For many who physically survive catastrophic events such as the recent Hurricane Sandy
that devastated the northeastern United States on October 29, the psychological toll is often an overwhelming burden in itself.
And, in the case of Sandy, it’s not only Americans living in the affected regions that are experiencing trauma, it’s also those who used to call the area home before deciding to start new lives by making aliyah to Israel,
many of whom could only look on from afar, while praying for friends and relatives who remain in the New York and New Jersey area.
As a result, Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center quickly developed a telephone service allowing those who were affected by Sandy either because they were there when it hit, or because they still have loved ones in the northeastern United States, to set up appointments to help them deal with their understandable anxiety.
“I myself, was evacuated from Atlantic Beach, Long Island, and experienced the challenges of no electricity and heat since that Monday (of the storm),” explained Dr. Judith Guedalia, director of the neuropsychology unit and chief psychologist at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, who came up with the idea.
“Fortunately, I was able to return home on El Al not long after JFK Airport in New York re-opened.”
Dr. Guedalia contacted the heads of the Jerusalem EMDR Institute, Drs. Gary Quinn and Dani Kahn, and clinical psychologist Dr. Phyllis Strauss, who agreed to the call-in service.
“I think there are a lot of people who are without water and electricity for weeks already. We have in our unit a social work student from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and she told me she was also traumatized. The farther away you are from your home, the more terrible things you imagine. Some have returned to destroyed homes,” said Guedalia.
Volunteer Israeli-licensed and certified Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapists will examine those in need of care, process clients’ distressing memories, reduce their lingering influence and allow them to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms.
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life