Beyond Words

Two of the people killed by Hurricane Sandy were two young Brooklynites, Jessie Streich-Kest (24) and Jacob Vogelman (23) -- both young people of extraordinary values and bright promise.  I cannot find any way to understand or explain their loss, or really even begin to grieve.  I'm so deeply sad and angry.  But I at least want to take a minute to honor their memory, let you know a little bit about them, and share the funeral and memorial/tribute arrangements.

I knew Jessie, a bright young teacher and activist.  I worked with her on Eric Schneiderman's campaign for attorney general, and she was energetic and tireless and a lot of fun.  And she followed up to lobby our office (very persistently) on the cause of animal rights, something she felt very passionately about.  She had recently started working as a special education teacher at Bushwick Social Justice High School, and just had her very first parent-teacher conferences last week. 

Jake Vogelman, as this heart-breaking article puts it, "was a kind of unofficial first responder in things as small as fixing a neighbor's television or as large as accompanying a friend into Hurricane Sandy" when needed.  Jake had graduated cum laude from University of Buffalo in theater design (not letting his dyslexia stop him), and was working toward his Master's Degree at Brooklyn College.

Both Jessie and Jacob come from pretty remarkable stock.  Jacob's mom, Park Sloper Marcia Sikowitz, is a NYC Housing Court Judge who has devoted her career to social justice and to helping the citizens of Brooklyn. His father, Lawrence Vogelman, now an attorney in New Hampshire, previously co-directed Cardozo's criminal law clinic with Barry Scheck, one of the founders of the Innocence Project.

Jessie's parents are also deep and long-time leaders for justice in Brooklyn -- and good friends of mine.  Jessie's dad, Jon Kest, is truly an extraordinary and unsung leader for justice in NYC, having served as Lead Organizer for New York ACORN, and more recently for New York Communities for Change, organizing low-income people to build power and make real, concrete change. (I had one of my first job interviews with Jon, to be an ACORN organizer, when I first came to NYC. I couldn't cut it, but have still had the privilege of having him direct me in efforts for justice for two decades since).  And Jessie's mom Fran Streich is a wonderful and tireless organizer of public school teachers, parents and low-wage day care workers.

Funeral and Shiva Arrangements

Jacob's funeral will be tomorrow morning, Friday, November 2nd at 9:30 am at Congregation Beth Elohim (274 Garfield Place, in Park Slope).  Burial at Mount Lebanon Cemetery to follow.  The family will sit Shiva at the home of Marcia Sikowitz, 443 1st Street, 3R, Brooklyn.  Shiva hours are Friday 2-5 p.m.; Saturday 6-9 p.m.; Sunday, Monday and Tuesday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

Jessie's service will be held on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Congregation Beth Elohim as well.  The family will sit Shiva at the home of Jon Kest and Fran Streich, 99 Argyle Road, Brooklyn, NY 11226 (between Church Avenue and Albermarle Road).  Shiva hours are Sunday November 7-9 p.m.; and Monday 6-9 p.m.  The Shiva will be offered with support from members of Kolot Chayeinu: Voices of Our Lives.

Memorial Contributions

For Jacob:

In lieu of flowers, please send tax-deductible donations to Learning Ally: Making Reading Accessible for All.   This wonderful organization, formerly called Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, provided Jake with many, many free recorded books over the years, especially when he was a child, and truly made a big difference in his life.

For Jessie:

To honor her kind heart and love of animals, donations in her honor are being made to the Sean Casey Animal Rescue Center, a truly marvelous animal rescue shelter in Kensington. 

May their memories be for a blessing.