With Rosh Hashanah fast approaching, and power and fresh water still unavailable over much of the island, Chabad of Puerto Rico has issued a call for emergency supplies as they prepare to meet the Jewish community’s spiritual needs on the High Holidays.

Rabbi Mendel Zarchi, director of Chabad of Puerto Rico, has put out an urgent request for materials, including diapers for both babies and the elderly; Tylenol, Advil and other pain relievers; first-aid kits; kosher canned food; bottled water; toothbrushes and toothpaste; flashlights; batteries; snack and protein bars; sleeping bags; soap; hand sanitizers and other staples. Kayco (Kedem) food is already providing “substantial supplies in support and solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico,” says Zarchi. 

“We hope and pray we can respond to all the needs as they come to us,” Zarchi tells Chabad.org


The rabbi’s own home has sustained some damage and is without power. The Chabad center is running on generators, which are keeping the thousands of dollars worth of food that had been purchased for communal meals over the holidays fresh.

Five years almost to the day of the deadliest storm in Puerto Rico’s history, Fiona blew through the island on Sunday, dumping massive amounts of rain that flooded much of the island, left thousands homeless and damaged vital infrastructure.

Power went off across the island on Sunday afternoon and remains out for most, along with sources for fresh drinking water, as heat indexes on parts of the island are expected to reach well over 100 degrees.

“There are lots of challenges. People who need help and assistance, people who need medicine or are on oxygen, and hospitals that need power to run their medical equipment,” says Zarchi. “We hope the infrastructure, which is very deficient, is corrected so that we don’t have to go through this kind of pain every few years.”

Zarchi led Chabad’s massive relief efforts after Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017, killing more than 3,000 people and destroying the island’s electrical grid. Damage from that hurricane was still visible even before Fiona hit this week.

Zarchi says that Chabad’s relief efforts this year are being provided in conjunction with PR4PR, an organization that helps children in low-income and high-risk communities.

Among the major donors for the aid relief is Hands On Tzedakah, founded by Meryl and Ron Gallatin, in partnership with the Tzedakah, Learning and Chesed (TLC) Program at the B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Fla.

Summer Faerman, director of disaster relief at Hands On Tzedakah and the director of the TLC program, says the organizations “recognized the need and joined the Chabad relief efforts to help the residents of Puerto Rico. With the generous lead donation from the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, our community was able to secure needed supplies so the victims of Fiona can feel support from near and far.”

Chabad has already assembled a team to handle the relief efforts and will utilize warehouse space donated by the Monarch Group as its base of operations for processing the donations.

In addition to providing goods and food, Zarchi says Chabad is planning a relief project in the Durando area, which was hard-hit by the flooding. Chabad operates a satellite site there, as well as in Old San Juan.

Community members are again being invited for a Rosh Hashanah meal and services. (File photo)
Community members are again being invited for a Rosh Hashanah meal and services. (File photo)

Preparing for the High Holidays

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Rosh Hashanah was observed in Chabad’s flooded synagogue, which served as both a shelter and a place of worship for Jews on the dazed and battered island.

Chabad will once again invite the Jewish community to come to services and meals at the Chabad synagogue this Rosh Hashanah, which begins on Sunday night, Sept. 25.” It will be a time to come together and appreciate the blessings we receive,” says Zarchi. “We will ensure that everyone is looked after because the collective is only as strong as the individuals who are part of it.

“This is our shofar call, our wake-up call, that we don’t live isolated on an island, but as a part of a whole greater community,” continues the rabbi. “There’s no better way to welcome Rosh Hashanah a time when we acknowledge G‑d’s kingship over all of humanity than to help those who are suffering and in need.”

Chabad of Puerto Rico has set up a website for donations to aid in relief efforts: www.JewishPuertoRico.com/relief. It has also established an “Amazon Wishlist” for those wanting to purchase items directly.