As Volcano Continues to Rock St. Vincent, Chabad Brings Relief
The Jewish community on the island of St Vincent have joined other groups and organisations which have come to the aid of Vincentinas following the eruption of La Soufriere volcano.
Shaaryn Behr has lived through hurricanes and tornadoes, but nothing could prepare her for what she is currently experiencing. As Behr lit her Shabbat candles on Friday, April 9, the Caribbean island of St. Vincent lay blanketed by a thick coating of ash, shrouding it in darkness. “As I watched the Shabbat candles flicker, I thought: ‘this is so eerie.'”
” I never thought I’d see a volcano, it is so surreal,” says Behr, who’s been living in St. Vincent’s capital city of Kingstown, about 15 miles from the volcano, for the past 11 years, tells Chabad.org. “It felt like an apocalypse. The eruptions were huge. As it was erupting, the plumes were getting bigger and bigger, followed by red flashes. It went on the whole of Friday night.”
Neighbouring Chabad emissaries work to provide aid to a devastated island
Meanwhile, on St. Lucia, an island less than 50 miles north of St. Vincent, Rabbi Avraham Super, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of St. Lucia with his wife, Sternie, was getting worried. Reports were coming in of thousands of Vincentians displaced, and cruise ships bringing evacuees to St Lucia. “I saw a humanitarian crisis brewing as soon they said an eruption was imminent,” the rabbi explains.
The Supers opened the Chabad center in 2019, when they began assembling an eclectic Jewish community of about 200 Jewish residents who live on the island at least part of the year, along with serving the many Jewish tourists who visit the islands each year. Chabad is thus the only Jewish organization on the nearby islands providing relief during the current crisis.
On Friday, as La Soufrière hissed and spewed, Super was shopping for what he knew would be needed: water, non-perishables, diapers, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and other essentials. “I know of two Jews on all of St. Vincent, but everyone there needs help. We’re sending aid to St Vincent, as well as providing what we can to those arriving on St. Lucia.”
With supermarket shelves on St. Vincent cleared, no bottled water available, and tap water feared contaminated, time is of the essence, and the need for the most basic supplies is great, Super says. And the crisis won’t be over soon: with eruptions continuing, authorities expect it will take months to recover.
As commercial shipping takes too long, and is prohibitively expensive, while air travel to St Vincent is suspended due to low visibility, Super hit upon a plan: He will deliver his truckloads of supplies directly to St. Lucia’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and they will include it with their own aid delivery to their counterparts at NEMO on neighbouring St Vincent.
The aid will be distributed by Behr, on behalf of Chabad, to thousands of Vincentians in need. “People are hosting family and friends from villages that have been destroyed, with sometimes 10 to 12 people in a single house,” she explains. They need food.”
Living on a small Caribbean island, far away from her family in South Africa, Behr was thrilled to discover that Chabad had been established on the island next door. “I found them on Instagram one day, and since the pandemic, I’ve been in touch with Rabbi Super almost every day. When the volcano erupted, he reached out right away. It brings tears to my eyes to know that someone is looking out for me; I’ve never had support like this.”
Behr feels thankful just to be alive. “G‑d gave me life, and now I have life today. I sleep with my Tehillim and say a psalm every day.”
To contribute to Chabad of St. Lucia’s relief efforts, please visit: VolcanoRelief.org
Article published with permission from chabad.org