Last week, as I encouraged us all to appreciate the blessings that came with the unusual cold weather, I wrote the following: “Unlike other geographical regions of our country, we don’t really have to worry about the ground suddenly shaking beneath us.” Needless to say, the fact that I wrote these words just days before the earthquake in Haiti, has left me feeling a bit unsettled. Obviously, Haiti is not a part of the U.S. – but it is only about 680 miles away from Miami. Atlanta, in our closest neighboring state, is about 660 miles away from Miami. While I don’t think we need to be overly concerned about earthquakes here in South Florida, this week’s quake and the total and complete devastation of a nation have hit close to home. This is not a tragedy taking place on the other side of the world – or even on the other side of our own country. This nightmare is unfolding off our shores and many here in South Florida, including members of our extended Ramat Shalom family are directly affected.
On a much larger and deadlier scale than our cold weather, Haiti’s earthquake is another, much more powerful reminder that there are forces out there that are simply beyond our control. But when the world spins out of control – that is when we – humanity, God’s partners – need to step up and do our best to heal what has been broken. Now is the time. This afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak with a few people who have managed to be in direct contact with their family/friends in Haiti. What I have heard from them is that what we see on the news is “good”. The reality is, Haiti is in ruins. Even Haiti’s wealthiest citizens have lost everything, including loved ones. At the present time, the money the wealthy citizens have means nothing as there is not even food and water to purchase. Looting is a terrible problem. Emergency food and water delivery has been slowed because of fears of violence. In addition, international aid organizations are trying to determine how to distribute food and water to millions of survivors.
One of the people I spoke with had miraculously managed to get a relative (who was severely injured after being stuck under a collapsed building for seven hours) on a non-medical charter flight from Haiti to Fort Lauderdale. As the relative was suffering from blood loss, dangerous fractures and puncture wounds, and trauma – a medical flight would have been ideal – but this flight was the only way to get him here quickly. Because it was a non-medical flight, there were no arrangements made for an ambulance to transport the injured person to a local trauma center. After a few phone calls, I managed to make arrangements with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office to have an ambulance waiting in the terminal. As I type this, I am waiting to get confirmation from the BSO that the injured individual has been picked up. This experience has allowed me to get a glimpse into just how chaotic the situation is.
I also spoke to my colleague, Rabbi Alan Tuffs of Temple Beth-El in Hollywood. His congregation, along with a Hollywood church, supports a Haitian orphanage. While he and his community had to wait three days to get the news, it appears that the children and the staff of the orphanage are okay. Rabbi Tuffs did see the orphanage’s ambulance on CNN. Sadly, it is being used to transport only dead bodies. Rabbi Tuffs and those actively involved in the orphanage are putting together the RALLY FOR HAITI DISASTER RELIEF this Sunday at 1:30PM in Hollywood’s ARTS PARK. All funds raised at the rally will be sent directly to Haiti.
As it is time for us to act, the question is: what can we do? Haitians need food and water immediately. However, shipping to Haiti is bad during good times. We need to rely on the international aid groups to get supplies to the survivors. They need money to purchase these supplies and Haitians themselves need money – as this will give them the ability to purchase food and water which will undoubtedly be in short supply for some time. As for the cost of this food and water, South Floridians know all to well about price gouging after natural disasters.
At this time, none of the aid organizations are asking for food, water, clothing, or any other items that would need to be shipped. There are many organizations that are collecting funds, including, as I shared with you the Jewish Federation of Broward, American Jewish World Service, and the American Red Cross. I have heard excellent things about rapper Wyclef Jean’s organization Yele Haiti: http://www.yele.org. You can also give money to various Haitian organizations, including the orphanage that Rabbi Tuff’s works with, at the rally on Sunday.
In addition to money, the people of Haiti and those putting their lives on the line to save the survivors need our prayers. Do not underestimate the power of prayer at moments like this. Join us tonight at 8:00PM. Our tzedakah box will be in the front lobby. You may drop off checks made out to “Yele Haiti” or the charity of your choice before services and we will mail them for you.
[URGENT!!! PLEASE SEE LINK WHICH DISCOVERED AFTER THIS POST WAS PUBLISHED: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=9577218]
May the people of Haiti feel the love and support of the world during these dark and frightening nights. I hope to see you later.