With the deadliest wildfires in the United States in a century claiming at least 93 lives and leaving thousands homeless on the island of Maui, emergency workers continued their search for survivors in the charred ruins of burned-out buildings. Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries and volunteers joined relief workers in helping Maui residents and thousands of tourists who had to evacuate the island and cope with the disaster.

Rabbi Mendel Krasnjasnky of Chabad of Maui reported multiple homes belonging to Jewish residents succumbing to the blaze. Echoing their unwavering support during past calamities—as in previous natural disasters like Hurricane Lane in 2018—the Chabad center is offering vital services—including housing, Shabbat services and emotional support.

“The phone’s been ringing off the hook with calls from stranded tourists, families trying to reach their loved ones, and people from around the world wanting to help,” Krasnjansky told Chabad.org. He’s been helping to arrange places for people to stay and eat, and keeping the Chabad House open around the clock for food, shelter and prayer.

“There are many visitors, many locals, many Israelis with businesses [in the affected areas], and most barely escaped,” he said, adding that they haven’t yet been able to reach everyone on the island’s most affected areas, as search-and-rescue operations are continuing on the island.

“There are still people we are waiting to hear from,” said Krasnjansky. As for the damage so far, it’s been devastating. “People have lost their businesses, their homes, everything.”

Chabad House Open for Shelter and Shabbat

While the Chabad House will be open for Shabbat for prayer and shelter, many people are continuing to board flights to other islands, said the rabbi. “Many people want to get to safety before Shabbat,” he noted. Some residents who lost their homes and those still fleeing the fires are being housed at the Chabad House, while others have been welcomed into community members’ homes.

David Goldberg, who lives down the street from the Chabad center, has been on the ground helping organize local efforts. He has spent the past several days helping manage the flow of people who came to the Chabad center to take showers, pray, don tefillin or just sleep.

“We’ve opened space up for whoever is in need. And everybody’s been super-gracious, ” said Goldberg. “Many don’t have wallets, they only have their phones,” he said of tourists who left their hotels with only what they needed for day trips and were unable to return. He’s also provided camping gear to people who have been staying on the beach or in their cars.

When the area was being evacuated, Goldberg was prepared to move the Torah scrolls to safety, and when they got the all-clear, arrange Chabad space for a family whose bar mitzvah plans were waylaid by the storm. The bar mitzvah will be held this Shabbat.

“We’re just trying to get people into homes so they can sleep,” said Goldberg. “This has been the last 72 hours. We’ve been trying to get people into beds so they can rest a few hours and then figure out their travel plans.”

Goldberg, who has been on Maui for six years now and owns a Jeep rental business, spent Thursday trekking into Lahaina to deliver water and fuel. He has helped people now homeless, community members whose businesses have been destroyed and tourists who left their hotels for day trips only to discover they had no way to get back to their belongings. He says he mourns the history and culture of the area that’s been destroyed, in addition to the loss of life.

“With lives lost and properties decimated, we are grieving with each other during this inconsolable time,” says Maui’s mayor, Richard Bissen.

Those wishing to help in the relief effort can donate here.

This breaking story will be updated with ongoing developments.