The Jewish community in Buffalo along with everyone else in the city and area was beginning to recover today from the severe winter blizzard which dumped 170 inches of snow and drove temperatures down to below freezing for 35 consecutive days.
Lester Levin, executive director of the United Jewish Federation, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a telephone interview that the blizzard forced the Jewish community to close or curtail programs and facilities, that many individuals in the community suffered severe economic losses because businesses and offices were shut, and that one of the major buildings, the Jewish Community Center, was heavily damaged.
Levin said that yesterday was the first time in 11 days that Jewish schools were reopened for elementary and high school students. They along with all Jewish religious and other schools in the area, had been closed. Many synagogues were forced to close for the past two weekends and Shabbat services cancelled, in some cases for the first time in their histories.
Despite the blizzard, three Orthodox and one Reform congregation did meet. Two synagogues which lacked prayer minyans for one of the Saturday morning services eventually combined for the necessary minyan.
Levin explained that synagogues, schools and other community institutions were closed either because the snow made it impossible to reach the buildings or low thermostat heating regulations made it difficult to keep the buildings open. “If it wasn’t one thing, it was another,” he said.
PROGRAM FOR ELDERLY CANCELLED
Levin stated that the Federation had to cancel for a week its daily program where some 300 elderly persons are served a communal kosher lunch as well as a program which provides kosher meals at home to 25 elderly persons living on below poverty level incomes. However, he noted that a telephone assurance program was expanded whereby the elderly were telephoned daily and emergency help was rushed to a home if it was needed.
The major loss to the community occurred during the weekend of Jan. 28 when the blizzard hit hardest. Pipes at the two-year-old community center froze and broke, causing flooding and resulting in some $100,000 damage. Levin said the gym at the center will have to be closed for eight weeks while repair work is being done.
He said the Federation managed to operate and when the suburbs were cleared, before Buffalo itself was, some operations were shifted out there temporarily. He said when the ban on auto traffic in the city was lifted, the Federation was allowed to transport employees to work if they traveled in a car with three or more people.
The Feb. 4 issue of the Buffalo Jewish Review came out later and with a smaller edition because of the blizzard. The weather and the resulting snow emergency prevented access to the paper’s downtown office for two days and the printer’s office in Lancaster was also closed for two days.
CLEVELAND, NEW JERSEY HIT
Meanwhile, other cities also suffered from blizzard conditions; though not as severely as the Buffalo area. In Cleveland, the Jewish Community Federation made contingency plans to keep hospitals and nursing homes operating if there was a cutback in natural gas. During the Jan. 28 weekend many schools were closed and synagogue services were cancelled. Other Jewish community activities were curtailed, mainly to conserve fuel.
Cold weather also delayed the start of a 144 unit apartment house for senior citizens in Cherry Hill sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey. Construction of the 13 story building was due to start Jan. 25 but the unusual condition of frozen soil exceeding two feet in depth prevented mechanical diggers and earth removing machines from penetrating the crust.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.