They were close friends from childhood with a shared commitment to helping others. Now Jessie Streich-Kest and Jacob Vogelman are being buried just two days apart after being crushed by a falling tree in Brooklyn in the midst of Hurricane Sandy.
Streich-Kest, 24, was a young teacher dedicated to social justice. Vogelman, 23, was a student known for his eagerness to lend a helping hand.
The two were walking with Steich-Kest’s dog in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn at the height of the storm on October 29. They were found dead the following morning. Vogelman’s funeral is scheduled for November 2. Streich-Kest’s is set for November 4.
Streich-Kest “really had such a strong sense of how to treat people and what was right, and a real passion for life and for social change,” said Eric Zachary, a longtime family friend, in an interview with the Forward. “Here’s a young person whose integrity was unquestioned.”
“He died going to help a friend,” Vogelman’s father Lawrence Vogelman told Reuters.
Streich-Kest and Vogelman were two of the 38 people killed in New York City by the massive late November storm. More than 80 people were killed around the U.S., with many more displaced.
Streich-Kest’s death has rocked the tight-knit New York City social justice community, of which her parents are leading members. Her father, Jon Kest, is executive director of New York Communities for Change and former director of New York ACORN; her mother, Francine Streich, works for the United Federation of Teachers, the New York City teacher’s union. Kest is seriously ill, according to news reports.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Streich-Kest had started a job as a 10th grade special education teacher at the Bushwick High School for Social Justice just months before her death. Friends said she had just finished conducted her first parent-teacher conferences.
“It feels like she was just getting her footing,” said Barbara Gross, another friend of her family. “She found her way to teaching and she loved it. It brought so many things together for her – her commitment to young people, her [commitment to] social justice.”
Streich-Kest was a poet, an athlete, and a movie fan with a deep love for animals, those who knew her told the Forward. Streich-Kest has campaigned against the use of carriage horses in Central Park. Many spoke of her commitment to Max, her pit bull.