The devastating tornado that struck just outside of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on Monday, May 20, had wind speeds of up to 200 mph, flattened entire neighborhoods and destroyed the Briarwood Elementary School.
Oklahoma City is home to only about 5000 Jews, very few of whom were directly affected by the devastation, but the Chabad of Oklahoma City immediately sprang into action to provide any and all assistance to those in need.
“The Oklahoma City community is very friendly towards Jews and incredibly supportive of Eretz Yisrael,” Rabbi Ovadia Goldman told The Jewish Press Tuesday morning, “and that is why we are especially committed to doing everything we can to help, we want there to be a noticeable response from our community.”
The Chabad has offered an array of help to those in need, including offers of shelter, monetary assistance, cell phones, food and clothing.
In addition, three rabbinic interns spent hours on Tuesday working with local law enforcement officers who are searching for missing people and for salvageable items.
“Obviously our inspiration comes from the Rebbe (Rabbi Schneerson), who always said we must be good not only to Jews but to the entire world, but it is especially important to us to show how much we appreciate the love and support of the larger community which has been hit by this disaster,” Rabbi Goldman told The Jewish Press on Tuesday morning. “This is our turn to give back.”
Rabbi Goldman and his wife Nechama have been in Oklahoma City for 16 years. They truly feel blessed to be in a place where the Christian community has been consistently supportive.
“They aren’t looking for anything in return,” Rabbi Goldman said, “they just truly believe that whomever blesses those whom HaShem blesses, will be blessed by HaShem.”
The rabbi and his staff are working not only with law enforcement professionals, but with many other local organizations to help coordinate and to provide relief for those in need.
“We’re working with the Red Cross, with the Oklahoma City food banks, with other religious organizations as well as non-denominational ones,” Rabbi Goldman told The Jewish Press.
“We are letting people know that our facility is very capable of providing shelter to families with young children, to the healthy elderly, whoever needs a place to stay.”
He said in addition to monetary resources, the community would benefit immensely from prayer – for those who were lost, those injured, those who lost property and the first responders who pushed past downed power lines, through gas leaks and debris to go head-first onto the scene.
“It’s a time to act, it’s a time to do something,” Goldman said. “We’re here ready to help make sure the help people offer can have the greatest impact possible.”
Rabbi Goldman said 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 us help those struck by this disaster can know everything they give goes to those afflicted.”
Anyone interested in making a donation should contact the Oklahoma City Chabad at JewishOKC.com/relief.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com
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