NEW YORK CITY – The diverse neighborhood of Breezy Point was just one of many
neighborhoods in New York City devastated by superstorm Sandy, which pummeled
the East Coast on October 29. But the extent of the destruction in the area has
motivated a diverse international response – including from Israel, after one
humanitarian aid organization sent its troops to work in the US.
a non-profit organization that has operated in Haiti, Japan and South Sudan, has
mounted a multifaceted campaign to deliver aid to Sandy’s victims in Breezy
Point, a community in the Queens borough where over 3,800 homes have been
“People don’t understand the extent of what happened here,”
said Navonel Glick, the program director of IsraAID on the ground in Breezy
Point. “It’s important that there be an Israeli response to events like
Glick worked for IsraAID during the famine in Kenya, and said he
will go to Haiti afterward, where Sandy, then a potent hurricane as it passed
through the island nation, killed 54 people.
“We go into disaster zones
regardless of who needs help,” Glick said.
One volunteer on the ground
said his job has been more than gutting and clearing debris – though those
efforts have kept him busy.
Nathan Lyons, a recent transplant from
England to Israel, said he never expected the emotional impact of the storm when
he boarded a plane to New York last week.
“It’s been incredibly moving,”
said Lyons. “You’d expect in a place like New York [that] these victims would be
saturated with help. But what we’re doing is moving people to tears.”
volunteer noted a particularly poignant moment: aiding an artist who had her
entire life’s work destroyed in her basement.
The Israeli organization
has partnered with the United Jewish Appeal’s Toronto branch, as well as the
Merrick Jewish community at Breezy Point.
Their efforts are focused on
two fronts: immediate, on-site assistance and long-term aid for those worst
“We’re looking to help families with no insurance support,”
said Shahar Zahavi, the founding director of IsraAID.
“And we’re doing
better than expected raising funds in Israel itself, as many have family ties to
Many of the homes in the Queens neighborhood had their
foundations washed out from under them in a surge that stood 2.5 meters
Those houses still standing remain without power, and are left
housing shuttered families with a community to rebuild.
“Their entire way
of life is necessitated on certain systems working,” said Glick. “For people who
are suddenly without [those systems], it’s a real psychological blow.”