Florida rebuilds after Irma devastation
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