Jews throughout Florida are pulling together to help those in need after the devastation of last week’s Hurricane Charley.
“Those with power are hosting those that have severe damages to their homes, to help people get through if they don’t have the means to cook food, do laundry, or things we take for granted,” said Jennifer Ritter, the associate executive director of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida.
The hurricane, which to date has registered a death toll of 19, was designated a Category 4 hurricane — the second-most destructive type — and was the most harmful hurricane in Florida since Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992. It largely affected Central Florida, including the cities of Fort Myers and Orlando.
Karen Coates, the national spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, told JTA that 2,424 homes were destroyed; 1,968 homes suffered major damages and are uninhabitable; and 1,260 have minor damages and are habitable whether or not the habitants choose to remain in them.
Annette Goodman, the executive director of Jewish Federation of Lee & Charlotte Counties, said that Temple Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Port Charlotte was the synagogue most affected by Charley’s wrath. The temple’s educational wing was ripped off the main structure, but the chapel remains untouched.
As in most of Charlotte County, electricity had not been restored to the temple by midweek.
“We sent a busload of food, towels and toiletries to the community there on Monday,” Goodman said. “There is devastation, but as far as we know the congregation is all right.”
Barry Swartz, the vice president of United Jewish Communities Consulting, says the UJC is accepting donations at local federations and at the group’s national mailbox for Jews and non-Jews alike.