UJA-Federation of New York

Good together.

®

Our Swift, Bold Response to Hurricane Sandy

Share by

When Hurricane Sandy struck the New York metropolitan area on October 29, 2012, causing unprecedented devastation, UJA-Federation of New York launched an immediate response.

Together with our network agencies, area synagogues, Jewish day schools, and volunteers wanting to do good, we mobilized the community — thanks to the network we had in place before the storm.

Within a week of the storm, UJA-Federation’s Board of Directors released $10 million from our endowment to create Connect to Recovery, a multifaceted initiative designed to address urgent needs. We also created a relief fund, adding $6 million in contributions from individuals, foundations, and other federations.

"UJA-Federation has responded to the hurricane in a phenomenal way and is important in our [city] efforts."
— Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

Combining speed with a careful assessment of needs, our Connect to Recovery committee allocated more than $14 million of our funds to more than 200 network agencies, synagogues, and Jewish day schools on the front lines of relief and recovery efforts. Funds first addressed immediate needs, such as food, cleanup, emergency cash assistance, financial counseling, and temporary relocation of day schools and synagogues.

UJA-Federation organized thousands of volunteers, publicizing hundreds of opportunities and working  with agencies to direct volunteers to sites where they could help. And our committee engaged in a thoughtful, coordinated planning process, incorporating best practices from previous crises for longer-term recovery needs, such as mental health and trauma counseling and legal services.

These actions reflect the best of our values. Thanks to your generosity, we were able to respond  effectively to meet the needs of our fellow New Yorkers devastated by the destruction. We can all take pride in this remarkable accomplishment — an expression of what we achieve by working together.

Addressing the Immediate Crisis

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, UJA-Federation joined together with our network agencies,
local synagogues, and Jewish day schools in a coordinated effort. Several of our network agencies, such as the New York Legal Assistance Group, provided services across the region, while Jewish community centers and others throughout the area met the specific needs of their local communities.

Our first priority was to assist New Yorkers of all backgrounds who were greatly affected by Sandy and lived in the hardest-hit areas, such as Zone A in New York City and on Long Island’s South Shore.

"This is UJA-Federation at its best. UJA-Federation brought together the expertise of its agency network to provide quality holistic services to those impacted by the superstorm."
— Yisroel Schulman, President, New York Legal Assistance Group

From Long Island to Coney Island, in Westchester and Staten Island, and in many other places, our network of agencies and their staff, as well as synagogues, worked virtually around the clock to help people who were homebound, hospitalized, or hungry get the help they needed. They often climbed unlit stairways to meet the needs of isolated, frightened elderly and extend an outstretched hand.

Key areas of immediate funding to network agencies and synagogues included:

  • Emergency cash assistance to meet basic life-sustaining needs and enable people to return to their homes.
  • Emotional and trauma counseling. 
  • Legal services, including appeals for denied FEMA applications, housing, and insurance disputes.
  • Door-to-door outreach.
  • Short-term intensive assistance to find housing.
  • Financial counseling.

During the first month after the hurricane, UJA-Federation beneficiary agencies provided services that included:

  • More than 281,000 meals.
  • Approximately 270,000 bottles of water.
  • Cash assistance for more than 2,000 people.
  • Nonmedical supplies for some 25,000 people and medical support for 4,000 people.
  • Social work assistance for more than 25,500 people.
  • Cleanup crews aiding more than 4,000 households in the hardest-hit communities.
  • Aid from 9,000 donor and community volunteers, helping with food and water distribution, checking on elderly residents, cleaning up debris, and more.

We forwarded funds to synagogues to provide for congregants in need, and synagogues received money for temporary relocation expenses, supplemental heat and power, and additional staff for respite and relief. Services from UJA-Federation network agencies, such as for legal aid, were also made available to synagogues.

"UJA-Federation’s support during this challenging period in the history of New York and its Jewish population continues to be a life preserver and a force for rebuilding communities."
— William Rapfogel, Executive Director, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty

UJA-Federation collaborated with the AVI CHAI Foundation to aid those at day schools and yeshivot who were severely affected by the storm, providing $500,000 in emergency aid to hurricane-affected educators and $1 million in tuition relief for students.

In addition, UJA-Federation played a key continuing coordination role for allocations and  communicating with city and state organizations, FEMA, and New York Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

Our Network Agencies Selected

New York City chose five of our network agencies as the most qualified to provide services at one-stop disaster relief centers as part of NYC Restore: FEGS Health & Human Services, Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, New York Legal Assistance Group, and the Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton-Manhattan Beach.

Planning for Ongoing Needs

As we look back on all we have accomplished together since the storm, we can take pride in our efforts to meet the immediate needs of those badly hurt by the storm.

"As a community, when devastation happens, we need to come together to help those in need. And it's a lesson I want to teach my children."
— Jacqueline Astrof-Bennett, after donating challah

The needs are great, and they will continue. They call on us to assess future needs in recovery efforts. Longer term, our recovery efforts will include legal assistance, mental-health counseling, outreach, cash assistance, loans, and after-school programs.

"After I saw the devastation and the hardship going on, especially in the Jewish community, I felt a strong sense of being able to give back to American Jews. [Americans] always support and give us help in Israel, and I believe that it's not a one-way street, and this was a great opportunity to be able to express that."
— Natan Mann, volunteer from Israel

Working with our network agencies, synagogues, and Jewish day schools — thanks to you — we will keep addressing the needs of our community.

Mobilizing a Surge of Volunteers

Thousands of volunteers poured their time, energy, and hearts into helping people throughout the region. UJA-Federation, together with its network of agencies and area synagogues, quickly stepped forward, coordinating thousands of volunteers in caring for the people and communities who bore the brunt of the storm.

To date, UJA-Federation has referred volunteers to more than 100 Hurricane Sandy volunteer projects, including:

  • Delivering food, water, and supplies to seniors trapped without electricity on the upper floors of high-rise buildings. 
  • Checking in on people in their homes in Zone A and on Long Island’s South Shore.
  • Legal aid for disaster relief.
  • Helping people complete FEMA applications.
  • Helping Russian-speaking clients access emergency services.
  • Holiday programs and toy drives.

On the Frontlines

Thirty-three of UJA-Federation’s network agencies received Connect to Recovery funding to assist in making their direct relief and recovery efforts possible.

Connect to Recovery also made grants to three non-network agencies — Achiezer, IsraAID, and Nechama — as well as 79 New York synagogues and 108 Jewish day schools.

J•1•1, UJA-Federation’s Information and Referral Center, has connected hundreds of individuals and families who have been affected by the storm with resources provided by our network agencies and the community at large. For help, contact 1.877.852.6951 or .

For More Information

Contact Alisa Rubin Kurshan at or Roberta Marcus Leiner at .