Hurricane damage
Hurricane damageIsrael news photo: Caryn Lubin

In one seaside community, volunteers from New York's Jewish Shomrim organization have discovered 22 damaged Torah scrolls.

The Torah scrolls were found in four Jewish centers that were destroyed during Hurricane Sandy in the seaside community of Belle Harbor, located in the New York City borough of Queens. 

Also found were 30 pairs of damaged tefillin – the black prayer boxes used by Jewish men around the world during morning prayers. The devastation that resulted in Jewish communities up and down the Eastern Seaboard – and especially in the metro New York area – is absolutely overwhelming, residents have said.

In a posting on the local Yeshiva World News website, a 23 year old man wrote a desperate appeal for help, trying to describe in words a situation he had never encountered in his life. "A few guys went back home to Far Rockaway, to help victims, for the first time since before the storm,” he wrote.

“The situation is something out of a movie, except it is real – and there seems to be no end. In the few short hours we were helping, we witnessed parents literally crying for warm food, and a recently bar mitzvah boy sobbing as we took away his recently destroyed collection of brand new seforim (holy books -ed.) This is nearly a week after the storm!!

"People have no cars as they were destroyed during the hurricane. The houses are flooded from basement to first floor, destroying everything and leaving a toxic smell in its path. I was in many people's homes where sand clogged the pipes and septic water was swept throughout their homes. Half the people are staying home because they are scared of looting, and the other half are leaving because they are scared of the type of people looting. People are freezing, hungry, in despair, and it seems no one in surrounding communities has a clue...

"People have no idea how bad the situation is. Shul doors left open just hoping someone will clean it out... From what I hear towns such as Seagate and Bell (sic) Harbor are much worse off,” he wrote.

Last Wednesday, an Arutz Sheva reader wrote hours after the storm had passed that he, too, was now homeless: "My house is gone. All the houses on the beach are gone; all the houses on the block have 6 feet of water. There are cars are all over the place. I am in the office. Thanks for asking.”

The publisher of Yeshiva World News, a local resident of Brooklyn, added, “In the community of Seagate, the devastation is real, the damage is more than just physical. Families have lost everything. 'The only thing left is the shirt on my back,' is no longer a saying – it's real,” he wrote.

An emergency fund to support local victims called The Emergency Sandy Chesed Fund has been set up by a group of Jewish organizations, including several chapters of Hatzolah, Shomrim, the Metropolitan Jewish Council of Poverty, and the Boro Park Jewish Community Council. All monies donated to the fund will go directly to victims and victim services; no donated funds are to be used for administration or overhead.