When Catastrophe Strikes…

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Joplin Tornado
24 May 2011

Wasn’t it just Tuscaloosa that was devastated by a tornado? And aren’t Memphis and Natchez buried under the waters of the mighty Mississippi? The last few months have seen disaster after natural disaster, around the world and in North America. Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, floods — and with Katrina in mind, the hurricane season hasn’t even started yet.

Now, it’s Joplin, Missouri’s turn, hit by one of the most devastating tornadoes in North America since records began to be kept, with at least 30 percent of the town destroyed and the death toll at 117, a figure certain to increase when bodies are dug from the rubble.

The newspapers stories of the panic and chaos are difficult to read, such as the details of how a hospital was destroyed and people were sucked out of windows. Add the violent rain, thunder and hail, and a Sodom and Gomorrah-like situation can be imagined.

As the Joplin Globe reported in the issue of May 24, “With a hand over her mouth, Michelle Whitehead stared at the heap of rubble that had been her friend’s house. ‘I’m just trying to make sure the people I love are still alive,’ she said. ‘I’m about to go back and make another circle. I don’t know what else to do.’”

“Rebecca Wilkinson said, ‘I grabbed a blanket and headed to the bathroom. By the time I shut the door, it hit.’ Wilkinson clutched her daughter as the apartment collapsed around her. ‘If it wasn’t for my toilet and sink, we would have been crushed. It was the only thing that held the wall up off of us.’ After the storm, others found Wilkinson and her daughter beneath the rubble. “I handed my daughter out through a hole, and then an elderly gentleman came and pulled me out,” she said.

The Orthodox Union has received a report from the scene sent to Rabbi David Gorelik, a Rabbinic Coordinator in OU Kosher. “One of my companies, Jasper Products, lost three employees. I have left messages on the cell phones of two of my contacts,” he wrote. “Do you think the OU should have a campaign for Joplin similar to what was done on behalf of other communities that suffered from similar catastrophes?” The answer, of course, is yes.

Emergency relief organizations have moved in to provide food and shelter, and to begin clearing the debris and the reconstruction, a task that will take months and years. Reconstructing the many thousands of shattered lives will take even longer. If you are looking for a way to help–and who can fail to do so when confronted with such a catastrophe–you may send your contribution through the Orthodox Union’s Natural Disaster Emergencies Fund. Your dollars will go directly to where they can be of most benefit.

Please give something to help the people of Joplin, who have been left with nothing. It is the Jewish way. It is the only way to respond.

Stephen Steiner is OU’s Director of Public Relations.

To make a donation, please visit: Orthodox Union’s Natural Disaster Emergencies Fund

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.