photos by Bonnie Blackman
Hebrew Academy of Long Beach | Long Beach, NY
hen Hurricane Sandy swept through Long Beach, NY, a rush of ocean water came crashing down upon the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, Long Beach, N.Y., destroying most of the school’s first floor. The school, which is home to 760 students in grades 1–8, is situated right on the Long Beach boardwalk, one of the parts of New York that the hurricane hit hardest. “The Long Beach boardwalk is our yard,” said Rabbi Yehuda Fogel, yearbook adviser. “Nearly the entire first floor of our school had to be replaced.” The Beit Medrash, in the synagogue that is housed within the school, was completely flooded and all the walls and floors had to be removed and refurbished. Hebrew Academy was uninhabitable for nearly two months. Photos taken after the storm reveal a somber scene. Debris from the boardwalk is piled high in a parking lot; the demarcation between what used to be the school yard and the beach is gone and the building stands on a bleak and barren landscape. The concrete wall that used to be in the school yard is no longer there. After the storm struck, Fogel’s eighth grade students were relocated to Irving Place Minyan Synagogue, one of the places that kindly opened its doors to the faculty and students of Hebrew Academy. After a few months, they were allowed to return to their own classrooms at Hebrew Academy, but they still had obstacles to overcome. “When we moved back, we did not have access to much of the building for another few weeks, due to environmental issues.” In spite of everything, Fogel and his yearbook staff remained committed to producing their yearbook. “At first, we were at a standstill,” Fogel explained. “But, we soon began to realize what an important tool our yearbook was as a central method of documenting and remembering our experiences over the past eight years and especially how we were able, as a community,
to persevere during this troubling time.” Fogel is quick to give credit to his yearbook staff. “They were truly incredible. They met at their homes during the period that we were not in school. There was a period in which we did not have power (some students for weeks), and they used the old-fashioned pen-andpaper method to plan and design the yearbook.” Fogel acknowledged the help of parents as well. “They opened their homes to students for yearbook meetings.” When electricity was finally restored in the students’ homes, the yearbook staff was able to rely on technology to stay in touch. “The committee used iChat to meet at night on a regular basis, since we were unable to meet during school time while we were at the secondary location.” Their experience with Hurricane Sandy has impacted this year’s yearbook theme: “Connected Forever.” “It depicts the resilience of our school community in sticking together and being there for one another during a time of need.” Fogel said. “There were many students who volunteered after the storm in the cleanup effort. We had students initiate campaigns to replace items, such as clothing and other vital necessities, and even hockey equipment for students that lost everything in the storm.” Now that Hebrew Academy has reopened and the students are back in their own classrooms again, they are able to use their computers and printers to move forward with their yearbook production. “The team has been self-motivated in consistently persevering through any challenge.” Fogel said. This courageous class of eighth graders demonstrated uncommon resiliency in their response to this unprecedented, life-changing experience. Along the way, they learned valuable lessons about what it takes to grapple with and overcome adversity.
Debris from the Long Beach boardwalk piled high in a nearby parking lot. The outdoor pool at Hebrew Academy of Long Beach after the storm hit.
“The team has been self-motivated in consistently persevering through any challenge.” Rabbi Yehuda Fogel
spring 2013 |