The massive storm system that ransacked the East Coast on October 29 brought unprecedented devastation to Jewish communities in and around New York City.
Sandy pushed eight-foot-high waves through the Brooklyn neighborhood of Manhattan Beach. In Sea Gate, on the western tip of Coney Island, entire homes collapsed. An apartment building was evacuated after basement flooding led to explosions on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Two Jews in their 20s were crushed by a tree in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park area. And all of Lower Manhattan, including the Lower East Side, was expected to be without electricity for days.
Jewish communal officials said it would take weeks to measure the damage to community institutions. “It’s a disaster. In every sense of the word,” said David Pollock, director of security and emergency planning for the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
Beachfront neighborhoods in South Brooklyn appear to have suffered the most dramatic damage. Sea Gate, a small gated community in Coney Island that is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, is home to a few hundred Jewish families. Midday on October 30, just hours after rising seas had flooded the neighborhood, residents were struggling to describe what they had seen the night before.
Raizy Lefkowitz, whose home is still standing, said that she was watching the waves with some of her five children at around 6:30 p.m. when the water started rising quickly.
“We basically just ran away,” she said.
Standing in front of her home, Lefkowitz said that she could tell which houses the muddy piles of debris had floated away from by looking at the photos washed up on her lawn.