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Photo by: Courtesy IsraAID
IsraAID helps those devastated by Sandy
By MICHAEL WILNER, SPECIAL TO THE JERUSALEM POST
13/11/2012
Non-profit organization mounts multifaceted campaign to deliver aid to Sandy victims in Breezy point, Queens.
 
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.

IsraAID, 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 affected.

“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 this.”

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.”

One 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 affected.

“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 New York.”

Many of the homes in the Queens neighborhood had their foundations washed out from under them in a surge that stood 2.5 meters tall.

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.”
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