Update # 2

The Day I Met Devastation

Monday, September 9, 2019 

Dear Friends,

This week I met devastation. I came face to face with it, and seeing it with my own eyes has left a lasting impact on me. Allow me to share. 

I spent the last few days in Freeport. I was met with what was once a beautiful island, filled with sprawling buildings, colorful homes and vibrant life. All of that is now gone. I met people aimlessly wandering up and down the streets with no direction of where to go, people searching through the ruins of their homes to find a remnant of what was once there. I met a young girl and gave her a teddy bear, hoping it would bring a small measure of comfort. She held it tight and started to cry and said, "Mom, this reminds me of the doll I left on my bed before our house fell down!". I met an elderly woman sitting on a stoop in front of a dilapidated and broken home, and upon seeing the case of water and food items we had for her, she told me, "I haven't had a drop of water in 24 hours!" I walked into a shelter that usually holds up to 100 people, but this day there were over 200. It was hot and sticky inside, and I wondered if sleep was even possible in such a room. There is barely any electricity or running water on the island, and the shelters are no exception. I met with people who have lost everything to the hurricane; their homes and everything inside it, and many who unfortunately lost family or friends. The amount of damage, despair and lack of basic necessities is heartbreaking.

I cried. I cried to see good people suffer so much. I found myself hugging them, and when I tried to let go, they held on. They needed the hug, they needed love, and they needed to know that people care.

Together with a group of volunteers, we went around to visit people in the various affected areas. Our team gave out thousands of meals, water bottles and hygiene items.  

With the help and financial support from several Jewish organizations and generous donors both in our local community and worldwide, we created a detailed plan to provide much-needed assistance. Below is our three-part approach.

1.  The first priority is focused on the immediate and most urgent needs, which is food water and hygiene. We are distributing 10,000 ready-to-eat meals daily, and working with local organizations as we set up 17 distributions centers around the most affected areas of the island. As of yet, we have sent over 30 palettes of water. Thousands of hygiene packages containing essential items such as cleansing wipes, soap bars, toilet paper, toothbrush and toothpaste, diapers and feminine products, are given out daily. We hope that by providing this, we can help them achieve some semblance of normalcy and routine. Together with our team, we are coordinating and empowering local teenagers to distribute these items which give them a sense of purpose and fulfillment. 

2.  Our second initiative is to help the children who are one of the most vulnerable parts of the population cope with their incredible losses. We are setting up ten child-friendly spaces with trained counselors and social workers to help the children face their trauma and give them the skills to rebuild in a productive and enjoyable environment filled with games, toys and coloring books.  

3. We will be there for the people of Freeport in the long run. We are committed to helping them rebuild their city. We are in touch with building companies in Miami that will come down to repair damaged homes and broken roofs so they can begin their lives anew.

My friends, every person in the world is connected to one another, and when tragedy hits someone, it affects us too. We must be with them in their difficult times. As the Jewish nation, we have always been taught to be a source of light to others and share in goodness and kindness. 

Wherever you are, open your hearts for the people of Freeport and Abaco and let us pray that God gives them the strength, comfort and healing needed. 

Sincerely,

Rabbi Sholom Bluming

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Update #1

The Jewish Community’s Response to Hurricane Dorian

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Dear Friends,

We have all seen the pictures and news of the catastrophic devastation and havoc caused by Hurricane Dorian to Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands. It is truly heartbreaking. The amount of damage and loss of life it brought about is unfathomable.

Our hearts and prayers go out to each and every one of them. May God send much comfort and strength to begin the healing process.

As a Jewish people, we know that when another person is in pain or suffering it is our duty and calling to be there for them, the pain of a fellow man is our pain.

With the generosity and guidance of so many in our community, we mobilized immediately after hearing the news and set up a disaster relief initiative.  We have partnered up with powerful Jewish organizations around the world and are hosting a global campaign receiving donations and other necessary relief items.

We are in touch with local government officials who are updating us on which items are needed most and how soon we can bring them into Abaco. (As right now there is very limited access to enter.) We have 7 Jewish centers in South Florida who are receiving these supplies from local communities and a group of volunteers who are consolidating it. In a short amount of time, we have already filled over 2 Miami warehouses of essential items needed. There has been an overwhelming response from people around the world to help in every way possible.

We have also helped bring a highly trained and experienced rescue and relief team from Israel who will be instrumental in helping the ground efforts. In addition, we will continue to support those most vulnerable with long term recovery assistance and help them rebuild. 

With prayers of safety and recovery. 

Sincerely,

Rabbi Sholom Bluming  

 

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About

Hurricane Dorian struck the Abaco Islands on Sunday, September 1, followed by Grand Bahama Island, as the strongest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history, with historic 185 mph winds and up to a 23 ft. storm surge. The storm has left the country in a state of shock and Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands – where the eye made landfall – completely devastated. 

Chabad's disaster relief fund will assist those most impacted by Hurricane Dorian, in the form of emergency supplies such as clean water, food, clothing, first aid kits and generators which they are in dire need of. 

​In addition, we will continue to support those most vulnerable in long term recovery assistance and help the residents rebuild.

All donations to this fund will exclusively support relief and recovery efforts in areas impacted by the storm.