While tens of thousands were busying themselves with storm prep or heading out of town to escape the worst of Hurricane Michael—which made landfall as a devastating Category Four storm with sustained winds topping 150 MPH, and was called the “worst case scenario” for the Panhandle by the National Weather Service—Rabbi Mendel and Nechama Danow were just moving into their new home in Pensacola, where they will serve as Chabad emissaries.
Despite the fact that neither has ever experienced a hurricane before — she is from Israel and he grew up in Sweden—the Danows are ready to help where they can.
“We have been in touch with people we know in the community to make sure everyone is safe, and so that we can check in with them after the storm,” Rabbi Danow told Chabad.org. “Part of our work here will be with students at the University of West Florida, a growing university with more and more Jewish students, and we have already gotten to know some of the students, so we called them to make sure they have a safe place to stay during the storm.”
The Danows have had some preparing to do for themselves as well. The couple spent their first day in Florida trying to secure much-needed supplies including gas for their rental car, a case of water, flashlight and batteries.
“We had planned to come right after Simchat Torah and that’s what we did, undeterred by the approaching hurricane,” said the rabbi. “Chabad comes to a city to make sure everyone has what they need physically and spiritually, and we hope to do that to the best of our abilities.”
As the storm grew in strength far to the east sparing Pensacola much of the weather, the Danows opened their three-bedroom home to Rabbi Yeshayahu and Rochel Tenenboim, co-directors of Chabad of the Emerald Coast, and their family who had to evacuate their own home Destin and another community member from Destin who needed a place to go. This despite the fact that their kitchen hadn’t even been set up yet.
“We thought we’d come to town and have a few weeks to settle down, but Hashem made our plans different so we had to start working right away,” said Nechama Danow. “Our furniture is not here and we don’t have anything in our house and our kitchen wasn’t even kosher until two hours ago.
“But this is the whole reason we came, to be here not just in the easy times but to be here when we are needed and to give help to others,” she added.
Offering Students Kosher Meals and a Place to Stay
In Tallahassee, which is under an “extreme wind warning,” from the NWS, Rabbi Schneur Zalman and Chana Oirechman, co-directors of Chabad Lubavitch of the Panhandle, were riding out the storm at their Chabad house along with their children. They also opened their Chabad house to those students from nearby Florida State University who have remained in Tallahassee and don’t want to be alone.
“We have secured a number of propane tanks so we can cook on the grill if the power goes out and we plenty of water, ice and flashlights,” said Rabbi Oirechman, who remembers clearly the destruction from Hurricane Hermine in 2016. “Last time, we had major damage, lots of trees fell in the city and we had no electricity for a week, but we stayed and we are staying now to offer assistance to everyone after the storm.”
By early Wednesday afternoon, the power was out in the area, trees and debris were being blown all around with the main strength of the storm still to come.
Despite limited battery in his phone, Oirechman was working to make sure everyone has what they need. Said the rabbi: “We are coordinating with Chabad in South Florida to arrange a truck and food of items that will be needed to go to Panhandle once the storm clears.” (Chabad.org)