Staten Island Jewish victims of Hurricane Sandy Still in Need of Financial Aid
By: Maura Grunlund
Published on SILive.com
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- As the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy fast approaches, many Staten Island Jews who survived the superstorm still are greatly in need of financial assistance.
While most of the 725 survivors served by OHEL's Project Hope have returned home, they're continuing to apply for financial grants for reimbursement, the New York City Build it Back program, aid getting work completed in their home and legal help to navigate insurance claims.
OHEL has worked very closely with Congregation Toras Emes in Oakwood and its Rabbi Yochanan Ivry and the Jewish Russian Learning Center and its Rebbitzen Esther Kushnirsky. All three organizations are sponsoring "Moving Forward -- Surviving and Thriving in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy," a free Day of Remembrance and Rebuilding on Oct. 27 at 2 p.m. at Congregation B'nai Israel in Bay Terrace. Dr. Norman Blumenthal will be the keynote speaker.
The Russian Jewish community was particularly hard-hit by Sandy.
"In general, the Russian Jewish population is very independent, pride themselves on their inner strength and resourcefulness, and it is difficult for them to accept help," said Tzivy Reiter, a licensed clinical social worker at OHEL.
"Many families rebuilt before waiting to see what their reimbursements would be and are left with financial shortfalls that are causing tremendous stress and family tension."
Unemployment that resulted from the superstorm is compounding the problem for some families.
OHEL provides individual crisis counseling, group counseling and public education such as workshops on trauma and stress management. While many survivors are reluctant to do formal counseling, they are open to Project Hope's resilience-based program, which normalizes reactions to trauma and empowers people through education and strengthening existing coping skills.
"Many people are experiencing storms and bad weather as trigger events which cause anxiety," Ms. Reiter said.
"The upcoming anniversary is also a trigger event which can bring up painful memories."
For services, to volunteer or to make donations, call 800-603-6435 (OHEL) or consult the web site. Donations also will be accepted by Toras Emes or the Jewish Russian Learning Center of South Beach.
Since 1969, OHEL Childrenâ€™s Home and Family Services has served as a dependable haven of individual and family support, helping people of all ages surmount everyday challenges, heal from trauma, and manage with strength and dignity during times of crises. Driven by service excellence, OHELâ€™s professional staff meet the myriad social service needs of the general community, while at the same time providing culturally-sensitive services to the Jewish community, including Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian speakers. Through highly-rated foster care, developmental disability, mental health, and other programs and services, OHEL provides supportive housing, treatment, care coordination, education, outreach and much more to elevate lives and strengthen individuals and communities in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Florida, California and worldwide on the web. David Mandel is the CEO of OHEL.