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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Damage wasn’t limited to New York City. The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Conn., reported on Facebook that a tree had fallen through the roof of the campus’s main building.

In Jewish neighborhoods that escaped the worst of the storm, life seemed to be going on as normal. Trees were down in the Hasidic section of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, but private religious schools were open, even though public schools around the region were not. Residents of Park Slope and Cobble Hill, Brooklyn neighborhoods with large communities of young Jewish families, reported downed trees but little serious damage. Life on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which never lost power, headed back to normal.

In the coming weeks, conversations are sure to turn to whether residents in low-lying areas took enough precautions before the storm.

As the storm approached, people faced the threat with varying degrees of seriousness. In Brighton Beach, a Russian-Jewish neighborhood in South Brooklyn, one wedding went on as usual on the afternoon of Sunday, October 28, despite the mandatory evacuation set to take hold at 7 p.m.

“Everyone is just drinking cocktails and hanging out,” said Dan Sieradski, a guest at the wedding. “If you look outside, everything is completely gray, windy and whipping around.” Sieradski said that he planned to head upstate once the wedding was over. “As soon as the curfew goes into effect, we’re hightailing it out of New York with Sandy nipping at our heels,” he said.

Sieradski made it home. Within 24 hours, the storm had sent cars floating down the street in Brighton Beach.

Hatzalah, the Jewish ambulance service covering the New York area, said Monday afternoon that it was receiving fewer calls than on a normal day, according to Dovid Cohen, the group’s CEO. “Our guys are ready,” Cohen said at the time. Reached by telephone later that evening, a frantic-sounding Cohen said he couldn’t talk and then hung up.


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