Florida re­builds af­ter Irma dev­as­ta­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY LIANNE KOLIRIN

THOU­SANDS OF Jewish fam­i­lies who evac­u­ated their Florida homes last week­end are as­sess­ing the dam­age caused by Hur­ri­cane Irma.

Of­fi­cials says at least 17 storm-re­lated deaths have been re­ported on the US main­land, in ad­di­tion to 37 in the Caribbean, although many feel they got off lightly.

“Right now, we are deal­ing with an in­con­ve­nience,” Devo­rah Wech­sler, prin­ci­pal of Bais Yaakov school in Mi­ami, told the New York news site Hamodia. “We don’t have power and we’re trapped in­side, we’re try­ing not to open our re­frig­er­a­tors, and the kids are go­ing crazy, but we re­ally feel that we dodged a bul­let.”

The school was ex­pected to stay closed for sev­eral days as many staff and pupils had been evac­u­ated ahead of the storm to Or­lando, At­lanta and else­where.

Se­cured by hur­ri­cane-proof win­dows, the Wech­sler fam­ily felt rel­a­tively safe at home and even in­vited a neigh­bour­ing fam­ily to stay.

Mrs Weschler said she was over­whelmed by how the com­mu­nity had come to­gether in the face of ad­ver­sity.

“There’s a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion… and it has made for the most amaz­ing sup­port sys­tem for the peo­ple who stayed here,” she said.

Many pre-schools in the area re­mained closed, while some JCCs did their best to re­turn to nor­mal.

Mi­ami, home to one of Amer­ica’s big­gest Jewish com­mu­ni­ties, was first hit in the morn­ing. By mid­day the Shul of Down­ton Mi­ami, af­fil­i­ated with Chabad, was “al­ready un­der wa­ter,” ac­cord­ing to the web­site COLLive.

Nev­er­the­less many Jewish re­tire­ment homes took the de­ci­sion not to evac­u­ate their res­i­dents be­cause of the ad­verse ef­fect it might have on frail res­i­dents.

A “hur­ri­cane party” was planned for the Mi­ami Jewish Health Cen­ter, one of the re­gion’s big­gest care homes, which op­er­ated on lock­down once the storm hit.

One syn­a­gogue, Tem­ple Beth Orr of Coral Springs, stored their To­rahs in a win­dow­less com­puter server stor­age room on the sec­ond floor of an of­fice build­ing. For­mer shul pres­i­dent Steve Fe­in­stein took the scrolls to the “bunker” with his teenage son.

He said: “It was an im­por­tant mitz­vah that he and I were able to share to­gether…A pow­er­ful mo­ment.”

A spokesman for the Greater Mi­ami Jewish Fed­er­a­tion said of the over­all sit­u­a­tion: “Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those af­fected by this ter­ri­ble storm.

“In times like these, we can de­pend on Mi­ami’s strong, united Jewish com­mu­nity to care for each other and to do our part to care for all in need. “

We can de­pend on the united Jewish com­mu­nity

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