Disaster Relief Fund For Schools


Yeshiva of Belle Harbor lost its entire facility, including books and computers, in Hurricane Sandy.

Nonetheless the Rockaway school, which has already relocated to a new facility in Brooklyn, is in better shape than some of its faculty members. One teacher, who lives in Long Beach, had her house and both cars “destroyed” and is “bouncing from home to home with her children,” said Rabbi Boaz Tomsky, the yeshiva’s principal.

This week Rabbi Tomsky filed an application for her, as well as three other of his teachers, to receive emergency assistance through a new $1.5 million day school/yeshiva disaster relief fund created by UJA-Federation of New York and the Avi Chai Foundation.

The fund, administered through the schools, is designated for emergency assistance for educators and tuition assistance for families affected by Hurricane Sandy.

To qualify, educators must live in New York City’s Zone A or on the South Shore of Long Island, have suffered significant damage or loss of home and personal property and also be registered for FEMA support. Applications for the $500,000 in emergency aid to faculty (submitted on their behalf by employers) were due at the end of Tuesday, and federation officials planned to begin making allocations and sending out checks as early as Wednesday.

“The idea was not to create unrealistic deadlines for schools, but to get checks out as fast as possible,” said Yossi Prager, executive director of Avi Chai, explaining why applications were due so soon after the announcement.

Schools applying for the emergency fund’s $1 million tuition assistance component will have a few weeks to apply, as the deadline is Nov. 30. Schools in New York City, Westchester, and Long Island may apply on behalf of individual students. As with the faculty awards, the students’ families must live in Zone A or Long Island’s South Shore and have registered for FEMA in order to qualify.

Jointly funded and planned by UJA-Federation and Avi Chai, the fund was created in just three days, Prager said. The federation’s “diligent legwork on the ground” reaching out to affected institutions made it possible to quickly assess the areas of most pressing need for day schools, he said.

Rabbi Deborah Joselow, managing director of UJA-Federation’s Coalition on Jewish Identity and Renewal, said she anticipates more needs and services going forward.

“It isn’t clear how this is going to settle,” she said, noting that in addition to necessary repairs to physical infrastructure, there will likely be “psychosocial” needs. “We are already deploying social workers to day schools, and we may have to expand that.”