Ambulances hurried back and forth during evacuation efforts, and home care workers stayed overnight to ensure service to isolated seniors throughout the storm. Later, with phone lines and e-mail down, agencies stayed in operation around the clock with news often spread by word of mouth that a certain Y was offering childcare for parents, or that another synagogue was a place where the community could come to try and contact loved ones or to take a hot shower.

The Parker Jewish Institute's Lakeville Ambulette assisted evacuees at the Sea Crest Health Care Center in Coney Island. Courtesy of Parker Jewish Ins

The Parker Jewish Institute’s Lakeville Ambulette assisted evacuees at the Sea Crest Health Care Center in Coney Island. Courtesy of Parker Jewish Institute.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, staff and clients of UJA-Federation network agencies are full of heroic examples of people taking care of each other.

“Our network agencies are exhibiting incredible ingenuity and dedication in the face of extreme challenges, and they are doing everything in their power to reach their most at-risk clients,” says Roberta Marcus Leiner, senior vice president of Agency Relations.

“From Long Island to  Coney Island, in Westchester and  the Bronx, and in many other places, our network of agencies and their staffs are working overtime and working together to help people who are homebound, hospitalized, or hungry get the care they need in the storm’s aftermath,” says Leiner.

Agencies such as Jewish Home Life Care and Parker Jewish Institute for Healthcare and Rehabilitation have scrambled to take in patients who had to be evacuated from other hospitals and nursing homes. Many agencies, including the Jewish Child Care Association and New York Legal Assistance Group, have set up makeshift headquarters elsewhere to continue their crucial work while the water recedes from their downtown Manhattan offices. Agencies such as the Educational Alliance and the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty have employees going door to door, day and night, to check on the most at-risk seniors and others in the community who are without power and trapped because of limited mobility and the challenging conditions outside. Staff at many other agencies have also been working around the clock to ensure the safety of the people they serve.

Before the hurricane, UJA-Federation was working with agencies to let them know what emergency preparedness measures they could take. Now that the hurricane is passed, we’re helping them to pick up the pieces, whether that means dealing with insurance and assessing their damages, mobilizing critical governmental resources, or even hosting many agency leaders in our 59th street building.

Under Seven Feet of Water

A photo of the Kings Bay Y's flooded basement. Courtesy of Kings Bay Y.

A photo of the Kings Bay Y’s flooded basement. Courtesy of Kings Bay Y.

The Kings Bay YM-YWHA had just opened a satellite location on Eammons Avenue in Brooklyn two weeks before the storm. Now the basement is under seven feet of water. “They’re trying their best with water pumps but it’s just gone,” says Leonard Petlakh, the executive director of the UJA-Federation beneficiary agency. “Over $100,000 in capital renovations. Gone.” The organization reopened its main site on Thursday and is working to restore as many services as possible.

Elsewhere in the metropolitan area, synagogues and other organizations have become hubs for those affected by the storm. At Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester, Rabbi Josh Davidson estimates that most members of the community are without power, so the synagogue is serving as a shelter at night for those who need it.  

“Whenever something like this happens it’s a traumatic experience,” he says. “People come to realize that the most precious things to them are the people that they love and the ideals that they cherish.”

“Several of our staff members, and no doubt countless members and clients have suffered the complete loss of their homes and cars … property they have worked for the past 20 years to acquire, rebuilding their lives after fleeing Communist persecution,” says Alex Budnitsky, CEO and executive director of the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, a UJA-Federation network agency.

Despite personal challenges staff and volunteers at the Marks JCH Of Bensonhurst are getting as many services up and running as possible, even making reassurance calls to homebound Holocaust survivors and seniors, and prioritizing those who are in the areas most severely impacted by the storm.

For those who need emergency assistance, we suggest for now that you reach out to government-run information centers such as 311 in the five boroughs and 211 in Long Island and Westchester. Please contact UJA-Federation’s J•1•1 Information and Referral Center at 1.877.UJA.NYJ11 with nonemergency inquiries or concerns.

As UJA-Federation and its agencies work with the community to figure out what help they need most, see a list of volunteer opportunities designed to help those hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. Also, UJA-Federation has opened the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. Funds raised will be used to provide support to agencies and communities that have been impacted by the devastation. One hundred percent of the funds will be used for aid; no administrative costs will be applied.