Hurricane Hanna roared through southern Texas this weekend, leaving flooded roadways and homes, downed trees, broken roofs and power outages in its wake, as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state. Chabad representatives are busy reaching out to the community, particularly the elderly, while trying to safeguard the area’s kosher-food supplies.

Rabbi Asher Hecht and Dina Hecht, directors of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley, spent much of Sunday contacting members of their community. “We are first reaching out to older people who live alone first to make sure they are all right,” Rabbi Hecht tells, noting that there are about 275 Jews in McAllen and between 800 and 1,000 throughout the Rio Grande Valley. “We are assessing the needs of our community as a whole and will provide what’s needed.”

One person they called was 77-year-old Sandra Fantich. During the storm, she says, “I heard rumblings on the roof, and I guess that was the shingles. The roof has damage; I have shingles all over the place. I picked up what I could, but I have a bad back. Rabbi Hecht sent a guy here to clean up my yard. I couldn’t believe he would do that. They are very nice people.”


Fantich adds that she is in need of food, and that the rabbi was working on getting her some provisions.

The Chabad House in McAllen, Texas, suffered water damage, and a large shipment of kosher food received before the storm hit is at risk of rotting as temperatures soar in the city and power lines were down. At the height of the storm, more than 80,000 people were without electricity.

“We are concerned about kosher food for the community because we just got our delivery from Florida that comes once every three months, which we stock in freezers,” says Rabbi Hecht. “We hope it will not decay because of lack of electricity. We have about $15,000 worth of frozen and refrigerated meat, as well as dairy products, at risk.”

Complicating matters in the region, he continues, is the fear that in the aftermath of the hurricane, an already bad pandemic situation in the Rio Grande Valley will only get worse. More than 14,500 people in Hidalgo County, which includes McAllen, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than 400 have died.

As Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a press conference on Sunday: “This challenge is complicated and made even more severe seeing that it is sweeping through an area that is the most challenged area in the state for COVID-19.”

Those who wish to help with relief efforts can do so at

Rabbi Asher Hecht helps a woman remove debris following the hurricane.
Rabbi Asher Hecht helps a woman remove debris following the hurricane.