We are now at a point where we need to escalate our system’s response to Hurricane Irma and its impact across Florida and the Caribbean. While the initial reports across communities indicated that we may have dodged a bullet given our expectations, the picture has evolved in the past two days as we learn about the spectrum of the storm’s impact. JFNA’s Emergency Committee staff has been tracking the status of more than a dozen communities — from the US Virgin Islands up through Savannah.
Of particular concern are the following:
1. Major flooding in Naples, Jacksonville and the catastrophic damage in the US Virgin Islands and Key West has heavily impacted individual families.
2. Physical damage from the storm is uneven but there are a number of Jewish communal institutions that have sustained severe damage – in Key West, Miami, Naples, and St. Augustine.
3. The prolonged power outages have left tens of thousands of seniors isolated in apartment buildings throughout Florida, with a big concentration in Broward County. Emergency outreach and wide-scale distribution of meals, water, and ice have been provided with Federations, Jewish Family Service agencies, and Chabad has been extremely active on this front. You have likely seen the horrific news story of the nursing home where eight residents were found dead on Wednesday. Thankfully, we have not seen such incidents among our community but risks to seniors and others who were already dealing with respiratory issues are enormous.
While the overall impact of Hurricane Irma on communities will not reach the scale of Houston, emergency resources to help affected communities and families recover will be much needed. JFNA’s Emergency Committee has met for the third time since the onset of Hurricane Harvey. Even as we continue to pursue our efforts to meet the enormous needs facing Houston and the surrounding communities, we must also meet our responsibilities to our communities in the Southeast. In addition, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has escalated its response to the Caribbean Islands outside the US.
The new Jewish year is upon us and we wish for you and all our communities a year of recovery and renewal. May we maintain an appreciation that our bonds of community and mutual support are a reflection of God’s presence in our lives.