By Menachem Posner – Chabad.org
Rabbi Eli Goodman knows what it’s like to lose everything to a hurricane. His home and synagogue in Long Beach, N.Y., which faces the Atlantic Ocean, sustained heavy damage in the fall of 2012, when Hurricane Sandy ripped up the East Coast.
He is among 50 Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis from across the United States on their way to Houston to provide emotional support, counseling and other forms of assistance to those walloped by Hurricane Harvey.
“There are the first few weeks when the national spotlight is upon you, and help is pouring in from every direction,” recalls Goodman, whose home was left with three feet of sand inside it and not habitable for eight months. “Realistically, it takes two years to recover, and some people take much longer.”
He plans to share practical tips with local residents on matters such as how to obtain federal assistance, as well as offer personal anecdotes and much-needed empathy to struggling residents.
The group is being organized by Rabbi Yossi Lipsker, director of Chabad Lubavitch of the North Shore in Swampscott, Mass., and co-founder of 1Mitzvah, the organization sponsoring the mission.
“We are just happy to be able to add our little bit to all the Americans pitching in to help our neighbors,” says Nate Dalton, who founded 1Mitzvah with Lipsker. “Our organization is based on the simple idea that one good deed or mitzvah leads to another.”
The rabbis will spend time at Chabad’s Aishel House at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, which has been a source of kosher food and volunteering since the hurricane hit.
Scheduled to arrive on Tuesday night, the rabbis will be there through Thursday. Participants are coming in from more than a dozen different states, including New Jersey, Nebraska, Minnesota, Florida and California.
In addition to visiting private homes in flooded areas, the rabbis will stop at area schools, synagogues and shelters.
“There is a sense of despair among the victims and the city at large,” explains Lipsker, “and we want them to know that there are people thinking about them, and that things will get better.”
“This is the busiest time of the year for rabbis,” he continues, noting that the High Holidays begin in two weeks. “Beyond whatever work they will do on the ground, their presence sends a powerful message to the people whose lives have been affected. We are here because we care. The Jewish people care about you; we will not forget you.”