Local Jews render aid to those hit by Hurricane Ian – jewishpresspinellas

Posted By on October 15, 2022

When Hurricane Ians path veered into southwest Florida instead of the Tampa Bay area, the local Jewish community reacted with compassion and generosity.

Images of massive destruction and flooding emerged as the storm passed and it was clear there was a huge need to help. Within days, folks from the Tampa area gathered up thousands of pounds of supplies, from batteries and water to clothing, toiletries, cleaning supplies, canned goods and prepared meals supplies and made trips to hard-hit areas to render aid and supplies.

At the same time, members of the Jewish community were urged by both the Jewish Federation of Floridas Gulf Coast and the Tampa JCCs and Federation to donate to the Jewish Federations of North America emergency relief fund at jfeds.org/2022HurricaneRelief. All funds raised will be used for the victims of Ian throughout


On Sunday, Oct. 2, the Tampa JCCs and Federation along with Chabad Chai of South Tampa and USF Chabad loaded up a large bus full of supplies and about 40 volunteers. Other vehicles also traveled in the caravan, toting more volunteers and more supplies.

The volunteers stopped at the Chabad of Venice, which served as a staging center for relief efforts and realistically, as far south as we could go so soon after the storm, said Mark Segel, director of Strategic Planning for the Tampa JCCs and Federation.

We had four doctors, chainsaws, power saws; we did not know what to expect, but we tried to bring what would be helpful, said Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski, leader of Chabad Chai of South Tampa.

Once supplies were unloaded, the volunteers broke up into 15 groups, with each group assigned addresses of members of the Jewish community who had not been heard from since Ian crashed ashore. They went to homes in Venice, North Port, Englewood Warm Mineral Springs and Rotonda.

Rabbi Dubrowski explained that the rabbi at Chabad of Venice had an extensive database of Jews in the area. Since many areas were still without power and cellphone service was down for much of the area, family members from all over the world had been calling to find out if their relatives were all right. The rabbi made a list of 140 homes to be checked on and most got a visit from a volunteer group, though in some areas flooding or police restrictions prevented home visits.

In one case, volunteers visited an elderly couple, Semyon and Zina Gubich, to check on their welfare. The lady began crying when we approached the home and told me in Russian now that a rabbi is here were going to be OK, said Rabbi Dubrowski.

The womans husband had had a stroke the week before the hurricane and volunteers were not sure what to expect whether he had his medications or needed medical aid, said Alissa Fischel, chief development officer of the Tampa JCCs and Federation. There was a sense of urgency to get to them because we were not sure what help was needed, but once we arrived we found he not only had all the medications he needed and was recovering from the stroke, but they also had a caregiver at the house for him.

The couple recalled the harrowing time during the hurricane. They barricaded themselves in their home and tried to place whatever they could be the doors to stop the flooding, and then they watched the waters rise and prayed, Rabbi Dubrowski said. In the aftermath of Ian, their home was surrounded by downed power lines. No one could come in for three days. The morning we got there the power lines were removed so we were the first to enter the home and bring hot food.

In some areas only trucks high off the ground could reach homes and sometimes there was no direct route due to flooding or debris, but taking side streets had its own risks, such as blockage by debris or being so covered with water that a driver could not tell exactly where the pavement was.

In one case there was a home surrounded by water, looking like it was in the middle of a lake, Fischel said, explaining the water was too deep to drive through or wade through. Luckily there appeared to be nobody there.

In addition to checking on the Jews on the list, if the volunteers encountered any others along the way who needed supplies or aid, or wanted to get a message out that they were ok, the volunteers provided it, Fischel said.

Those who went to Rotunda found total devastation, said Rabbi Dubrowski. He said volunteers visited a home that looked like it was flipped upside down.

The problems encountered were different in different neighborhoods. For many there was still no power, in some, no water, and in others, severe flooding added to the mix of miseries. Only one recently built neighborhood, with buried power lines, did not lose power.

Fischel said one elderly woman was staying in her home with no power, thus no air conditioning. Despite the heat, she was reluctant to leave. Fischel said volunteers urged her to go stay with a friend who has air conditioning, and the woman said she would, but was not convincing.

Because the destruction and flooding is widespread and because not just power lines, but power poles were also downed, it will likely take a very long time for the communities to be rebuilt.

People were just frightened. They did not know how long it would be before things got back to normal, or how they would get what they needed for the next several weeks or months; it was very unsettling. Fischel said, One man said I am moving. He said the storm shook my house and I am moving out of here. He was very traumatized.

In spite of the trauma, Fischel said people visited expressed gratitude they lived through the storm.

In a separate recovery effort, Rabbi Lazer Rivkin, regional director of Chabad of Central Florida, and Rabbi Moshe Hezroney of Chabad in New Jersey helped direct food relief to be distributed from Chabad centers of Southwest Florida to the needy victims of the hurricane before Yom Kippur. Trucks loaded with supplies from their organizations were sent to the hard-hit area.

Meanwhile, collection of goods to be sent to victims of the hurricane is still ongoing.

The Tampa JCCs and Federation, Tampa Jewish Family Services and area synagogues and organizations are collecting water, nonperishable food, hygiene items and garbage bags.

These items can be brought to the Bryan Glazer Family JCC (522 N. Howard Avenue, Tampa), the JCC on the Cohn Campus (13009 Community Campus Drive, Tampa) or Congregation Rodeph Sholom (2913 Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa) Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fischel said more trucks of supplies will be sent to hurricane stricken areas soon and the relief efforts will likely continue.

This is what the Federation is here for, she said.

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Local Jews render aid to those hit by Hurricane Ian - jewishpresspinellas

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