While many New Yorkers lined Central Park West last Thursday morning to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a few blocks away from the floats, community members joined for a fundraiser at the Young Israel of The West Side, where they ended up raising one million dollars to assist the victims.
Representing the hard hit community of Long Beach, I was invited to attend and offer some words from the perspective of those most affected. I was deeply moved by the featured speakers, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Rabbi Paysach Krohn and Rabbi Don Blumberg.
Rabbi Wachsman used the example of our mother Rivka who imagined herself in her sister’s position and refused to allow Leah to be embarrassed under the altar, no matter the personal cost to Rivka. He begged those listening to try and imagine what those suffering were going through, and – like Moses in ancient Egypt – step in to support their falling brothers.
My dear friend Rabbi Krohn moved us all to tears with story after story. When he spoke of his young grandson who fled Far Rockaway and moved into the Krohn home with his family, even Rabbi Krohn couldn’t hold back his emotions. It was at dinner one night when this young boy turned to Rabbi Krohn and he said, “Zaidy, we have become the nebachs.” (For the few of you who may not understand that, in my best Sephardic translation of Yiddish, “Grandpa, we have become the pitiful.”) If this is what a young boy feels, imagine the helpless parents, who – a full month later – are still are often at a loss at what to do.
“We are heartbroken by the suffering of our brothers and want to show that we care and that we are making efforts to help out in this time of need,” said Sam Domb, noted philanthropist and the inspiration behind this initiative. Proceeds from the relief effort will be distributed by a committee of West Side Rabbis and lay leaders. Michael Landau, Chairman of the COJO, explained that the goal is to assist as many of the victims as possible. With that in mind the committee scheduled meetings with the various communities this week.
William E. Rapfogel, Met Council CEO – whom the entire community should recognize for his tremendous dedication – commented, “We are extremely grateful for the efforts of the West Side COJO and the Shuls of the West Side. Proceeds from this event will go directly towards serving the critical needs of our clients who are hurting and desperately want to get on the road to recovery. It is an inspiration to see communities come together to lend a hand to their fellow New Yorkers. I hope other communities are encouraged to join together in this way, so that they may have an equally huge impact on the lives of their neighbors in need.”
I can echo Willie’s words. Walking around with hat in hand these past few weeks on behalf of my own small community and the Synagogues of Long Beach, it was a tremendously uplifting experience to see the dedication of Mr. Domb, Mr. Landau and all the families from the West Side who were spared the hurricane’s wrath, but who let us know they were there to share our pain and lend a helping hand. On behalf of the people of Sea Gate, Manhattan Beach, Belle Harbor, Far Rockaway, Atlantic Beach, Long Beach and Oceanside, we thank you.
If you would like to organize a fundraiser and need help or information, please contact me: David Bibi, Rabbi, Sephardic Congregation of Long Beach, at DavidBibi@gmail.com.