It was just before the High Holy Days when the thoughts of Jewish people everywhere turned to prayer and reflection for the New Year, that a flood of biblical proportions struck the Boulder, Colorado area. In the neighboring community of Lyons, for example, 17 inches of rain – half the year’s annual rainfall – came down in two days.
With winter fast coming to the Rocky Mountains, and with emergency relief desperately needed by the victims of the flood, Achiezer, the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America, and the National Council of Young Israel, have come together to announce an emergency fund to assist people whose homes have been obliterated and whose lives have been disrupted.
“Pictures that I have seen of the destruction are catastrophic, reminiscent of a deluge,” said OU President Martin Nachimson. “While we were safe and warm in our synagogues and at home at the High Holy Days, thousands of people, Jews and non-Jews alike, were inundated. We think of the Rockies as being the site of heavy blizzards and other snowstorms. The rains came too early in the season for snow, but the effect was perhaps even more damaging.”
According to Rabbi Boruch Ber Bender, the president of Achiezer, which is based in Far Rockaway, NY, “The needs range from temporary housing, replacing damaged appliances, home repairs, boilers, and mold remediation to basic items such as furniture and beds. Pictures have shown us homes that have been completely obliterated. We know of families that have not been able to return to their homes as their entire neighborhoods have been damaged and it has not yet been declared safe to do so.”
The four organizations hope to provide affected families with at least several thousand dollars. “We know we cannot make these families whole,” Rabbi Bender said. “However a few thousand dollars will allow them to do basic mold remediation, sheetrock repairs, put boilers in place…and allow them to perhaps make their homes somewhat livable. Bear in mind that winter is fast approaching and without these basic repairs done immediately, there can be devastating consequences.”
A group of leaders from the organizations will travel to Boulder to view the damage, assist with the allocation process, and help with the needs on the ground, Rabbi Bender explained.
Meanwhile, volunteer work goes on. A group of teenage boys from New Jersey NCSY is now returning from the Boulder area after performing relief work. Rabbi Rael Blumenthal, who led the NCSY group to the area, wrote on Sunday, “Our work site is a small house that has already been gutted to the extent that it is only a shell. Our job was to remove mud from under the floor beams (there is no floor) in order to recreate the crawl space needed to install new plumbing and electricity. The boys did an excellent job, and bucket after bucket of mud and debris were wheeled out onto the side of the road for collection.” While the boys were working, Rabbi Blumenthal added, it rained and then snowed.
Winter comes early to the Rockies.
Achiezer’s Rabbi Bender declared, “A successful emergency fund can go a very long way towards helping these families restore the slightest bit of normalcy to their lives. They are reaching out to us to help, and it is incumbent upon us to make the maximum effort.”