Jewish Community Provides Humanitarian Aid to Victims of Hurricane Sandy

By: Fern Sidman

Reaching out to the beleaguered victims of Hurricane Sandy with direct and immediate aid, “Israel Flying Aid,” the Israeli global humanitarian organization which was first to arrive in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, has been distributing large supplies of gas to hospitals, as well as food, batteries and generators to those in the tri-state area who were adversely impacted by the “storm of the century.”

According to a report by the Israel News Agency, Israel Flying Aid North American Operations Manager Moti Kahana said, “”We have many years of disaster relief experience. Israel Flying Aid, in having Israelis on the ground here in New York and New Jersey, have made Israel the only foreign nation to provide humanitarian assistance to the US during this disaster. We are working in coordination with FEMA, local police, the American Red Cross and Jewish communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.” He added that most of the efforts had been donated by Israelis living in the US and this enabled gas to be distributed to hospitals in New York and New Jersey.

Joel Leyden, an Israel Flying Aid Operations Specialist who had worked in direct disaster relief efforts in Haiti, has been coordinating the distribution of both food and generators to those in storm ravaged Long Island with the help of the Greater Hartford Jewish Community.

“The food had been donated by Panera Bread and Dunkin Donuts in the Hartford, Manchester Connecticut area. This food was distributed to hurricane victims on the south shore of Long Island, the Nassau County Police, the Freeport Fire Department and the Red Cross Shelter which is set up at Nassau Community College,” said Leyden. He added that when they spotted hundreds of people lined up at gas stations to pour gas into their containers, they would get out of their cars and feed these people as they waited. “The donuts and bread created smiles and positive moods which replaced the trauma of suffering in the dark and cold,” he said.

Founded in 2005 by Gal Lousky, an experienced volunteer rescue worker and humanitarian relief provider, the IFA meets the pressing needs of people suffering in disaster areas around the world. As a non-profit, volunteer-based, non-governmental organization (NGO), the objectives of the IFA are to provide humanitarian life saving aid and succor to communities in areas stricken by natural disaster or territorial conflicts.

According to their mission statement, the IFA has a three-pronged emergency assistance program that includes food, medical aid and counseling for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Providing supplies and assistance for every individual in need, the IFA transcends political differences, prejudices, race, nationality and creed and reaches out on behalf of the Jewish people in the spirit of peace, love and compassion.

Thus far, over 40 people have perished in the New York area as a result of the historic devastation wrought by the “Frankenstorm,” known as Hurricane Sandy. Thousands of homes were destroyed and millions were left without power in New York, New Jersey and southern Connecticut when monumental storm surges caused by Sandy slammed the northeast with 100 mph winds on October 29th.

Mr. Kahana declared, “As Israelis, we know how to react to such disasters. We are trained in the military to be prepared and ready at a moment’s notice. This edge is what enables us to go places where others don’t and get the job done with little or no bureaucracy. We are proud to help the New York, New Jersey and the Connecticut communities. These are people who have provided assistance to Israel throughout the years. What we critically need now is donations for our staff and volunteers to continue their life saving efforts as temperatures drop and people critically need generators and fuel for heat.”

On Sunday, November 4th, the Chabad-Lubavitch Midtown Manhattan branch dispatched a bus load of young professionals to assist with relief efforts on Long Island. According to a report on Israel National News, the volunteers helped hurricane victims with cleaning sand and other waterlogged debris that was swept into their homes. As the mercury dips in the New York area, other Chabad teams were tasked with distributing such supplies as batteries, socks, warm kosher food and other essentials to the those in need and a third set of volunteers set up a mobile soup kitchen where people gathered for nutritional sustenance in the disaster zone.

Departing from their Crown Heights headquarters in Brooklyn on Sunday, another bus load of Chabad-Lubavitch volunteers headed off to such hard hit areas as Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach to provide similar relief to their neighbors.

Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries were among the first to search for survivors and help provide food and other supplies for those who were hurt in Japan during the deadly earthquake-tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in March 2011. Some 15,000 people lost their lives in that disaster and countless others were wounded, homeless and displaced for months.

During the Indian Ocean tsunami that struck southeast Asia in December 2004, leaving hundreds of thousands dead, Chabad-Lubavitch of Thailand worked tirelessly around the clock for days with Israel’s Foreign Ministry to locate missing people, contact relatives and provide food and other relief to those in need.

A number of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries were also victims of Sandy’s wrath; losing their homes and all of their possessions and it has been reported that tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of holy books, furniture and supplies in Chabad centers throughout New York and New Jersey were lost due to the storm. Never ones to be deterred from performing acts of kindness and charity, despite the tragedy that they suffered, Chabad rabbis were out in force last week and on Sunday, going door-to-door in areas affected by the storm to provide food and water, as well as spiritual and emotional support.

In order to accomplish the goal of baking fresh challahs for Shabbos, Rabbi Mendy Kasowitz of the Chabad-Lubavitch Center of Essex County, New Jersey, donated his own generator to the local kosher bakery. “The community needs challahs,” Kasowitz said simply in an interview with just prior to the Sabbath. By midnight on Thursday evening, there were a few hundred loaves ready to be distributed and Kasowitz had plans in place for volunteers to deliver them to home-bound seniors stuck in their darkened homes. Others were sent to community-wide Sabbath dinners where power had already been restored, thus ensuring that hundreds of Jews began Friday evening with at least some semblance of a “normal” Sabbath meal.

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