As the floodwaters that have submerged low-lying areas of England recede, Rabbi Eli Brackman, co-director of the Oxford Chabad Society, and his wife Freida have been reaching out to students and the university's surrounding community to help them get their lives back to normal.

In the past several days, the United Kingdom has witnessed historic flooding, with the Thames and Severn rivers overflowing their banks. Two were found dead in a rugby club in Tewkesbury yesterday; more than half of dozen towns along England's waterways had neighborhoods underwater.

But by all accounts, Oxford proper got off relatively easy. Estimates before the Thames crested put evacuation figures at 500 homes. In the end, only 250 families were displaced.

Still, according to Brackman, running water has been shut off in many areas and hundreds of people remain, for the time being at least, homeless. One student, whose island neighborhood was threatened by rising waters, even took up residence at Brackman's Chabad House.

"It's not the crisis people think it is. It's not New Orleans," said Brackman. "But there are minor evacuations. We've been back and forth to the main evacuation center to see what we can do to help."

On Thursday morning, a foundation donated a pallet of water to the Chabad House; Brackman distributed the 400 2-liter bottles throughout the day to evacuees. The rabbi encouraged anyone who knew of those who needed more urgent help to contact a 24-hour helpline he established.

Assessing the Damage

Now that many flood warnings have expired and people have turned to cleaning up, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in the United Kingdom have likewise shifted their focus to England's rural areas, primarily in the country's western portions. Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg has given the task of checking up on the region's Jewish residents to the two rabbinical students assigned to him by Lubavitch's summertime emissary placement program.

"We're of course reaching out to families that might be affected locally," said Wollenberg, who together with his wife Blima serve the community of Cardiff, which sits along the Severn estuary bordering Wales. "But we're quite high up; there hasn't been much of a problem here."

The Jewish community in the town is no stranger to flooding. According to Wollenberg, a flood in the center of Cardiff inundated the community's synagogue 67 years ago. Today, the Cardiff United Synagogue sits on higher ground, but Wollenberg, the shul's rabbi, said that of the records that weren't lost, many bear water marks.

"We do have some community members who live in areas that are possibly at threat, so there's definitely a concern," said the rabbi.

According to Rabbi Yehuda Pink, co-director of Lubavitch in the Midlands, his swath of territory could very well include a high number of evacuated Jewish residents. But because many of them have family and friends to rely on, and have therefore not yet contacted him, he's taken the initiative in reaching out.

"We know of one family whose house was totally flooded and they had to move out," said Pink, who lives in Solihull but counts such communities as Gloucestershire and Hereford under his care. "Where we live hasn't been affected, but there's a lot of villages that have been. At this stage, we're trying to get information in."

Pink has also made use of Wollenberg's rabbinical students. Next week, he said, they'll be traveling to Tewksbury to assess the damage there.

"While the actual risk to life is subsiding," he said, "the secondary affects – the impact to the economy, the lack of water, of electricity – are just now beginning to be felt."