NEW YORK – Jewish and Israeli groups who sent aid to hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico said they were shocked by the level of devastation.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) partnered with Israeli aid organization IsraAID to send a team of emergency relief workers, including trauma specialists, to Puerto Rico. The groups also send food and water.
“Our tradition commands us to help those who are in need, and the people of Puerto Rico are in a desperate situation,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. “In this Jewish New Year period of introspection and renewal, we are committed to the recovery and rebuilding of Puerto Rico.”
Hurricane Maria has left nearly half of the island’s 3.4 million residents without drinking water as well as 97% without power. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said that the storm was “without a doubt the biggest catastrophe in modern history for Puerto Rico.”
Chabad of Puerto Rico sent private planes stocked with non-perishable food, water and medicines to devastated areas. The group also sent a doctor to assist.
“To see the utter devastation firsthand and so close to home is shocking,” Rabbi Mendel Zarchi, co-director of Chabad of Puerto Rico said. “Thousands of homes are locked in by the filthy floodwaters, even six days post-storm. With gratitude to the Almighty, we were able to locate the families we were looking for and bring them food and water.”
Chabad also helped Israeli citizens leave the island.
Chabad coordinated with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz to bypass the nationwide curfew, allowing Jewish citizens to leave their homes after 6pm to go to synagogue for Yom Kippur services.
The Trump administration has been heavily criticized for lagging behind in its relief efforts.