happenings at achiezer

Ten Years Since Hurricane Sandy
October 29, 2022
It is both fascinating and humbling to reflect on the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. What a scary, overwhelming and surreal period of time which many of us will never forget.

First and foremost, I must recognize the most selfless group of colleagues whom I have been incredibly lucky to work with. The Achiezer team, Volunteers and Board of Directors- you worked days and nights, Shabbos and weekday. You walked through floodwaters and debris. You gave up your shabbosim, your time and your families. You answered thousands of calls and carried huge responsibility upon your shoulders. Our community was and is forever in your debt.

I'd like to mention something which I think many people aren't aware of. People often ask, "how did Achiezer mobilize so quickly? How did you have this many volunteers? Where did you come from? Wasn't Achiezer created after Sandy?"

I want to humbly suggest that, Achiezer was a "refuah lifnei hamakah." Achiezer Community Resource Center was formed in 2008 after a group of community members felt it prudent that there be a single point of contact in times of crisis for our community. This was four years before Hurricane Sandy hit. Little did we know that the test of our lifetimes was lurking just a few short years later. Little did we know that the Achiezer mission would end up serving as a beacon of hope, life, support and relief to so many suffering community members.

The dedication, sacrifice, sweat, sleepless nights and pure sense of giving that permeated our community ten years ago was simply something that was "other worldly." I will probably leave someone out so I ask forgiveness from anyone inadvertently omitted; but there were several groups and individuals without whom we would not have survived this difficult time. Rabbi Yehiel Kalish who has become a lifelong friend and remains an active participant of the Achiezer Board. Mr. Phil Goldfeder who truly rose to the occasion during our dark hour. Rabbi Dovid Greenblatt and the CAF Board. Asher and Ettie Schoor and Nivneh. The heroic Chevra of my fellow Hatzalah members. Chasdei Lev. Shor Yoshuv, the White Shul, Chabad and the Young Israel of Woodmere. The JCCRP and RNSP. The selfless men and women of both the NYPD and the NCPD. Each and every one of you played a pivotal role and were a critical partner in ensuring that we were all there for as many community members as possible.

So many lessons were learned, and we carry those lessons with us until this very day. Collaboration, team work, comradery and a true sense of caring about others are all lessons that have stayed with us. Hurricane Sandy flood waters did not discriminate. They didn't choose one house or one person over another. We all went through it together- both sides of the 878, Frum or not Frum, wealthy or no means at all. In a way, Sandy was a wakeup call of what life is about- a reminder that we are no better and no different than the guy next to us, in front of us or behind us.

There is one particular moment that is engrained in our minds forever. It was an Erev Shabbos in the early aftermath, when the power was still out. The town was dark and the mood even darker. Resources were scarce and everything and everyone was tapped out. People were preparing to head to shul in the total darkness. Generators, gas and light towers were all out. Achiezer reached out in desperation to the Department of Homeland Security with the help of the venerable Matis Melnicke. Within less than an hour, a large 18 wheeler truck came rattling through town, schlepping large "glamorous" light towers. Literally, a beacon of light in the darkness. Critical intersections were suddenly flooded with light. A glimmer of hope. A glimmer of Shabbos.

We are ten years post Sandy, but the hope, dream and vision that we stay united continues to burn bright. Let us daven that we continue to stand shoulder to shoulder, helping one another. We must never forget that our nation is one and our community is second to none.

Boruch Ber Bender President, Achiezer

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