By Rabbi Moshe Schapiro – Shliach in Hoboken
Hoboken is situated on the Hudson River just across from Lower Manhattan, sandwiched between the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels. Though it is small in size, often referred to as the Mile Square City, it is home to over 55,000 people, mostly young professionals.
The city lies very low and is very prone to flooding from rain so when they ordered a mandatory evacuation of all 1st floor apartments, I wasn’t really fazed, especially since Irene had come and gone and skipped our house (though neighbors did have extensive flooding- Our Chabad house is on the lower part of town, but it is on the middle of the block which is slightly more elevated than the rest.)
On Monday at 7:20 pm we were just clearing up from supper when I happened to check out the window and watched as what looked like 2 rivers rapidly approaching from either side of the street and about to converge right outside our home.
There had not been much rain and only a couple of minutes of strong wind, so we were completely caught off guard! The Hudson River had surged and flooded over our streets.
We rushed to the garage and began frantically emptying boxes, first and foremost the Pesach stuff, followed by the bottom two shelves on either side. We arranged the boxes on the steps going up.
Our older kids, who were in bed but looking out of the window looked at this as an adventure until the lights suddenly went out in the entire city.
By 11 pm, as we continued emptying the garage, the water continued to rise and had made its way through our front entrance and then a little later, up the steps and into our first floor, threatening our boxes on the steps. We quickly schlepped the boxes to higher ground and for the first time, we were afraid.
At this point our two fridges and freezers were now floating in the garage and our brand new boilers were half submerged.
At 1 am we saw that the water was no longer coming in our direction and were hopeful that soon the waters would recede.
To get an idea of the waters depth at this time: As point of reference, the water was completely covering the fire hydrant opposite our home. Unfortunately we could not get any clear pictures of the highest point of the water as it was pitch dark and the flashlights did not do much for the camera.
When we woke up Tuesday morning, it was surreal to see in the day-light, the canals that had formed in every street. It almost looked like Venice, sans the boats. But soon small boats did begin arriving, evacuating those who needed to leave.
We spent the day, mostly watching from the window as boats and fire trucks passed by and taking pictures of the slowly receding waters. Neighbors called out to each other and it was, in true Hoboken spirit, a party of sorts taking place.
By Wednesday afternoon, our center of the street was finally clear but to our right and our left, there were still these ‘rivers’ . Our neighbors now began the dreaded clean-up as hundreds of people braved the waters to come and check out the scene and get in on the action.
News reporters, the national guard trucks, curious people some with boots and garbage bags on their feet and some, not so smart ones, barefoot. There were even people on bikes riding through the water to get some pictures.
At this point, I deemed it safe to go out and check on some older and more vulnerable community members. I hitched a ride with the National Guard and went out with them to offer assistance to those in need. As shkiah arrived, several Tefillins later, including one Karkafta, I picked up my stir crazy children and walked the block and a half to the Boys and Girls Club where we rent space for our shul and Hebrew School. There we found the entire wooden floor completely damaged and some other damage to our Aron Kodesh and its contents. Boruch Hashem the Torah was on higher ground in our safe.
Late Wednesday night, Hatzalah of Union City came by with my brother to bring me a generator he had bought for us. No other vehicular traffic was allowed in Hoboken and my car had been parked in Union City. Hatzalah took me to Union City where I showered, recharged all batteries and picked up my car.
Thursday we discover that the ceiling downstairs has come down, a result of the backed-up sewers consistently overflowing in kitchen and eventually soaking the floorboards.
Team Hoboken consisting of dedicated Chabad members along with some hired help cleans out the garage and discards of many items including a Sukkah, vacuum cleaner and more. It’s going ot be a long process….
Thursday the children have returned to school and life will resume, albeit (for the time being) in a cold home with no electric power.
Boruch Hashem we are all safe and well and as water is a siman brocha, may we and indeed all of klal yisroel be benched with only brochos!
If you would like to help, click here
A number of shluchim in Brooklyn and the larger New York area were hit really hard by the hurricane. Some had their homes and Chabad houses flooded with five feet of water and had much of their belongings destroyed.
These shluchim need help clearing their homes of debris and providing much needed supplies to their communities.
If you would like to volunteer please fill out the form below.