Monitoring the Blue Mountains fires

October 23, 2013 by Henry Benjamin
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In September, two newly-ordained Chabad rabbis travelled throughout the now fire-ravaged Blue Mountains area of New South Wales visiting Jewish people living in the region 80 kms from Sydney and have been able to contact each one they met offering them refuge from the mammoth blazes which have so far claimed more than 200 homes.

 

David Lake and jis Kiddush cup

David Lake and his Kiddush cup

David Lake, Rabbi Zalman Griner and Rabbi Yossi Schapiro

David Lake, Rabbi Zalman Gr0ner and Rabbi Yossi Schapiro

David Lake rescued his Kiddush cup and prayer books, including his Chumash,  from the flames.

Sydney-based Rabbi Yossi Schapiro, 22, visited more than 45 homes accompanied by North Carolina-based Rabbi  Zalman Groner. They contacted over 60 Jewish people living in the region as part of the RARA  [rural and regional Australia] community program run by Chabad

But for David Lake and his dog Colleen it was a welcome call from Rabbi Schapiro.

Colleen

Colleen

The Springwood-based accountant managed to rescue only a few plastic bags of personal belongings  before his home was devoured by the raging fires. Following the call from Rabbi Schapiro,  he moved from a shelter in Springwood with his dog Colleen to the 40 room centre in St Ives. He had lost most of his belongings. He told J-Wire: “I have lost most of my personal belongings including a 1942 Harley Davidson motorcycle. Most has been turned to ash but I was able to rescue my Kiddush cup and the mezuzah from my front door. People I know from the area before are very depressed.”

Rabbi Yossi Schapiro’s Chabad North Shore in the leafy Sydney suburb of St Ives used to be a commercial residential college. Rabbi Schapiro told J-Wire: “We have offered residential accommodation to anyone who needs it irrespective of religion. We approached the Smith Family and St Vincents but I believe they have safe facilities closer to the fires.”

Rabbi Yossi Schapiro told J-Wire that the extent of the losses remained unknown but many have evacuated their homes for a safer location. “Most of them have family and friends who have offered temporary accommodation but five people slept with us last night.”

A relief fund has been started by Rabbi Schapiro to help those who have lost their homes. He added: “Everyone knows they can get temporary lodgings with us and we have received many emails offering help. We have enough bedding and Our Big Kitchen has been sending food.”

Last night five people slept at the St Ives centre including Layala Moria who arrived with two children…and two cats in a laundry basket.  Rabbi Schapiro said that both Masada College and Kesser Torah College had offered schooling facilities for the children.

J-Wire spoke to author Alan Gold who lives in Leura. He said: “We are packed and ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. There is a lot of police activity and we are keeping an eye on this ever-changing scenario.”

Tony Boritz lives in Katoomba. She said: “At the moment the wind has cleared the air and there does not appear to be any imminent danger. I am her with my two dogs and unless circumstances change dramatically,  I am staying put.”

In the meantime Jewish House CEO Rabbi Mendel Kastel has not forgotten Colleen. He told J-Wire: “We are organising a vet to visit St Ives to ensure that Colleen is surviving the trauma of losing her home.”

Donate to Rabbi Schapiro’s aid effort...here.

Jewish Aid has also launched an appeal to aid those in need…

The past few days have seen horrific bushfires tear through New South Wales.

Like all Australians, the Jewish community is deeply concerned by the devastation left in the fires’ wake. Over 200 homes destroyed, wildlife killed, thousands of hectares of native bushland devastated.

Jewish Aid Australia is proud to launch an appeal to support those families and individuals affected by the fires.

You can make a tax deductible donation by clicking here, or by calling our Melbourne office on (03) 9500 2206 or sending a cheque made out to Jewish Aid Australia to PO Box 2 Malvern 3144 Victoria (indicating it’s for the bushfires appeal)

We hope that you and your members will give generously.

 

 

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