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Brooklyn, NY - One Year Later: Triumph And Joy In Seagate As Community Gathers For Hachnasas Sefer Torah

Published on: October 30, 2013 03:47 PM
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 Hachnasas Sefer Torah in Seagte Section of Brooklyn, NY on Oct. 29, 2013. (Eli Wohl/VINnews.com)Brooklyn, NY - 365 days after Seagate was nearly wiped off the map, residents came together to give thanks to Hakadosh Baruch Hu at a Hurricane Sandy Commemorative Event.

“Commensurate with the damages that we had, it is a miracle that there were no casualties and that everyone came away safe,” Esti Zicherman, a Seagate resident who was one of the coordinators of the event, told VIN News.  “We had to say thank you to Hashem and a full year later it was time to do so.”

The celebratory evening, which ran from 6 to 9 PM, featured a hachnasas Sefer Torah, dedicated by Yossi Wohlhendler to Congregation Avodas Yisroel, the only shul in Seagate that lost a Sefer Torah during Sandy.
Video below, singers Mordechai Ben David and Yossi Green, both debuted new songs, on the event.

“My father had ordered a Sefer Torah a while back but decided that the anniversary of Sandy was the right time to dedicate it,” said Joel Wohlhendler.  “My father has a business, but every single day for the last year getting Seagate back on his feet has been his full time job.”


The event also gave Seagate a chance to express its thanks to the many volunteers who spent hours helping them deal with their staggering losses.

“We are still a community and a year later we are back, but it is only because of klal yisroel,” said Ms. Zicherman, who said that the chesed demonstrated by others was a lifeline to the residents of Seagate who struggled in the aftermath of the devastating storm.

“It really warmed our hearts,” explained Ms. Zicherman.  “We are accustomed to being on the giving end.  It was difficult for us to be the ones who were on the receiving this time.

Approximately 2000 people gathered in Seagate for the event and outsiders were warmly welcomed by residents.

“Jews, non- Jews, it didn’t matter,” said Ms. Zicherman.  “We are neighbors, friends, family. It was an opportunity to be there with each other.”

The evening featured countless emotional moments. Seagate residents, singers Mordechai Ben David and Yossi Green, both debuted new songs.  While Green’s song, set to the words “Hodu l’Hashem ki tov” was written for last night’s gala, Mordechai Ben David’s composition was written four days post-Sandy and featured the lyrics “Kol man d’avid Rachmana l’tav avid.”  There were addresses by local rabbanim and a feature presentation on the storm that depicted the damage but focused more on the incredible acts of chesed that were far more powerful than the record storm surges.

“Every issue we had was answered by a division of klal yisroel,” said Ms. Zicherman.  “Whether it was physical or emotional, whatever it was, klal yisroel answered.”

The most poignant moments of the night came at 8:02 PM, the exact time when walls of water crashed into the gated community.

“We had the video timed so that we could show the difference from 8:02 of last year to 8:02 of this year,” said Ms. Zicherman.  “Someone blew the shofar and we released 500 illuminated sky lanterns into the air.  We sent all those lights up to shomayim and it was like an invitation to please send us Moshiach.”

The hachnasas Sefer Torah began in earnest after a moment of grateful Tehillim by Seagate’s Rov, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Meisels.

“They brought out the Sefer Torah and everyone started dancing,” said Ms. Zicherman.  “The difference between this year and last year was incredible.  Last year we were using flashlights.  This year we had hundreds of torches accompanying the Sefer Torah.  Last year our streets were lit up by the Shomrim Command Center.  This year it was the lights from the Sefer Torah truck that illuminated our way.”

The joyous procession began at the Oceanview Avenue home of Mordechai Ben David and wound its way through every street in Seagate, finally arriving at its ultimate destination on Oceanic Avenue.

Ms. Zicherman, who has still not been able to return to her own home, noted that this past year has added a new level of meaning to her personal life.

“I learned so much about giving and the greatness of people,” said Ms. Zicherman.  “The people of Baltimore were particularly helpful, with hundreds of them coming on three separate occasions.  We feel like we found a sister city.”

Coordinators of the event extended a special invitation to the Baltimore volunteers, sponsoring a bus from Baltimore for the hachnasas Sefer Torah.  Approximately 35 Baltimoreans made the trek to Seagate for the festivities.

Jeff Cohn, of BaltimoreJewishLife.com, said that the achdus and gratitude that were on display last night were literally palpable.

“There were moments when people who found out you were from Baltimore said things like ‘Shkoyach’, ‘Thank you’, ‘We couldn’t have done it without you’ and ‘You saved our lives’,” said Cohn.  “Or moments like when a guy gives you his hand, and you shake it and you can feel the emotions in his heart right through his fingers.  You can feel them.  You can actually touch them. The whole thing was surreal.”

Cohn described the hachnasas Sefer Torah as the greatest simcha he has ever seen in his life.

“If you want to try to imagine what Olam Haba is on a human plane, that is what Seagate was last night.  It was Olam Haba in Olam Hazeh.  No one in Seagate has to worry about their feet hurting today because no one’s feet ever touched the ground last night.”

Photo credit: Eli Wohl/VINNews.com

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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »


 Oct 30, 2013 at 03:57 PM CSLMoish Says:

Amazing response to Sandy. Absolutely wonderful to see Rabbi Meisels dancing through Seagate and through other Shuls till 120 imh.
Thanks Eli for the pics.


 Oct 30, 2013 at 04:10 PM CSLMoish Says:

I wanna publicly acknowledge that MBD took on a big part in the rebuilding effort personally and physically along with esty Zicherman and Wolhendler.


 Oct 30, 2013 at 06:05 PM Anonymous Says:

This was one of the most beautiful nights in sea gate history!!!


 Oct 30, 2013 at 05:17 PM mossad Says:

Stunning! Real joy and pride by men, women and children alike, taking part in such unity, i am truly proud of Seagate, keep it up!


 Oct 30, 2013 at 07:57 PM Tothepoint123 Says:

The ACHDUS is amazing!


 Oct 30, 2013 at 08:01 PM enlightened-yid Says:

Didn't know so many Hasidim live in Seagate.


 Oct 31, 2013 at 12:52 AM seagate resident Says:

A special thanks to the staff of KORN`S TORAH TRUCK. first time i see this beautiful truck night time its so nice the chupa and truck decorated with a magnificent lighted crown on top of the truck amazing. also i realized they also provide the light in the Chupa. very nice and professional job. and to my community keep it up Seagate stay strong...!


 Oct 31, 2013 at 04:09 AM I_Am_Me Says:

AWESOME!!! BEAUTIFUL!!! Rabbi Wolhendler, you're the greatest within your community & out of your community!! The mitzvot that you do will bring Moshiach a lot sooner! The loved ones we've both lost are smiling down at you, some with nachas & others wishing they could have been here to help you! May you have 180 years of greatness, health & happiness!!! Seagate rock on!!!


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