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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Michigan Chabad Offers Relief Following Dam Breaches

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Erin Ben-Moche
Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She writes about Jewish art and culture.

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Chabad House Lubavitch of Eastern Michigan is offering relief to those forced to evacuate after two breached damns flooded mid-Michigan cities following heavy rain May 19. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the flash-flooding is forcing evacuation orders for thousands of Midland county residents.

“We have been in contact with the people that we know and are offering what we can,” Chabad Director Rabbi Yisroel Weingarten told the Journal. “[We] sent up some food for the people. We can’t [drive up] blindly because of what’s going on there in addition to COVID-19. We hope to make deliveries ourselves on Friday.”

Michigan coronavirus cases currently stand at 53,009 with the death toll now at 5,060.

Weingarten said that while the Jewish community in mid-Michigan isn’t large, it is “very active.” There are a few congregations in and bordering Midland including Temple Beth El in Midland and Temple Beth Israel in Bay City. Weingarten said Chabad is working with the Jews in the community to see what they need in regard to supplies and safe shelter.

Temple Beth El President Sheldon Messing told the Journal in an email that Beth El is safe and dry.

“Some of our congregants have moved into hotels, others perhaps to family members or friends,” Messing said. “I am not aware of anyone who is in distress at this time. We are a very small congregation and so we look out for each other.”

Weingarten added he is in contact with an Israeli employee at Dow Inc. who is trying to get supplies to his fellow coworkers. The chemical complex has been flooded due to the dam failures which caused Dow to close its headquarters and manufacturing sites in Midland.

President Donald Trump Tweeted on May 20 that he would send military and FEMA Teams to assist.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered a state of emergency late May 19. During a press conference on May 20, she said people downstream of the dams eventually could  be “under approximately nine feet of water” by Wednesday night. Around 10,000 people already have evacuated or are in the process of evacuating, according to ClickonDetroit.

The National Weather Service also ordered a flash-flood warning statement May 20,  urging residents to seek higher ground immediately.

This is an ongoing story and the Journal will update as more information becomes available.

This story was updated to include a statement from Temple Beth El President Sheldon Messing.

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