been able to get some work done.”

Russian-American Jews unite

Steve Asnes, an activist in the Russian Jewish community, was helping neighbors in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn on the night of the storm when a sudden surge brought water careening through the streets and up to his neck, according to Mordechai Tokarsky, director of the Russian American Jewish Experience. Asnes managed to hang onto a piece of scaffolding until he could reach safety.

At the nearby RAJE center, Michael Britan watched the center’s first floor turn into a swimming pool. The full extent of destruction became apparent only the next day. Cars lay on top of each other. The RAJE center was under 12 feet of water, its beit midrash study hall wrecked, and classrooms, offices, a boiler room and the elevator shaft all waterlogged.

Community activists who came to help clean up ended up spending much of the time at a high-rise apartment building across the street assisting elderly residents trapped in their homes without power or hot water, Tokarsky said. With the help of Esther Lamm, a RAJE alumna who heads the young leadership Russian division of UJA-Federation in New York, the volunteers quickly organized a command-and-control center that played a key role in relief efforts throughout the neighborhood.

Tokarsy said it would require plenty of work and help from private funders to get RAJE back up and running.

UJA-Federation providing $10 million

The lights were still out and the gas lines still miles long in parts of New York City when the UJA-Federation of New York announced Monday that it was making $10 million available immediately to synagogues, Jewish day schools and federation agencies providing direct care and support in storm-hit communities. The money will go toward cash assistance, temporary housing, food and “whatever else is needed,” federation CEO John Ruskay told JTA. The unanimous decision was made in an emergency board meeting on Sunday night.

The money will come from the federation’s endowment and reserves, and will be offset by any storm-related donations. “The point of having reserves and an endowment is to enable our agencies, our synagogues and our community to respond to people at times like these,” Ruskay said. It's the largest-ever commitment of UJA-Federation funds for a natural disaster, according to Alisa Doctoroff, chairwoman of UJA-Federation of New York.

Schools destroyed

Several schools, notably in beach areas, took a big hit from Sandy. Two of the three campuses of the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach on Long Island reportedly suffered major damage, including at the boys high school, which was flooded. Though the elementary school is situated on the boardwalk of the New York suburb, the building reportedly escaped structural damage but was left with a mess.

The 120-student Yeshiva of Belle Harbor in hard-hit Far Rockaway, Queens, was flooded beyond repair, The New York Jewish Week reported. Water flooded past the ceilings of the first-floor classrooms, and by last Friday the school had decided to merge with the Crown Heights Yeshiva in Brooklyn’s Mill Basin neighborhood, the paper reported. At the Mazel Academy in Brighton Beach, books, furniture, classrooms and Torah scrolls were destroyed in a building that was renovated just last year.

Away from the beach, at the SAR Academy in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, the school managed to reopen despite no electricity by relocating classes to neighborhood synagogues.

Help wanted

They came from Manhattan’s Upper West Side and went to buildings without power or heat on the Lower East Side. They baked challahs and distributed them throughout the city. They sent a bus to take residents of Far Rockaway to Kemp Mill, Md., for a “relief Shabbos.” They started a clothing drive in Berlin.

All over the world, volunteers mobilized to help with storm relief. Some offered spiritual succor: A rabbi in Berkeley, Calif., composed a Sandy-inspired prayer beginning “Elohei ha'ruchot,” “God of the winds.”

Chasidic singer loses recording studio

When the surge hit the community of Sea Gate in Brooklyn, four or five feet of water ran through the streets from the ocean to the bay, leaving behind houses now condemned, a dramatically altered shoreline and destruction everywhere. In a YouTube video, Chasidic singer Mordechai Ben David offers a tour of his deluged recording studio, where the water that submerged his equipment rose to the bottoms of pictures of rebbes hanging on his walls before stopping.

“Everyone that lives in Sea Gate got hit badly,” Ben David said. “But Baruch Hashem, we’re fine, we’re alive.”

Donations

To donate to storm relief, please visit http://blogs.jta.org/telegraph/article/2012/11/06/3111241/donate-to-storm-victims.

Tree felled by Sandy kills Jewish teacher, college student


Two young Jews were killed in Brooklyn by a falling tree during superstorm Sandy.

The pair were out walking a dog Monday night in the storm's high winds.

The dead were identified by The New York Observer as Jessie Streich-Kest, 24, who worked as a high school teacher in the city, and Jacob Vogelman, a student at Brooklyn College. The two had been friends since middle school, according to the Observer.

They were discovered dead Monday, crushed by the fallen tree. The dog was taken to an emergency veterinary clinic.

At least 45 people in the United States and 68 outside of the U.S. have been killed in the one-of-a-kind storm, and more than 7 million people in 13 states were without power.

Meanwhile, Jewish institutions on the East Coast began to open up again. The UJA-Federation of New York announced on its website that its offices in Manhattan and Westchester would reopen, though its Long Island office would remain closed.

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark International Airport in New Jersey were scheduled to reopen at 7 a.m. Wednesday with limited service, though New York's LaGuardia Airport remained closed.

Thousands of Israeli airline passengers and Americans in Israel trying to return home had their flights to the U.S. canceled on Monday and Tuesday. Israelis trying to get home also remained stranded in New York, New Jersey and the D.C. area. In all  more than 14,000 flights reportedly were canceled due to Sandy.

The greater New York area, home to the largest population of Jews in North America, was hit hard as severe winds and flooding toppled trees, knocked out electricity and flooded public transportation systems.

Jewish institutions throughout the eastern U.S. remained closed Tuesday.

Where was God When Hurricane Sandy Struck?


What was G-d thinking when he sent Hurricane Sandy and what could have been its purpose?

In truth, I don’t much care, because our role as humans is not to understand G-d’s plan in the face of horror and tragedy, but to challenge God and demand that human life always be protected and preserved.

Did I say demand? Yes, humanity has rights before Gd. We are His children. He commanded us to preserve and promote life always. “Choose life,” Moses orders the Israelite nation in God’s name, on the last day of His life. And the Creator must abide by the same dictates He expects His creatures to.

Reading The New York Times story today about the approximately 39 people who died in the storm, I was sick to my stomach. I read it out loud to my kids over our candlelit dinner in a home with no electricity or heat. They could not listen any more. There was the Manhattan woman whose only sin was to walk her dog and was killed by a falling tree. There was the woman whose iniquity was to take a picture of a downed power line. She did not see the puddle in front of her. Her body, the Times reported, was on fire for half an hour before rescue workers could salvage what was left of her. There was the young Jewish couple killed walking a dog in Brooklyn. There were the two boys in New York state killed when they walked just outside their house to peer at the storm briefly.

Did any of these people deserve to die?

In the face of these natural disasters there are always those who are trying to divine the mind of God when really their role as humans is to argue with Gd. That’s exactly what the name Israel means, He who wrestles with Gd. Isn’t that what Abraham does in this week’s Torah reading where he raises his fist to the heavens and proclaims, in the face of God’s announcement that he is destroying all the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, “Will the judge of the entire earth not Himself practice justice?” Would God really allow the righteous to die along with the wicked?

Is this not also what Moses says to God after he is told that the Jews will be annihilated for the sin of the Golden calf? If you do so, says the great prophet, “then I beseech you, erase my name from the Torah You have written.”

And when God had earlier sent Moses to free the Jews from Egypt but Pharaoh had instead intensified their suffering and servitude, Moses, defiant, says to God, “Why have you behaved wickedly to this people, and why have you sent me… You have thusfar not saved Your people.”

The role of human beings in the face of seeming divine miscarriages of justice is hold God accountable and demand clemency for humanity. God is all powerful. He does not need a defense attorney. But humans are fragile and vulnerable and they need all the protection they can get.

Today me, my family, and our campaign staff toured the devastation of our district. We saw cities deluged in flood waters, homes with trees crashed down on their roofs. We witnessed long lines of cars of people trying to buy gas, including tens of people with gas canisters waiting in line for hours. And as far as our campaign is concerned,, it has been reduced to me and our staff sitting in the Garden State Mall tonight plugged into a single outlet on the floor trying to charge our laptops and phones. All this is an inconvenience and, God willing, we’ll dig out. But the people who buried children, the residents who will never again see a spouse, the citizens will mourn parents, my God, my God, what are they to do?

I have grown weary of those who say that suffering is somehow redemptive, that it carries with it a positive outcome. I do not deny that this is at times so. Those who suffer can sometimes emerge humbler, wiser, gentler. But let’s get real. There is nothing beneficial that comes from suffering that could have not been achieved far more effectively through a positive means. To the contrary, suffering leaves us broken and cynical, disbelieving and forlorn, miserable and depressed.

It is time we human beings agreed to wage an all out war on suffering so that it is never excused as something blessed again.

Never again should we say that earthquakes in Haiti are caused by a compact the Haitians had earlier made with the devil. Never again should we say that Israeli soldiers die because Kibbutznikim eat rabbit and other non-kosher meat. Never again should we say that innocent Palestinians, who are used as human shields by the terrorist monsters of Hamas and Hezbollah, die because of the wrath of Allah. And never again must we say that the Jews of the holocaust died because they wanted to be cease being Jewish, choosing to be German instead.

Because I am disgusted with this kind of thought, I wrote a full-length book that is to be published in November called The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. But I could not have divined, when I wrote it, that the place I live would have experienced such immense devastation.

The Bible in Deuteronomy is clear. “The hidden things are for G-d to understand, but the revealed things are for us and our children.” Why G-d allows good people to suffer is a secret known to him. But we human beings ought to have no interest in knowing the secret. What we want, what we demand, is that the suffering stop completely so that God and humanity can finally be reconciled, after a long history of human travail and agony, in a bright and blessed future, bereft of suffering, absent of tragedy, and filled with blessing.


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the Republican Candidate for Congress in New Jersey's Ninth Congressional District. The international best-selling author of 28 books, his newest work is “Kosher Jesus”. Next month he will publish “The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @Rabbishmuley. His website is www.shmuleyforcongress.com.

Jewish institutions remain closed due to Sandy


Jewish institutions throughout the eastern United States remained closed following the onslaught of superstorm Sandy.

Sandy, which was downgraded from a hurricane late Monday night, made landfall near Atlantic City Monday, with hurricane-force winds of up to 85 miles per hour and heavy rains.

At least 13 people in the United States and 68 outside of the U.S. have been killed so far in the one-of-a-kind storm, and more than 6 million people in 13 states are without power.

The UJA-Federation of New York posted a notice on its website that the building would be closed and all meetings and events canceled on Tuesday, and that information on Wednesday's events would be posted Tuesday night. The Jewish Community Center in Manhattan also announced that it would be closed until it is safe to return.

In New York, public transportation shut down on Sunday night, and schools and offices in the city were scheduled to be closed. Low-lying areas of the city, including parts of southern Brooklyn and the Rockaways, were ordered evacuated. Wall Street also shut down Monday and Tuesday due to the weather.

Parts of Maryland, Delaware and the New Jersey Shore also were ordered evacuated.

In the Washington area, the public transportation system stopped on Monday, and schools, colleges and universities also closed due to expected power outages. Some already announced that they will remain closed Tuesday and possibly into Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and area day schools also closed Monday.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia also announced that it would be closed Monday and Tuesday and would resume operations on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, President Obama, who suspended campaigning to return to Washington to monitor the storm, declared a major disaster in New York City, New Jersey and Long Island.

Meanwhile, flights between Israel's Ben Gurion Airport and U.S. cities, including New York, Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia, on Tuesday were canceled for a second day.

East Coast crippled by massive storm, death toll climbs


Millions of people were left reeling in the aftermath of the whipping winds and heavy rains of the massive storm Sandy on Tuesday as New York City and many parts of the eastern United States struggled with epic flooding and extensive power outages.

The storm killed at least 40 people, including at least 18 in New York City, and insurance companies started to tally billions of dollars in losses.

Sandy, which crashed ashore with hurricane-force winds on Monday near the New Jersey gambling resort of Atlantic City, was the biggest storm to hit the country in generations. It swamped parts of New York's subway system and lower Manhattan's Wall Street district, closing financial markets for a second day.

Businesses and homes along New Jersey's shore were wrecked and communities were submerged under floodwater across a large area. More than 8 million homes and businesses in several states were without electricity as trees toppled by Sandy's fierce winds took down power lines. Across the region, crews began the monumental task of getting power back on.

[Related: Jewish community bears impact of Hurricane Sandy]

The storm reached as far inland as Ohio and caused thousands of flight cancellations. Cellphone outages also were widespread.

Parts of West Virginia were buried under 3 feet of drifting snow from the storm.

Some East Coast cities like Washington, Philadelphia and Boston were spared the worst effects from Sandy and appeared ready to return to normal by Wednesday. But New York City, large parts of New Jersey and some other areas will need at least several days to get back on their feet.

“The devastation is unthinkable,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said after seeing pictures of the New Jersey shore.

The storm interrupted the U.S. presidential campaign just a week before the Nov. 6 election. The damage it caused raised questions about whether polling places in some hard-hit communities would be ready to open by next Tuesday.

Seeking to show he was staying on top of a storm situation that affected a densely populated region, the White House said President Barack Obama planned to tour damaged areas of New Jersey on Wednesday accompanied by Christie.

The New Jersey governor, who has been a strong supporter of Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, praised Obama and the federal response to the storm.

“New Jersey, New York in particular have been pounded by this storm. Connecticut has taken a big hit,” Obama said during a visit to Red Cross headquarters in Washington.

Obama issued federal emergency decrees for New York and New Jersey, declaring that “major disasters” existed in both states.

Power outages darkened large parts of downtown Manhattan. A large blaze destroyed more than 80 homes in New York City's borough of Queens, where flooding hampered firefighting efforts.

“To describe it as looking like pictures we've seen of the end of World War Two is not overstating it. The area was completely leveled. Chimneys and foundations were all that was left of many of these homes,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said after touring the area.

Neighborhoods along the East and Hudson rivers in Manhattan were underwater, as were low-lying streets in Battery Park near Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood. Lower Manhattan could be without power for four days.

One disaster modeling company said on Tuesday that Sandy may have caused up to $15 billion in insured losses. That would make it the third-costliest hurricane on record, behind hurricanes Katrina, which laid waste to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, and Andrew, which devastated parts of Florida in 1992.

That figure did not take into account residential flood losses or flooding of tunnels and subways, meaning ultimate insurance claims could rise higher still.

CAMPAIGNING ON HOLD

Obama and Romney put campaigning on hold for a second day. The campaign truce was likely to be short-lived, as Romney planned to hit the trail again in Florida on Wednesday. Obama appeared likely to resume campaigning on Thursday for a final five-day sprint to Election Day.

Obama faces political danger if the government fails to respond well, as was the case with predecessor George W. Bush's botched handling of Katrina. Obama has a chance to show not only that his administration has learned the lessons of Katrina but that he can take charge and lead during a crisis.

All along the East Coast, residents and business owners found scenes of destruction.

“There are boats in the street five blocks from the ocean,” said evacuee Peter Sandomeno, one of the owners of the Broadway Court Motel in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. “That's the worst storm I've ever seen, and I've been there for 11 years.”

Sandy, which was especially imposing because of its wide-ranging winds, brought a record storm surge of almost 14 feet to downtown Manhattan, well above the previous record of 10 feet (3 meters) during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.

Water poured into the subway tunnels under New York City. Bloomberg said the subway system, which normally carries over 5 million people each weekday, would likely be closed for four or five days.

“Hitting at high tide, the strongest surge and the strongest winds all hit at the worst possible time,” said Jeffrey Tongue, a meteorologist for the weather service in Brookhaven, New York.

Hurricane-force winds as high as 90 miles per hour were recorded, he said. “Hopefully it's a once-in-a-lifetime storm,” Tongue said.

The U.S. Department of Energy said more than 8 million homes and businesses in several states were without electricity due to the storm.

“This storm is not yet over,” Obama told reporters at the Red Cross as he warned of the dangers of continued flooding, downed power lines and high winds. Obama, possibly mindful that disgruntled storm victims could mean problems for his re-election bid, vowed to push hard for power to be restored.

The flooding hampered efforts to fight a massive fire that destroyed more than 80 homes in Breezy Point, a private beach community on the Rockaway barrier island in the New York City borough of Queens.

New York University's Tisch hospital was forced to evacuate more than 200 patients, among them babies on respirators in the neonatal intensive care unit, when the backup generator failed.

Besides the deaths in New York City, others were reported in New York state, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Toronto police also recorded one death – a woman hit by flying debris. Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean last week.

U.S. government offices in Washington were due to reopen on Wednesday after two days. Schools were shut up and down the East Coast but were due to reopen on Wednesday in many places.

U.S. stock markets were closed on Tuesday but exchanges are expected to reopen on Wednesday.

The storm weakened as it plowed slowly west across southern Pennsylvania, its remnants situated between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, with maximum winds down to 45 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

As Sandy converged with a cold weather system, blizzard warnings were in effect for West Virginia, western Maryland, eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky and western North Carolina.

Garrett County in Maryland had as much as 20 inches of heavy, icy snow that knocked out power to almost three-quarters of the area's 23,000 customers.

“It's the biggest (October snowstorm) that I remember and I've been here 25 years,” said area resident Richard Hill, who planned to huddle by his wood stove.

Hurricane Sandy: How you can help


Know another organization helping with disaster relief? Let us know by commenting below.


The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is accepting donations to contribute to recovery and rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  One hundred percent of collected donations will be distributed to Federation partners in the affected areas and L.A.’s Federation will absorb all administrative costs. The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Emergency Committee staff is working directly with the affected regions to assess local needs and is coordinating with the Jewish Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (JVOAD) partners.

To contribute, visit ” target=”_blank”>http://JFeds.org/SandyRelief.  Donors may also send checks to the national mailbox at The Jewish Federations of North America, Wall Street Station, PO Box 148, New York, NY 10268. Please indicate “JFNA Hurricane Relief Fund” on all checks or in the designation box online. The Jewish Federations of North America Emergency Committee has also been activated and will be in consultation with community leadership to keep them apprised of relief and response efforts as the situation evolves.

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. Thank you for joining us in sending wishes of support and needed resources to all those impacted by Hurricane Sandy.”


The Jewish Federations, collectively among the top 10 charities on the continent, protects and enhances the well-being of Jews worldwide through the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (charity and social justice) and Torah (Jewish learning).

Jewish community bears impact of Hurricane Sandy


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 community faced one of their most powerful challenges together: Hurricane Sandy.

Bravo’s land line was dead. When she picked up her cell phone 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 Authority on Tuesday, more than 930,000 families — 90 percent of all island residents — are without power after Hurricane Sandy wrought havoc Monday night across the northeastern United States. Among those 930,000 are an estimated 139,000 Jewish househoolds.

Hurricane Sandy, which washed ashore Monday evening just south of Atlantic City, N.J., took dead aim at the most populous region of 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.

“I went over to the 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 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 literally sliced through the roof 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 it will take 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 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.

“The concerns of the Jewish Federations movement is focussed on both those in the Jewish community and non-Jewish community as we work with local Jewish federations as well as local, state and federal emergency management personnel to assess the damage and look forward to recovery,” said William Daroff, vice president of public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America.

Daroff noted that while watching the devastation unfold, social media was a source of comfort. “Compared to 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 Metropolitan Chicago set up a relief fund Monday night, 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.”

As Bravo attempts to establish 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 likelihood will be conducted without power.

“Truthfully in my mind, our options are try to use daylight,” she said.

Jewish institutions shutting down for massive storm


[UPDATE 5:15 p.m. PDT] Reuters 

Massive storm Sandy made landfall on Monday along the coast of southern New Jersey, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Sandy was located about 5 miles southwest of Atlantic City, N.J., and had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. 

Reporting by Kevin Gray; editing Christopher Wilson


[9:00 a.m. PDT] JTA

Jewish institutions throughout the eastern United States were closing in preparation for the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy.

The hurricane was set to make landfall late Monday, but rain and high winds already have started to batter the East Coast. The storm is expected to cause massive flooding and major power outages.

The UJA-Federation of New York posted a notice on its website that the building would be closed and all meetings and events canceled on Monday, and that information on Tuesday's events would be posted Monday night. The Jewish Community Center in Manhattan also announced that it would be closed Monday and remain so until it is safe to return.

Hurricane Sandy

This NOAA GOES-13 satellite image shows Hurricane Sandy as it is centered off of Maryland and Virginia taken at 6:40 EDT on Oct. 29. The storm is heading in a northwestern direction towards the Delaware and southern New Jersey coast. An estimated 60 million Americans were expected to be affected by rain, wind, snow, or ocean storm surges from the storm. Photo courtesy of NOAA/Reuters

Also in New York, public transportation shut down on Sunday night, and schools and offices in the city were scheduled to be closed on Monday. Areas of Brooklyn and the Rockaways were ordered evacuated. Wall Street also shut down Monday due to the weather.

Parts of Maryland, Delaware and the New Jersey Shore also were ordered evacuated.

In the Washington area, the public transportation system stopped on Monday, and schools, colleges and universities also closed due to expected power outages. Some already have announced that they will remain closed Tuesday and possibly into Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and area day schools also closed Monday, though the JCC of Greater Washington was scheduled to remain open until mid-afternoon Monday. 

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia also announced that it would be closed Monday.

Ex-Argentinians in Israel helping to rebuild tornado-ravaged JCC


Some Argentinians who moved to Israel have launched a campaign to rebuild a Buenos Aires province Jewish center destroyed in a tornado.

The campaign by former members of Bet Am del Oeste-CISO, the only Jewish club in the western Buenos Aires province, has brought in $7,000 in its first two days; the institution needs at least $50,000 to rebuild. It was destroyed in the April 5 storm, which has caused 17 deaths and major damage. Bet Am del Oeste-CISO has 400 members.

The new Israelis are donating $100 for each of their children.

“The objective is to raise quickly 100 donors of $100 to buy the material to solve the emergency,” Ariel Yeguerman of Kibbutz Or Haner told JTA. The kibbutz is located in southern Israel, near the city of Sderot.

Leandro Niborski, the director of the center’s youth department, told JTA that the emigres “called us to say that they made aliyah because of the education and values they received here, so now they feel the obligation to contribute in this emergency.”

The Argentinian minister of federal planning, Julio de Vido, in a news conference Monday called the storm “an unprecedented tornado that caused the immediate collapse of 30 percent of public services.”

Buenos Aires is the largest province in Argentina with more than 15 million inhabitants. It has the same name as the capital city.

Wicked weather causing damage in Israel


Severe weather in Israel has caused damage and blackouts.

Heavy rain and high winds disrupted air traffic at Ben Gurion Airport. Some wind gusts reached 62 miles per hour, according to reports.

The severe weather is supposed to last at least until Saturday; Friday is expected to be the coldest day of the year throughout the country. Snowfall is possible in the center of the country, including Jerusalem.

Mount Hermon was closed to skiers and other visitors Thursday after 10 inches of snow accumulated over Wednesday night—the highest amount on the mountain in a decade. Many roads and schools in the Golan Heights were closed, The Jerusalem Post reported.

On Wednesday, the level of the Sea of Galilee in the country’s North rose by more than an inch and sandstorms hit the South, which now is expecting flooding.

In Tel Aviv, power lines were downed by uprooted trees, and a bench was ripped from the sidewalk and thrown into a main street, Haaretz reported. Street signs and traffic lights also were blown down.

Friendship Circle Walk not quite rained out


A little rain wasn’t going to scare The Friendship Circle — but a lot of rain was a different story. Despite “rain or shine” boasts on fliers for The Friendship Circle’s second annual Walk for Friendship, the walkathon for special needs children and their teenage buddies had to be quickly relocated indoors when it became apparent on Nov. 21 that this was a downpour that would have had even seasoned New Yorkers ducking into doorways.

“That’s what we’re all about. Special needs means you have to make accommodations. Things don’t turn out as you expected, so you make adjustments,” Rav-Noy said.

Through the Friendship Circle, 150 special needs children are matched with 325 teenage volunteers who visit them at home, help them out at Friendship Circle’s Hebrew School, take kung-fu classes with them, work at the winter and end-of-summer camps or attend holiday celebrations.

Last year’s inaugural walk brought out more than 1,000 kids and adults, who came to Rancho Park in Cheviot Hills on a sunny afternoon for a short walk and daylong festivities, including clowns, face painting, bounce houses and food. Last year, Friendship Circle raised $112,000 through the walk.

This year, Los Angeles Friendship Circle Director Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy was aiming higher, hoping to raise $150,000 and to bring out more participants with enticements like a rock climbing wall and bungee trampoline. While he met the fundraising goal, the walk was dampened — but not washed out — by the heavy rain.

About 15 minutes before registration was set to open at Rancho Park, Friendship Circle sent out an e-mail advising walkers to come instead to Friendship Circle headquarters on Pico Boulevard near Beverly Drive.

The rock climbing wall and bungee trampoline were canceled, but the Zimmer Museum’s art project, a face painting table, puppy petting zoo and musical guests, along with some homemade carnival games, all smushed into the small space. The barbecue was set up a parking lot in back, and food was sold inside.

Around 500 people visited in the course of the day.

Wind closes synagogues, schools


Gusts that peaked at 97 miles per hour whipped through the Los Angeles area Wednesday night, downing trees and power lines and leaving some synagogues and Jewish schools with minor damage and no power.

Hardest hit was the Pasadena area, where the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, B’nai Simcha Community Preschool in Arcadia and the Weizmann Day School all remained closed on Thursday. The mayor of Pasadena declared a state of emergency for the area.

The unusually fierce Santa Ana winds sent a tree crashing through the bedroom of the home of a Mount Washington member of Chabad of Pasadena, but the family was not hurt, according to Rabbi Chaim Hanoka of Chabad of Pasadena. Trees branches and debris were scattered around the Chabad building, but Hanoka did not detect any damage to the building, though he saw danger in live wires that dangled over some streets on Thursday. Many fires were reported in the area.

[Photo by Rabbi Joshua Grater

At Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (PJTC), large tree limbs and branches littered the grounds, roof shingles had been lifted off, and a chain-link fence came down.  The window in the school principal’s office was blown out, but no structural damage occurred.

The synagogue lost power around 9 p.m. Wednesday night, it leader, Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, said that if power were not restored by Friday morning, he would be forced to cancel Shabbat services.

“We were supposed to have a big Shabbat dinner tomorrow night, but now we have 15 pounds of chicken rotting in the refrigerator,” Grater said.

A 60-foot tree in front of Grater’s home was completely uprooted, he said.

The Weizmann Day School, an independent Jewish elementary school with an enrollment of 67 children that rents space from PJTC, informed parents Wednesday night that the school would likely be closed the next day, according to principal Lisa Feldman. At 6:30 a.m. Thursday, another message – sent via a room-parent phone tree, as well as texts, Twitter, emails and Facebook – confirmed that the school would be closed Thursday. A teacher stood outside the school at drop-off time just in case some without power didn’t get the message, but no parents showed up, Feldman said. Pasadena public schools and about 10 other school districts in the area also were closed Thursday.

Photo by Julie Gruenbaum Fax

Hanoka of Chabad said he had delivered food to several families who were without power and were trapped in their homes by toppled trees.

Around 300,000 Southern California residents were without power as of Thursday afternoon.

In Los Angeles, large trees splayed across several streets in the Pico-Robertson area. Maimonides Academy had a felled tree in its yard, and no power in the half of the school that resides in West Hollywood, while the half of the building on property in the City of Los Angeles had power.

Eitan Trabin, executive director of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, said he is grateful that there was no serious damage to the temple and no one was hurt, especially seeing what had occurred around the neighborhood.

Trabin said, however, that he is bracing for more winds forecast through Friday.

“Whatever progress they make now in repairs and cleanup might be set back with the winds tonight,” Trabin said.

Hurricane Irene takes a toll on Jewish community with three deaths, but institutions spared


For some in the Jewish community, Hurricane Irene was a soggy inconvenience.

But for others it became a moment to extend a helping hand—in at least three cases, tragically.

David Reichenberg, a 50-year-old father of four from Spring Valley, N.Y., died while saving a father and his 6-year-old son from a downed power line. He contacted the live wire and was electrocuted.

Reichenberg, an Orthodox Jew, was one of three Jews reportedly killed Sunday in the storm.

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. He died the same night, reported the Trenton Times. The car was found to be abandoned.

Rozalia Gluck, 82, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was trapped in a Catskills motel that had become unmoored during the storm and floated away. Authorities recovered her body late Sunday. Isaac Abraham, a leader in the Brooklyn Chasidic community, told the New York Daily News that Gluck was a Holocaust survivor originally from Russia.

“She survived Hitler,” Abraham said, “but she couldn’t survive Irene.”

By Tuesday afternoon, 40 deaths in 10 states were attributed to Hurricane Irene, The Associated Press reported.

In the Reichenberg tragedy, he had stopped to help the father and son, who were outside viewing the damage to their home in Rockland County when the boy 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.’ “

Reichenberg was pronounced dead at the scene and was buried Sunday night. The injured boy, Reuven Herbst, was reported to be in critical but stable condition as of Monday night. His father, whose name was not released, suffered only minor injuries.

In an interview with JTA, a longtime friend of Reichenberg, Rabbi Avrohom Braun, described him as an “upbeat person with unshakable faith.” Braun is director of admissions and education at Ohr Somayach yeshiva, which Reichenberg attended 25 years ago.

Reichenberg, who ran a sign-making shop, would attend 6 a.m. classes each day before opening his store, Braun said. He also said Reichenberg regularly volunteered to help coordinate Shabbat meals for impoverished families in Rockland County, which has a large population of Orthodox Jews.

As the cleanup effort began late Sunday and the East Coast began to return to some semblance of normality on Monday—in many areas, public transportation was still unavailable—the major denominational synagogue groups were still trying to make contact with constituent congregations in areas without power or telephone lines. They were hindered by staff members unable to get to work due to lack of train service and impassable roads.

Except for power outages and some minor flooding, no shuls reported much damage. Congregations moved Torah scrolls and historical documents to safe buildings at high ground, said Rabbi Elliott Kleinman, chief program director for the Union for Reform Judaism.

Even before the storm struck, the Jewish community attempted to prepare for the worst.

Some New York neighborhoods that are home to large Jewish communities were evacuated by order of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, including Brighton Beach and portions of Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn and Far Rockaway in Queens.

In Baltimore, the Rosenbloom Jewish Community Center opened its doors to 395 foreign workers, mostly Eastern European college students who had been evacuated from Ocean City, Md., the Baltimore Jewish Times reported. Although the JCC, located in the Baltimore suburb of Owings Mills, Md., had been designated an emergency evacuation center three years ago, it was the first time the building had been used for that purpose.

“As a Jewish organization, the JCC has the privilege of stepping up to uphold the Jewish value of ‘hachnasat orchim’—welcoming of guests into one’s homes,” the JCC’s leadership wrote in an e-mail, according to the report.

Before the storm, Jewish officials offered both practical and religious counsel in preparation for the hurricane. The Union for Reform Judaism issued hurricane preparation guides.

The Orthodox website Vos Iz Neias posted halachic guidelines issued years ago by the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America and others for what to do on the Sabbath in the event of a hurricane. Among other things, the guidelines specified that one may leave a radio on in a room of the house that is not generally used if there is concern for safety.

“The rabbis are getting a lot of calls today,” Dov Hikind, an Orthodox New York State assemblyman from Brooklyn, told Reuters last Friday.

Lindsay Goldman, the director of UJA-Federation of New York’s J-11 Information Referral Center, reported that UJA-Federation had advised its partner agencies to activate their emergency protocols. As of Monday morning, she said, all agencies had reported that they were open.

The URJ and B’nai B’rith International both opened hurricane relief funds to collect donations for hurricane aid. As of Monday, neither organization could say how much they had collected or had decided exactly how the money would be spent or distributed.

Rhonda Love, the director of B’nai B’rith’s Center for Community Action, said that even though the disaster occurred in the densely Jewish East Coast, aid will remain consistent with past natural disaster relief efforts—based on need, not creed.

“We’ll work where there’s any opportunity to help,” Love said.

The committee that will allocate the URJ funds is reviewing damage reports from congregations but will give according to the needs of “congregations, Jewish communities or larger communities,” Kleinman said. Those decisions will be made in the next week or two, he said; as of Monday there had been no immediate requests for funds.

“Being there right away is great,” Kleinman said. “But sticking with them in the future is just as important.”

Irene downgraded as four million without power


At least four million people are without power and nine dead in the United States in the wake of Hurricane Irene, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

The streets of New York City remained deserted on Sunday, as public transportation remained shut down, and the storm hit with sustained winds of 65 mph, according to the Associated Press.

Thousands of flights in and out of the areas three main airports – JFK and Laguardia in New York, and Liberty in New Jersey – were cancelled, including flights to and from Israel.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Aug. 26 ordered a mandatory evacuation of coastal areas prone to flooding in advance of Hurricane Irene, including some neighborhoods that are home to large Jewish communities.

In a news conference, Bloomberg said that all residents in the evacuation areas must leave by 5 p.m. on Saturday. The areas that the mayor ordered evacuated spanned the city’s five boroughs and include heavily Jewish neighborhoods such as Brighton Beach and portions of Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn and Far Rockaway in Queens.

Some 300,000 people live in the evacuation areas, which include all parts of the city that are categorized on the city’s hurricane vulnerability map as Zone A, designating the places at highest risk of flooding from a hurricane’s storm surge. In addition, the mayor’s evacuation order applied to all residents of the Rockaways, irrespective of whether one lives in Zone A.

A Rabbi Meisels who was interviewed by the Orthodox website Vos Iz Neias urged residents of the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Sea Gate and Coney Island to leave before the Sabbath.

“Since the time for mandatory evacuation will be on Shabbos and we won’t be able to leave then, we are telling people to go before Shabbos,” Meisels told Vos Iz Neias. “We hope that ultimately this will all have been for nothing, but we are recommending that people leave now.

Vos Iz Neias also posted halachic guidelines from the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America and others for what to do on the Sabbath in the event of a hurricane. Among other things, the guidelines specify that one may leave a radio on in a room of the house that is not generally used if there is concern for safety.

The evacuation zone also included large parts of coastal Staten Island and Battery Park City in Manhattan, among other areas. New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority will suspend bus, train and subway service as of noon on Saturday.

“Some of the rabbis are giving permission to leave the radio on the Sabbath. The rabbis are getting a lot of calls today,” Dov Hikind, an Orthodox New York state assemblyman from Brooklyn, told Reuters.

New York takes unprecedented steps ahead of Irene


New York City on Friday ordered the evacuation of more than 250,000 people and prepared to shut down its entire mass transit system, both unprecedented measures ahead of the expected battering from Hurricane Irene.

The powerful and unusually large storm trudged up the U.S. East Coast on Friday, threatening 55 million people including more than 8 million in New York City, which was expecting heavy winds late on Saturday or early on Sunday.

Some members of the city’s observant Jewish population, normally prohibited by their religion from using electricity on Saturday, began leaving the city on Friday to avoid a religious dilemma should they need emergency services or information.

“Some of the rabbis are giving permission to leave the radio on the Sabbath. The rabbis are getting a lot of calls today,” said Dov Hikind, an orthodox Jewish state assemblyman from the borough of Brooklyn.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered people living in low-lying areas—including the Financial District surrounding Wall Street in Manhattan—out of their homes by 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Saturday, saying 91 emergency shelters would be open on Friday.

The transit system that carries 8.5 million people a day would start shutting down around noon (1600 GMT) on Saturday, a process that could take eight hours.

“We’ve never done a mandatory evacuation before and we wouldn’t be doing it now if we didn’t think this storm had the potential to be very serious,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference.

New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo activated 900 National Guard troops while airlines moved aircraft from the danger zone and canceled at least 1,000 flights and the city’s four zoos stocked up to keep the animals fed.

Bridges leading to the island of Manhattan could be closed if winds exceed 60 mph (96 kph).

Police had a fleet of rescue boats at the ready in case resident of low-lying areas near the waterfront were trapped by the storm surge, which would be exacerbated by coincidental high tides.

The evacuations zones are mostly along the waterfront of the city—a complex geography of islands and peninsulas surrounded by rivers, harbors and open sea.

In the Rockaways area of Queens that faces the Atlantic Ocean, Destiny Crespo, 19, vowed to defy the evacuation order, saying, “No matter what, we’re going to board up these windows, we’re going to stay right here. … I am going to ride my way out of it like I’m a surfer.”

But her mother, Genevieve Crespo, 42, was more worried. “I am disabled. How am I going to get on the train with my grandkids? We have no idea where to go or what to do,” she said.

Benedict Willis, director of floor operations for investment banking boutique Sunrise Securities, said the NYSE had a responsibility to open Monday after the hurricane because millions of investors would rely on it for prices.

“But if the waters rise this high,” he said gesturing at the buzzing trading floor on Friday, “then it’s a bigger problem than I can handle. My name’s not Noah.”

The evacuations were mandatory, technically punishable by a $500 fine or 90 days in jail, but Bloomberg said, “We’re not trying to punish people. We’re trying to protect them.”

“Nobody’s going to get fined. Nobody’s going to jail. But if you don’t follow this, people might die,” Bloomberg said.

After the city experienced an unusually strong earthquake centered in Virginia on Tuesday, it prepared for a rare hurricane. Only five hurricanes in records dating to 1851 have tracked within 75 miles (120 km) of New York City, the most recent one being in 1985, according to weather.com.

“We are New Yorkers and we are tough. We like to think of ourselves as tough,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “But we’re also smart, and it’s smart to prepare. It’s smart to evacuate … and it’s smart to evacuate now.”

Homebound elderly and hospital patients in low-lying areas began to be evacuated earlier on Friday.

At Coney Island Hospital, ambulances were transporting 250 patients to other hospitals ahead of a shutdown set for 8 p.m. (0000 GMT on Saturday), said Evelyn Hernandez, a hospital spokeswoman.

The New York Stock Exchange was preparing a backup power generator and bringing in extra fuel and food to avoid disruptions when trade resumes on Monday. Around the corner, the New York Fed rolled out contingency plans in order to preserve the normal functioning of its open market operations on Monday, a spokesman said.

The Cyclone roller coaster—in the direct path of the storm on some projection models—was still running and scaring people on Friday, but would shut down on Sunday, when the heaviest rains were expected.

“I figured I wanted to come and ride it and I’m happy because it might not be here anymore,” said Jon Muller, 29, a tourist from Erie, Pennsylvania, celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife.

New Yorkers hungry for information crashed the city’s website (http://www.nyc.gov/html/home_alt.html) looking for news on evacuations or service shutdowns.

At the Costco wholesale store in Brooklyn, the bottled water aisle was lined with shopping carts on Friday, some piled high with packets of plastic bottles.

“You never know if we’re going to need it. Might as well have some extra for the kids,” said Carmen Viera, 63, who had three cases of water in her shopping cart to take home to her house in Brooklyn with three children and two grandchildren.

Sporting events and show business were already falling victim to storm warnings.

The kick-off time for Saturday’s National Football League game between the New York Giants and New York Jets was brought forward several hours to avoid the worst of the foul weather, and the New York Mets baseball team postponed games on Saturday and Sunday.

But some bars and restaurants were preparing for a brisk business from New Yorkers who planned to ride out the storm with plenty of food an alcohol.

The manager at the Merchants River House restaurant, which is just behind the Hudson River boardwalk and has views of the Statue of Liberty, said the restaurant planned to stay open all weekend but would tie down deck furniture.

“We’re fully stocked up for the weekend,” said manager Christian Qualey, “so we can be a safe place for people.”

Additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer, Lynn Adler and Jonathan Allen; Editing by Sandra Maler

New Year, New Changes


Last week I was driving to a family celebration at Leisure World in Laguna Hills when I noticed something very odd about the weather: Fall was in the air.

It’s a subtle thing in Southern California, but those of us who have lived here long enough recognize the slight change in temperature, the almost imperceptible newness in the air.

For us it also means summer camps and summer trips give way to the High Holidays — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And this new year brings new developments here at The Journal.

One should be obvious by now: We’ve changed formats, and changed titles. Last month, The Jewish Journal of Orange County became Jewish Family of Orange County. We’ve changed size, shape and paper. But more importantly, the stories reflect the lives so many of us live — working to bring Jewish values and practice into our homes and communities.

A Jewish publication is a place where all the diverse expressions of Jewish life can find common ground on a regular basis, and we look forward to continuing to provide the kind of award-winning, thoughtful coverage we have in the past.

Of course, this is a community publication, which means we need you to be a part of it. Please send us ideas, suggestions, stories, complaints. Please read us and help us grow.

It’s a New Year, but it wouldn’t be as sweet without you.

Shana tova u’metuka from all of us at Jewish Family of Orange County.

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