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HORRIFIC DESTRUCTION IN ST THOMAS: 400 Jewish Refugees In Dire Need; YWN Speaks With Chabad Shliach

Acheinu Bnei Yisroel, 400 of them, are in grave need. They have no electricity and will have no power for four to six months. They have no kosher food, nor any food for now, and their supplies are dwindling rapidly.

They are on the American Virgin Islands in the Caribbean that, for all practical purposes, is no longer. While there has been much media attention given to the destruction on the Island of St. Marteen, the catastrophic damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma has been widely under-reported on the the Island of St. Thomas

There were some 400 Jewish residents on St. Thomas who had remained and did not evacuate prior to the storm. There was one Chabad shliach, Rabbi & Mrs. Asher and Henya Federman who with their family of some nine children remained. They remained to cater to the spiritual needs of the Jewish residents.

And he and his family need our help. This is a time when all yidden must gather together in achdus – whether Litvak or Lubavitch to help those in need.

What follows below are excerpts from a transcript of the Yeshiva World News interview with the Chabad Shliach:

YWN: I understand that you are under a curfew?

RAF: “There is a curfew from 12-6 PM the main reason is to stop the looting. The authorities have deployed 700 marines across the island as well as army personnel. They are setting up doctors in different parts of the island.

There is a tremendous need of clearing the road. The roads are full of debris and to be able to clear the place properly they need the space. 60 to 70% of all utility poles have been destroyed, so the roads are full of power lines. Tomorrow morning I will I”H be given a special permit to allow me to remain outside past the curfew so that I will be able to visit many of the Yidden.”

YWN: Are there yiddin in actual danger now?

RAF: “We have Boruch Hashem located 99 percent of the 400 Jews who live here. We have determined that they are in fact safe, but their situation is dire. There are two that we haven’t located yet, but we believe it is a communications issue. My wife and I drove around to different areas that were effected. Most cell phone service is not effective. They asked that we contact their loved ones and we have done that.

During the storm we stayed in the Paragon Medical Center, and were hosted by two wonderful Doctors, Dr George Rosenberg And Dr Jeffrey Guller, and a very dear friend of ours Michael Stephen. We stayed-put there during the storm. In the morning, another couple watched our children while we drove around all day knocking on doors and checking up on the Jews living on the Island.

We have given out food and supplies. We have given out Mezuzos and we have put tefillin on our fellow Jews. Never have I seen this before. We have not had one person refuse either the Tefillin or the Mezuzah. They are open to ruchniyus like never before on account of the devastation that they have just witnessed. The destruction is simply horrific. Roofs and walls are ripped off nearly every home on the island.”

YWN: What are your needs now exactly? Do you have Kosher food?

RAF: “Before the storm we took a lot of food to a medical building which is running on a generator. We are running out of the supply at the medical center. My house has a number of freezers, but our generator did not kick in. We need to get funding for a generator that will get us back in gear. We need a lot of food – especially because Rosh haShana is coming up.

People who until now we have had a peripheral relationship with, are now opening up to Yiddishkeit. Shluchim belong in a place like this. This is a way we can touch them in a manner that will affect them deeply.”

YWN: What is the prognosis?

RAF: “There will be no electricity for 4 to 6 months.”

YWN: What is with your Mispacha?

RAF: “My family got on a boat and went to Puerto Rico. My wife is there to cater to the elderly and the young that have been sent to Puerto Rico for safety from St Thomas. She is seven months pregnant and she plans to return to St. Martin for Rosh haShana. We have had extensive damage to the Chabad House. Generally during the year, on a typical Shabbos we have 70 or 80 people as guests. The area in the front of the Chabad House where they sleep and where we have our meals and parties has been completely destroyed. We need to rebuild this by Rosh HaShana.”

YWN: Have any organizations reached out to you?

RAF: “No organization has yet reached out to us.

The pictures do not describe the devastation that is happening here.

The situation of the yidden here is terrible and dire. I would love to be able to coordinate with FEMA and the Red Cross. There are yidden that need to be brought supplies.”

There is a GoFundMe page and there is also a website JewishVirginIsland where people can donate to this cause.

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