Sandy Wreaks Untold Havoc on Jewish Communities

From Coney to Manhattan, Damage Is Ferocious But Fickle

Dead Aim: New photo shows Sandy’s storm surge racing toward homes in Brooklyn’s Sea Gate.
Raizy Lefkowitz
Dead Aim: New photo shows Sandy’s storm surge racing toward homes in Brooklyn’s Sea Gate.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 31, 2012, issue of November 02, 2012.
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A huge chunk of the first floor had been torn out of one home facing the ocean. Three blocks from the sea, a broken dinghy sat incongruously on a sidewalk. The beach itself looked smooth, as though it had been scrubbed clean.

On Beach 47th Street, at the western end of Sea Gate, a handful of members of the Satmar Hasidic community gathered around a devastated building, removing boxes of belongings. A seaward-facing window was gone, leaving a gaping hole.

“Everybody’s okay,” said a man who would give his name only as Mayer. He said the home belonged to his uncle, who owns a bakery in Boro Park. Mayer said he was shocked that the media and broader community seemed to be ignoring the devastation in Sea Gate.

“There’s no news crews in here. No one knows about us,” he said.

In nearby Manhattan Beach, home to a large Russian Jewish community, massive flooding damaged homes and sidewalks. Images posted online suggested that parked cars had been entirely submerged by floodwaters.

The Rockaway Peninsula also experienced serious damage. West End Temple in Neponsit, Queens, was entirely inundated with floodwater. “The sanctuary was completely upended,” said Rabbi Margie Slome, the synagogue’s spiritual leader. “Prayer books are all over the place, the pew was upended, the cushions are soaked through, the rug is completely wet.” The synagogue’s Torah scrolls are safe, Slome said, but a lower level in the synagogue’s building remains full of water.

Two Jews living in Brooklyn were killed by a falling tree on the night of October 29 while walking their dog in their Ditmas Park neighborhood. Jacob Vogelman and Jessie Streich-Kest, both in their early 20s, grew up at Park Slope synagogues, according to a source who knows the pair. Steich-Kest, a high school teacher in Bushwick, was the daughter of Jon Kest, executive director of New York Communities for Change and former director of New York ACORN.


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