Well into day three without power, running water or Internet service, Chabad Rabbi Benzion Hershcovich of the Cabo Jewish Center in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is helping the community cope with growing havoc in the resort town ravaged by Hurricane Odile, and is eagerly awaiting aid being sent from Mexico City and the United States.

“Rabbi [Mendel] Polichenco is really a lifesaver,” he says about the rabbi who directs Chabad Without Borders, which straddles the U.S.-Mexican border, joining Jewish communities in Tijuana, Mexico, and Chula Vista, Calif.

“We were totally out of communication all day Tuesday. By the time we were able to make a call that night, we were so touched to know that he’d already sent over a truck with generators, food, water and other supplies.”

Unfortunately, the truck crashed during the thousand-mile trip down the 1,400-mile long peninsula that forms Baja California. Polichenco sent a replacement crew, and the long-awaited supplies are expected to arrive late Thursday evening.

Concurrently, the Jewish community in Mexico City is sending an airplane with humanitarian aid. At Hershcovich’s request, they will be including kosher canned goods and other necessities.

Herschcovich says he plans to drive his wife Sonia, who is nine months pregnant, and three children to La Paz in time for Shabbat, and then return to Cabo to serve remaining residents and tourists. (File photo)
Herschcovich says he plans to drive his wife Sonia, who is nine months pregnant, and three children to La Paz in time for Shabbat, and then return to Cabo to serve remaining residents and tourists. (File photo)

Meanwhile, Hershcovich says the situation on the ground is rapidly deteriorating, and he has set up a crisis center at his Chabad House as looters swarm the gated communities and upscale resorts.

“Just yesterday, our neighbor was riding her scooter, and she got jumped at knifepoint. Thank G‑d, she got away with just cuts and bruises,” reports the rabbi. “The chaos has begun, and we hope that the army will be able to bring back some law and order. People are terrified. Residents are using felled trees and poles to block off roads, and lighting bonfires to keep away bandits, taking things into their own hands, trying to protect their property.

“People are torn,” he explains. “On one hand, they want to get out, but they are afraid to leave their homes and belongings behind.”

Will Stay for Services

For his part, Hershcovich notes that he is working closely with Rabbi Alexander and Esther Piekarski, co-directors of Beth Yona-Chabad Jewish Community of La Paz, Mexico, some 100 miles to the north, to provide lodgings and kosher food for people displaced by the disaster.

He also says he plans to drive his wife and co-director of the Chabad center Sonia, who is nine months pregnant, and their three children to La Paz in time for Shabbat, and then return to Cabo to serve the remaining congregants there.

Looking forward to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that begins on the evening of Sept. 24, Hershcovich says he is encouraging anyone he encounters to relocate to La Paz, where they will be able to attend services and participate in holiday celebrations.

As for himself, he insists that as long as there are Jewish people left in Cabo, he will be there to conduct services, though he may join his family in La Paz if everyone leaves.

Those wishing to assist in the ongoing efforts can do so here.