Floodwaters that swamped huge swathes of Brisbane after the Brisbane River peaked at 4.46 meters Thursday are slowly beginning to recede, leaving 25 dead, 11,900 homes and 2,500 business destroyed. Seventy four people are still unaccounted for.
Chabad representatives in Brisbane, Rabbis Levi Jaffe and Chanoch Sufrin worked quickly over the last few days to establish contact with members of the Jewish community and provide assistance where possible.
“There are three thousand Jewish people in Brisbane, (Australia’s third largest city) all very spread out and living in all parts of the city, so everyone has been affected in some way,” Sufrin told Lubavitch.com. “So far, about forty families are stranded in their homes, but we have received word that they are all well.”
Chabad staff and volunteers have been working closely with the Queensland Board of Jewish Deputies (QJBD) and the Queensland Jewish Community Services to assist Brisbane residents and enlist volunteers to help them move furniture and personal belongings to higher ground.
Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA) sent kosher packaged meals to be distributed to stranded and displaced people in the aftermath of the flood. Clean-up and rebuilding costs are assessed at about $5 billion.
Rabbi Jaffe, who serves as rabbi of the historic 125 years old Brisbane Synagogue has rescheduled services to his home in the suburb of Carindale after he moved the Torah scrolls to higher ground in the historic synagogue’s hall and closed the synagogue on Tuesday.
Though the synagogue is located within one kilometer of the Brisbane River, the floodwaters ultimately did not reach the synagogue, stopping only 50 meters away. The Torah scrolls and prayer books have since been moved to Rabbi Jaffe’s home for services.
“Right now, we are very limited, we can’t get to people because of the severe flooding,” said Sufrin, who closed his Chabad day camp in Greenslope, a suburb of Brisbane where he serves as spiritual leader of the local community.
“In the coming days, we will be visiting evacuation centers and families who have been evacuated to offer kosher meals and assistance,” he said.