After seeing footage of the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, which struck the East Coast in late October, Shlomo Rechnitz, a Los Angeles-based businessman and philanthropist, donated $1 million to Torah Umesorah to help restore Jewish day schools flooded during the storm, as well as to help some of the individual families whose houses were damaged.
“On one hand, I wanted to help individuals, because obviously the things I saw were going on with individual people,” Rechnitz said in an interview with the Journal. “But, on the other hand, I realized that there were other organizations that were doing that as well, and everybody seemed to forget about the schools, the centers for education that were located in these areas that could not go on.”
Rabbi Zvi Bloom, executive director of Torah Umesorah, a national organization that services Jewish day schools across the country, said that about $700,000 of Rechnitz’s donation went to approximately two-dozen flooded schools. The remaining $300,000 went to community assistance funds to help families in and around the Rockaway Peninsula.
But even the grants to families might end up indirectly helping the schools.
“When it‘s going to come to paying tuition, I think the schools are going to start seeing fundraising going down and tuition collection going down as well,” Bloom said.
Weeks after the storm, the needs of the Jewish communities struck by Sandy are broad and significant. The Forward newspaper, whose own offices were flooded out during the storm, reported on Dec. 6 that at least 63 synagogues suffered some damage, in some cases amounting to more than $100,000.
Rechnitz hopes his gift will inspire others who live outside the affected areas to give generously to help the Jewish communities that are struggling.
“We’re all responsible for each other,” Rechnitz said. “People need to look at that and say, if it hurt him, I’ve got to take money out of my pocket and help out.”
For more information on the damaged synagogues and other institutions, visit forward.com.