With California’s wine country reeling from this week’s horrific wildfires—the most destructive of their type in California’s history—Chabad of Sonoma County is rallying the forces to bring comfort and unity to a community ravaged by disaster.
“The loss is devastating,” Chabad Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky says, so much so that he describes it as “hard to measure.” Many have lost their homes and possessions, and others have been displaced or evacuated.
As the rabbi and the rest of the Chabad team pitched in to assist wherever possible, they realized that the victims needed more than just immediate disaster relief; they needed to feel that they were not alone. “We want to give people a good reason to come out and get together,” Wolvovsky shares.
A Friday night, Shabbat dinner seemed a good idea to many of the people struggling in the face of this disaster. Dubbed “Shabbat of Comfort & Unity,” more than 200 have already RSVPd.
“We’re all going to be supporting each other and this will bring a sense of comfort,” he says. Multiple vendors are contributing to Chabad’s efforts by sponsoring goods for the dinner, which is free of charge. The Flamingo Resort Hotel in Santa Rosa has offered a venue, and other businesses are sponsoring grape juice, hummus, flowers and more. “Everyone is pitching in,” the rabbi says gratefully. “There’s a lot of special energy.”
The dinner will provide an opportunity to memorialize the people who’ve died in this tragedy, and also acknowledge the generosity of those who’ve stepped up to help bring relief and aid to a traumatized community.
The rabbi and his wife Altie were also affected by the fires; over the holiday of Sukkot, the couple and their children moved into the home of the Marcus family, who serve as Chabad’s emissaries in San Mateo. When they returned, “the air quality was still terrible. We learned that friends of ours had lost everything they owned,” the rabbi recalls. The emissaries soon visited evacuation centers, distributing food to both victims and aid workers, “just doing what we could to help.”
This Friday evening in Napa Valley as well, Shabbat dinner will hosted by Chabad emissaries Rabbi Elchonon and Chanie Tenenbaum, whose community faced similar devastation.
“This week we read the story of Noah, whose name means ‘comfort,’” the Napa Valley Chabad website reads. “This Friday, let us create and enter a Noah’s Ark of solace to heal, unite, and comfort one another with song, warmth and kindness!”