April 20, 2024
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Help an East Brunswick Family Recover From Storm Damage

The worst nightmare a homeowner could face became a reality for the Landskroner family of East Brunswick this past summer. As Marcie Landskroner described the event, she and her family were asleep in their new home on a very rainy Motzei Shabbat in late August. Having outgrown their home of 15 years, they had been delighted to find a larger one in the same area of East Brunswick, which they purchased from another Jewish family that would be making aliyah.

Having moved in a mere three weeks earlier, the family was still getting accustomed to the sounds of the house. They also had a bit of anxiety with not only the upcoming start of the new school year but also the bar mitzvah of the second of their three children, planned for the following Shabbat.

Suddenly there was a large bang that woke the family from sleep, and caused the youngest child to scream and become inconsolable. Seeking to reassure the family that the source of the noise was something benign, like a fallen tree limb, Marcie’s husband walked through the house to check things out. Checking the basement led to the shocking discovery of water completely filling the finished basement and a strong smell of natural gas permeating the room. Realizing the danger, the family rushed out of the house in the rain as they called the fire department. Marcie said she grabbed the family cat, and being in “bar mitzvah mode” grabbed the dress that her daughter was to wear for the occasion.

Thinking that they would only be out of the house for a little while, the Landskroners accepted the offer of their friends who lived further down the block and sent the children to spend the rest of the night. Yet it soon became clear that they would not be permitted to return to their house anytime soon. The storm sewers behind their house had become backed up and sent a deluge of water with the force of a fire hose that burst through the foundation of their house. The banging they had heard was the water heater being pulled from its position, banging against the walls, and bursting the connecting gas pipes leading to a very dangerous condition.

Gas and electric were turned off in the house, and as the sun rose they understood that the house was uninhabitable due to the damage to the foundation. Marcie said that she now began to worry about the future. Not only would school be starting and the children didn’t have their new backpacks or other supplies, but their son’s bar mitzvah speech was still in the house as was the family Guinea pig.

Luckily, Marcie’s dress for the bar mitzvah was in her car and her two sons’ suits were at the tailor. Only her husband had to get something new to wear. Despite fears that the Guinea pig would not have been able to survive the heavy level of gas fumes, she was retrieved safely—along with the bar mitzvah speech!

Not wanting to frighten the children with the condition of the house, Marcie took them to stay with her parents in Pennsylvania. While in Pennsylvania, they stopped at a local Walmart to pick up some clothes and toiletries as they had left their home with only their pajamas. One son was particularly disappointed that he was unable to replace his beloved Yankees baseball cap, as the store only carried apparel with their local teams on it.

Marcie was determined that her son have the bar mitzvah experience that he had hoped for, and was so gratified to see how the East Brunswick community gathered together to help. Neighbors volunteered hospitality for relatives who could no longer sleep at the Landskroner house, with one family even hosting the entire extended family for Friday night dinner. One neighborhood family offered the Landskroners an apartment to stay in and Marcie was amazed at the meal train that was set up by the Young Israel of East Brunswick and how fresh-baked challahs, clothes and other needed items appeared at their doorstep.

While they have a place to stay for the near term, the concern is what to do for the future. Their insurance company is refusing to pay anything on their claim as their homeowner’s insurance policy did not have flood coverage. At press time, the township of East Brunswick had not yet committed to help. Meanwhile, the mortgage still has to be paid on the house as the Landskroners evaluate what they will do next. Each time it rains, more water enters the basement and mold is growing throughout the house. A full damage assessment cannot be done until the foundation can be shored up.

As bad as things are, Marcie noted that things could have been far worse. As one example, she noted that had the bar mitzvah been the weekend of the storm, people would have been asleep in the basement and would likely have died in the sudden onslaught of water.

Like most of us, the Landskroner family does not like to ask for help. But they are very grateful to the Jewish community for all they have done and will do. There is a GoFundMe set up for the family at https://tinyurl.com/3z2sr34s. The Young Israel of East Brunswick has also set up a tzedakah fund at https://www.yieb.org/form/landskroner-tzedakah-campaign.html.

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