With a wide swath of suburban Oklahoma City destroyed, and the need for food and basic living supplies growing, The Chabad Community Center of Southern Oklahoma continued its efforts to assist those devastated by the tornado that sped through parts of Oklahoma City and its suburbs Monday afternoon, leaving 24 dead, nine of them children. Nearly 250 people have been reported injured.
In a blog item on the Chabad disaster relief web site, Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Oklahoma City, posted a report at 1 AM Wednesday, following two days of nonstop efforts by the Chabad staff and three young rabbinic interns who are part of the Glenna and Richard Tanenbaum Rabbinic Internship Program.
Goldman said that even with so many homes and businesses in ruins, a modicum of hope lay in the extent of the relief efforts themselves: “It’s been exhausting, emotionally draining, but in so many ways heart-warming.”
He went on to describe the extent of aid offered, noting that they opened their Chabad center early in the morning for those who wanted to drop off supply items before going to work, and that people have come by the past few days bringing basic supplies.
“We’re organizing 20,000 pounds of meat products and 1,000 pounds of cheese product to come from kosher companies,” he wrote. “We’ve been in close contact with state and local government officials, as well as relief agencies, to help coordinate shipments and let them know what companies from out of state are willing to donate.”
Goldman also praised the work of the interns there—Berel Kesselman, Mendy Grossbaum and Mendel Misholovin: “they left the center early to provide direct assistance and counseling, and to help with the delivery of basic supplies in the affected neighborhoods.”
The interns offered a synopsis of their own efforts, saying they visited some of the shelters and also met with families they had gotten to know during the High Holidays. They felt that people were uplifted by their presence and relished the opportunity to talk about what they experienced.
According to notes jotted down after a long day’s work, “we canvassed the most devastated areas in Moore. Here the need for emotional uplift and support is huge. Asking what would be needs, etc. Stopped to help out with ‘shlepping’ debris (although this was not our primary focus). Let everyone know of the shelter at Chabad.”
“These people are devastated. In the pictures, you can see a woman near her home and staircase; that’s how she survived, underneath that staircase. What they need immediately and can really use: cash [and] store gift cards.”
The three young men summed up their feelings about this natural disaster: “It’s really given us a new perspective on what is truly important in life.”
Goldman agreed, and emphasized the extent of concern from throughout the United States. “The response has been overwhelming,” he said, adding that calls have come in from individuals and organizations in New York, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois and California—and even from abroad. And they have been accompanied with kind words and offers to help in any way they can.”
And that’s especially meaningful, he said, because “the community that was hit is facing some short-term real needs, and they’re going to be facing longer-term needs as well.”
The rabbi emphasized that 100 percent of all disaster-relief donations will be provided to those in need. “Members of our local community have come forward and will cover all the administrative costs for us, so that anyone wishing to help those struck by this disaster can know that everything they give goes to those afflicted.”
Goldman advised that that anyone interested in making a donation can do so at the Chabad disaster relief web site.