The email came just before Shabbat – could I pledge tzedakah to help the relief effort in the Bahamas? The note, from my Orthodox synagogue in Chicago was one of many appeals from Jewish organizations asking for help for the nation stricken by Hurricane Dorian.

Dorian was one of the worst hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic, and the extent of the devastation it wrought on the island nation of the Bahamas is still coming out slowly. Dozens of people were killed, at least 13,000 houses were destroyed, while hospitals, roads and whole neighborhoods in some areas were wiped out. Particularly hard hit were the country’s northern islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. “We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of the northern Bahamas,” said Prime Minister Hubert Minnis. The destruction, he said, was “unprecedented and extensive.”

While Dorian still churned, the Israeli disaster relief agency IsraAID announced it was sending volunteers to the Bahamas to help recovery. “IsraAID’s Emergency Response team will distribute urgent relief supplies, offer Psychological First Aid, and deploy water filters to restore access to drinking water, while conducting further needs assessments in affected communities” the group announced. IsraAID has extensive experience in disaster relief: in 2018 alone assisted over 25,000 people in seven countries following natural disasters.

Jewish organizations from across the United States announced appeals for relief aid for the Bahamas, including Jewish Federations, the Joint Distribution Committee, B’nai Brith International, and Chabad. “We are providing emergency medical supplies,” the Joint Distribution Committee announced, even while Dorian was still lashing the area.

The Orthodox Union announced a huge wave of people praying for the Bahamas and wishing to donate to disaster relief there; they referred donors to the Joint Distribution Committee’s emergency relief fund.

On the ground in the Bahamas, Rabbi Sholom and Mrs. Sheera Bluming, the directors of Chabad of the Bahamas, are coordinating aid. With about a thousand Jewish expats living in the Bahamas, and as many as 100,000 Jews visiting the nation annually, the Bahamas has a vibrant Jewish presence. Rabbi and Mrs. Bluming checked in with the community members they knew in Nassau, where the Chabad center is located, but they were unable to reach friends and acquaintances on Abacco. “Nassau was relatively unscathed by Dorian” Rabbi Bluming explained, “so our current focus is providing relief to people stranded in Abaco – getting in touch with residents there, and making sure that supplies and aid get to everyone who needs it.”

As the world learns more of the scale of the devastation in the Bahamas, the Jewish community is working to reach out and help Bahamanians. Here are links to some Jewish relief efforts. May the people of the Bahamas experience a speedy and complete recovery. The prayers of Jews all around the world are with the Bahamas at this time.

The Joint Distribution Committee’s Relief Effort https://donate.jdc.org/give/248154/#!/donation/checkout

B’nai Brith International Disaster Relief Fund https://www.bnaibrith.org/press-releases/ready-to-help-bnai-brith-disaster-relief-fund-accepting-donations

Greater Miami Jewish Federation Emergency Relief Fund https://jewishmiami.org/gift/hurricanedorian/

Jewish Federation Disaster Relief Fund https://donatenow.juf.org/disaster

Chabad Bahamas Hurricane Relief https://www.relief.jewishbahamas.com/

IsraAiD Emergency Response Fund for the Bahamas https://www.classy.org/campaign/israaid-emergency-relief-fund/c146616?_ga=2.208960208.359576241.1567810346-883125294.1567810346