As Hurricane Sandy inches ever closer to the Eastern Seaboard, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Eli and Beila Goodman are among the millions of people, stretching from Boston to Washington, D.C., preparing for the arrival of what meteorologists say could be one of the biggest storms on record. Based in Long Beach, N.Y., they spent Sunday closely following news of the tropical system’s large water surge and high winds, as well as the damage said to be on the way. With a mandatory evacuation order issued for their area, they’ve been working quickly to sandbag both their ground-floor apartment and their synagogue, as well as to help others doing the same.

The rabbi, who directs Chabad of the Beaches and serves as educational director of the local Bach Jewish Center, said they’re stocked with water and flashlights, and will stand at the ready to assist with whatever is needed. They’ll be relocating several blocks from the water to wait out the surf and wind.

“I have a few people ready and on call to help,” stated Goodman, who also spent most of the day reaching out to locals to make sure everyone had plans for the storm.

Topping headlines around the country as it develops, Sandy has cancelled flights, closed offices, and halted New York City’s bustling mass transit system. The National Weather Service warned that Hurricane Sandy is “expected to bring life-threatening storm surge flooding to the Mid-Atlantic Coast . . . including Long Island Sound and New York Harbor, [and] will bring costal hurricane winds and heavy Appalachian snows.”

It’s a recipe for possible disaster that has led people like Rabbi Yaakov Saacks to “batten down the hatches.” Though several miles from the oceanfront, the co-director of New York’s Lubavitch Chai Center of Dix Hills and his congregants cleared out their yards, verified drains were open, rushed out to buy generators and sandbagged their garages. Many filled up bathtubs with water in case of service interruptions, and cleared store shelves of such staples as bread and cereal.

Saacks noted that he’s been fielding calls from concerned parents wondering if the Jewish preschool is still in session—it’s cancelled classes for the duration of the storm—and if he has any “D” batteries.

“Any ones I have, I’ve given out,” he confirmed.

Elsewhere in the Empire State, centers further from danger areas, such as the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Merrick, informed their members and congregants that their offices would remain open.

“If there is something we can help you with, such as flashlights, food, water, or the like, please contact us,” Rabbi Shimon Kramer said in an e‑mail. “If you have elderly neighbors or a neighbor who’s alone, try and take a moment to check up on them. At all times, remember to follow instructions from the local authorities and let’s weather the storm together!”

Meanwhile, Sunday morning, in Livingston, N.J., Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum held a 2,000-person-strong walkathon benefiting the local Friendship Circle, which pairs teenage volunteers with children with special needs. Postponed last year because of a snowstorm, the event just squeaked by the churning seas of Sandy.

“It was a beautiful event, and everyone was happy to come out and catch some happiness before the craziness we might go through,” said Grossbaum.

Azi Cutter and Philip Ostrove fill sandbags outside Chabad of the Beaches in Long Beach, N.Y.
Azi Cutter and Philip Ostrove fill sandbags outside Chabad of the Beaches in Long Beach, N.Y.

The rabbi recalled how past storms knocked out power in parts of the area for up to a week, a challenge that brought people together.

“We really saw the best of people come out,” he said. “They opened their homes to each other. And whatever we go through in the next couple days, we will go through as a community.”

In Toms River, N.J., Rabbi Moshe Gourarie made arrangements to either borrow a generator or move his two freezers full of food in the event of a power outage.

“We’re hoping that if the electricity goes out, it won’t go out for long,” he said.

He also offered to have people come stay with his family if necessary, and in a Friday e‑mail reminded residents that he and his wife are available to help.

“At this point, it’s a waiting game,” he said as the wind began to pick up. “We’ve prepared ourselves: Whatever the officials have told us to do, we’ve done, and now we have to wait and see.”

Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport of Chabad of Atlantic County, about an hour outside of Atlantic City, spent the afternoon preparing his house and synagogue, and making calls to the community.

Volunteers moved the Torah scrolls to higher ground and put plastic tape over the windows, before the rabbi headed out with his wife and children to stay with fellow Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries further inland.

“The question is what’s going to be needed afterwards, what people will need to recover from the storm,” he said. “I hope to be back as soon as possible. Depending on the damage, I have no idea when to expect to return.”