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Sandy vs. Mazel

Torah scroll damaged in storm Photo: Ruta Okonov
Torah scroll damaged in storm Photo: Ruta Okonov
 
Mazel Day School Photo: Ruta Okonov
Mazel Day School Photo: Ruta Okonov
 
Principal Chani Okonov Photo: Ruta Okonov
Principal Chani Okonov Photo: Ruta Okonov
 
 

Torah scrolls ruined by Hurricane Sandy

Blotched parchments unrolled to dry at Mazel Day School's synagogue after being destroyed by floodwaters. Damage estimates at hundreds of thousands of dollars, Jewish community heartbroken

Liron Nagler-Cohen
Published: 11.03.12, 07:50 / Israel Jewish Scene

The pictures posted on the Facebook page of the Mazel Day School in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn leave no room for doubt: Sandy was here.

 

The photos, categorized under the title, "Sandy vs. Mazel," show wet books, shelves, computers and tables scattered all over the classroom floors.

 

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The most painful damage, as far as the Jewish community is concerned, was sustained by Torah scrolls in the adjacent synagogue, and the pictures of blotched parchments unrolled to dry on the shul's benches have been shared on the Internet by hundreds of shocked worshippers.

 

The Mazel Day School, which belongs to Chabad, serves the Russian-speaking Jewish community in Brighton Beach in south Brooklyn. The neighborhood, which was once home to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, has in recent years absorbed a large community of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, including many Jews.


"זה שבר לגמרי את הקהילה היהודית". ספרי התורה פרושים לייבוש (צילום: רותה אוקונוב) 

Torah scroll parchments unrolled to dry (Photo: Ruta Okonov)

 

So far, the damage has been estimated at $450,000, which does not include the cost of repairing the Torah scrolls, that are worth alone hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

"It breaks my heart, makes me cry," said a woman whose children study in the school after viewing the damage. "I can't even show the pictures to my children."


כל ספרי הקודש נפגעו בסופה (צילום: רותה אוקונוב)

Prayer books damaged by storm (Photo: Ruta Okonov)

 

School principal Chani Okonov says the destruction caused by the storm "left the Jewish community heartbroken."

 

According to Okonov, "Years of hard work, love and attention were dedicated to the establishment of this school, which is the only Jewish educational institution in the area."

 

The school's ground floor, which sustained the greatest damage, includes a synagogue which serves the community's 250 families.


צילום: רותה אוקונוב

'The volunteer work is heartwarming' (Photo: Ruta Okonov)

 

Since the storm has gone, many of the community members have been working to restore the school and synagogue. "The volunteer work is heartwarming," says Okonov, "but financial support from external sources is critical for the restoration of the school, which has a crucial role in the Jewish-Russian community."

 

In a fund raising website opened Wednesday, the school wrote: "Before the storm Sandy, we were working tirelessly to fundraise for a new building to expand our middle school and to add more children from the extensive wait list. The storm has crashed our dreams and has hit us with a reality of now raising funds to replace what we previously had.


.

Destruction at Satmar Yeshiva in Sea Gate

 

In the meantime, the building's condition makes it impossible to pray in the synagogue or study in the school. In the Facebook page, one of the teachers provided a link to a website offering online lessons on different subjects.

 

"Our children don't have anywhere else to go and we are looking for your help in giving them another chance. Our priority is to get our children back in classrooms so they can continue to learn and flourish."

 

Water reaches yeshiva's 2nd floor

In Sea Gate, the Jewish neighborhood which sustained the greatest damage during the storm, Satmar Hasidim cannot believe their eyes: The hurricane managed to overtake the yeshiva, with water reaching the second floor and flooding the magnificent house of study.

 

"The yeshiva management was prepared for the storm," one of the Hasidim told Ynet. "Today they arrived to see the damage and were overwhelmed by the destruction. All the books, all the furniture – everything was floating in the water."

 

In this case too, the damage is estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the meantime, the yeshiva students have moved to the Satmar house of study in the nearby Borough Park neighborhood, and it will likely take at least two weeks and up to a month to restore the place.

 

 

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