Israeli and Jewish organizations have dispatched teams to lend a helping hand to the storm-ravaged Caribbean island.
“To see the utter devastation firsthand and so close to home is shocking,” Rabbi Mendel Zarchi, co-director of Chabad of Puerto Rico, told Chabad.org. “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.”
More than a week after powerful Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory is facing a massive humanitarian crisis amid complaints that the American government has lagged in its response.
According to various media reports, nearly half of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents remain without drinking water, while hospitals are struggling to stay open amid gas shortages, food is scarce and 97 percent of the island has no power.
To address the situation, Chabad-Lubavitch has sent private planes full of essentials such as canned food, bottled water, medical items and other supplies to affected areas. Two planes loaded with 4,000 pounds of food and supplies arrived in Puerto Rico earlier this week.
Meanwhile, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) announced it is partnering with IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian relief organization, to providence emergency assistance to Puerto Rico.
“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.”
With AJC’s assistance, IsraAID is providing emergency relief including water, food and hygiene items as well as psychosocial trauma support.
Israel has a proud history of leading humanitarian, medical and logistical assistance to countries in distress around the world, including to tornado victims in Oklahoma, typhoon refuges in previous storms in the Philippines and earthquake victims in Haiti. It has most recently been a leading force in providing medical assistance to the earthquake victims in Nepal.