Israelis Stunned by Lack of Help for Sandy Victims

Volunteers Find Little Official Presence in Flood-Ravaged Nabes

****: Israeli volunteers Oriya Barkai, Snani Mymon, and Elya Tzur survey damage in Sea Gate, Brooklyn. They expected to find more government help in Sandy-ravaged sections of New York’s waterfront.
courtesy of ein prat
****: Israeli volunteers Oriya Barkai, Snani Mymon, and Elya Tzur survey damage in Sea Gate, Brooklyn. They expected to find more government help in Sandy-ravaged sections of New York’s waterfront.

By Seth Berkman

Published November 15, 2012, issue of November 23, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

When a group of Israeli army veterans arrived in New York to help with rescue efforts one week after Hurricane Sandy, they expected to take their cues from government rescue agencies on the scene.

Instead, in place after place, they found themselves giving the cues to volunteers seeking guidance. The government agencies seemed all but absent.

“I did not see anyone in Far Rockaway,” said Nathan Mann, one of 12 Israelis who came to offer relief assistance to the worst hit areas.

The delegation’s members were all alumni of Mechina Ein Prat, known in English as the Leadership Academy, a pre-army institute founded in 2001 in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Adumim. The Mechina, a division of Ein Prat, an Israeli Zionist and Jewish identity program for young adults, seeks to prepare recent high school graduates for service in the Israeli army’s elite units. The 12 volunteers, all Israelis, ranging in age from22 to 31, are now members of the army reserves after having completed their service. Many served in war situations or in relief capacities in northern Israel during the Second Lebanon War and in Sderot, a city in southern Israel that has been the target of sporadic rocket bombings from Gaza.

Finding little evidence of the presence of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross in certain neighborhoods, the Ein Prat members have helped organize volunteers in Far Rockaway in Queens, Coney Island and Sea Gate in Brooklyn and hard hit communities in Staten Island. Their efforts have included cleaning out wrecked homes and stores, bringing in emergency supplies, including food and water, and monitoring elderly residents who refused to be evacuated.

The communities they helped were among the hardest hit, and were in many cases home to large concentrations of Jews — a fact that was not incidental for members of the delegation. Back in Israel, Ein Prat’s mission is to strengthen young people’s Jewish and Zionist identity and sense of service to Israeli Jewish society.

“If this situation was in Israel, it’d be obvious for us to help,” said Tamar Steinberg, a commander in the Israel Defense Forces, where she led basic training and taught Zionist education programs for immigrant soldiers. “But here, it’s also our people, our community.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.