Successful Drive to Aid Hurricane Maria Victims in Puerto Rico

Upper Manhattan Jewish Community Rallies to Provide Needed Supplies

Friday, March 16, 2018

Following Hurricane Maria’s devastating blow to Puerto Rico, island residents are facing a long road to recovery. The Y and Upper Manhattan synagogues joined forces, resulting in collecting 20 boxes worth of items that are still desperately needed on the island.

“Each year at our annual Purim Carnival we focus our collective energy on fulfilling one of the good deeds associated with the Jewish holiday in a way that resonates with our community,” said Martin Englisher, Chief Executive Officer at the Y. “There are many in our community, and Y staff members, who have family in Puerto Rico so this year we quickly decided we wanted to send help to the victims of Hurricane Maria. It's been months since this tragedy, and while for the most part it has fallen off the media's radar, many are still in dire need of basic essentials.”

The Y came together with local synagogues to collect basic items that can still be hard for islanders to acquire. “When we approached Washington Heights synagogues about joining our collection, they were quick to sign on,” said Martin Yafe, Chief Program Officer at the Y. “And the amount of goods we have received has been amazing! The Jewish community of Upper Manhattan has shown the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world, in action. We are proving that supporting community helps build community.” Congregants at Fort Tryon Jewish Center, Hebrew Tabernacle, Chabad of Washington Heights, Chabad of Inwood, The Beis Community, and Mount Sinai Jewish Center all added to the collection of items.

Following a week and a half of collecting items, the drive columinated in a revealing at the Y's annual Purim Carnival. Community member and carnival attendee Elga Castro said, “As a Puerto Rican born and raised in the island, and whose family is all there, I was really touched by today's act; it truly showed solidarity and an unselfish drive to help, especially taking into consideration that this community is not a Puerto Rican enclave. As a proud parent of a former Y student who always wants to return to the Y, it felt like the circle completed. My daughter Elena was also very proud and happy to see that at her beloved Y they were collecting stuff to help her homeland.”

Afya Foundation, which has sent numerous shipments of supplies to Puerto Rico, has generously donated space on their upcoming cargo flight to the island. The items will then be distributed by Chabad of Puerto Rico which has been tirelessly supporting residents of all backgrounds for the past five months. “The crisis affected everyone – it didn’t discriminate who you were or where you were from,” said Rabbi Mendel Zarchi of Chabad of Puerto Rico. “There were days when we didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, but then salvation would come. We are blessed that we can continue to make a difference.” The synagogue is making weekly trips for supply distribution and restoration projects in regions that were particularly hard hit by Hurricane Maria, like rural mountainous and coastal communities.

“The Y and its community are happy to have helped to raise awareness about what is still needed in Puerto Rico,” said Yafe. “We will continue to support our community in every way we can!”