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When the Waters Recede:
On the Ground in the Aftermath of Sandy

“The water was at the top of that fence,” an elderly man says to us, pointing to a seven-foot high rusted chain-link fence. “The ocean and the bay just came together, right through my house,” he shares as his eyes fill with tears. Standing in a driveway on a deserted street in Far Rockaway New York, the human cost of Sandy hits us.

For four days a small team from the Temple traveled with our director of safety & security, Cory Wenter, and me throughout the Rockaways and the South Shore of Long Island, aiding in the ongoing Hurricane Sandy relief effort. We spent our days gutting homes destroyed by the floodwaters; pulling up floors, tearing down drywall, ripping out insulation—demolishing anything and everything we could, without bringing down the structure itself. Hours of dirty, backbreaking, exhausting and rewarding work. Three families will eventually be able to move back into their homes because of the work our team accomplished. And that’s what it was really all about—the people.

We met Frank our second day. A successful Jeweler in the 80s, he was long retired and living on a fixed income, supporting his daughter and struggling to make ends meet. Last summer his hot water heater burst, flooding his basement. He spent the little savings he had to repair the water damage—then Sandy came.

“Thank you, guys,” he said with the most sincere gratitude I’ve ever heard or felt. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.” He refused to let us leave until he fed us lunch—a couple of pizzas from the neighborhood pizzeria that just reopened.

“Where are you guys from?” he asked as we ate.

“Los Angeles,” we responded.

“Really? I visited there once. Beautiful! What else are you doing while you’re here?” he questioned us.

“This is it. We came to work. We came to help. That’s it,” we told him.

“You came all the way from California to help for a few days?” He looked at us with surprised eyes, welling with tears. “Thank you. Thank you. God bless you.”

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

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