As Chinese authorities continued to pull bodies from the wreckage, the Jewish community of Beijing prayed for the victims of a devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 13,000 people. Officials also geared up for a relief drive that will begin on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Embassy in Beijing reported that two Israeli students were located, but that three backpackers who had been hiking through Sichuan Province are missing.
Dini Freundlich, the co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Beijing and principal of its Ganeinu International School, said that staff sent notes home to parents on Wednesday asking them to send in basic supplies. The items will be packaged into relief shipments coordinated by the Chinese Red Cross.
“We’re asking for basic things like hand towels, band-aids, toothbrushes and toothpaste,” detailed Freundlich, who added that the Chabad House is trying to organize a blood drive for later this week.
Teacher Chani Raskin said that children are trying to understand the magnitude of the tragedy.
“We’re talking about the disaster,” said Raskin, “and the children are coming up with ideas to help other children.”
Jonathan Gorden, a Jewish American student studying the Chinese language at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said that he stood in line for five hours yesterday to donate blood at his school.
“Today, students are collecting money for the survivors,” said Gorden, who spends roughly one Shabbat a month with the Jewish community.
Raskin, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Downtown Beijing, said that in the midst of the destruction, people took some relief at the fact that Ma’ayan Segev and Anat Bilu, the two Israelis who were studying in Chengdu – the closest city to Monday’s epicenter – had been found alive. They are lightly wounded, she said, and are staying at a hospital in a village near the nature reserve they were visiting when the earthquake struck.
Still, added Fruendlich, no one could help but feel pained for the thousands of Chinese citizens who have lost loved ones.
“This is a very sad situation,” said Freundlich. “A lot of people were killed; many lost their homes. They’re going to need a lot of help.”
As for the three missing backpackers, she said that officials from the Israeli Embassy flew out to Sichuan this morning. An Israeli relief organization also petitioned the Chinese government to allow its involvement in the wider search and rescue effort.
Freundlich reiterated that the Jewish community was on call to offer any assistance necessary.