With Puerto Rico still reeling from the devastation left by Hurricane Maria, Valley residents and Jewish organizations are working together to help the beleaguered island.
Joe Berman and the two other owners of Altitude Trampoline Park in Phoenix have decided to donate 20 percent of the proceeds from their Oct. 8 Salsa Sunday event toward Red Cross relief efforts. In addition, through Oct. 9, they will be collecting new socks, underwear and toiletries to be sent to the people of Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Maria tore across the U.S.-island territory on Sept. 20 with 155 mph winds, dropping more than 2 feet of rain. With roughly half the island still without regular access to potable water, and many more lacking power or food, there’s no shortage of need on the island. Puerto Rico is home to the largest Jewish population in the Caribbean, according to Chabad of Puerto Rico.
“The world kind of feels like it’s falling apart, but the people of Puerto Rico are being neglected, and as three Jewish partners, we asked ourselves what can we do in the spirit of tikkun olam to make an impact in the world,” Berman said. “Even though it’s falling in the middle of the High Holidays, I don’t think social activism can wait, I don’t think charity can wait, I don’t think philanthropy can wait for a better time. The people of Puerto Rico need it to happen now.”
Salsa Sunday takes place from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Sunday and features salsa and merengue music, as well as a food vendor who serves fresh fruit and Mexican-style street corn.
Along with Berman, a former employee of Jewish News, the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix has been raising funds to support the Jewish Federations of North America's (JFNA) disaster relief campaign.
To date, the Federation has raised $20,000 for JFNA's fund, which is working to provide assistance to people in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean who have been affected by major hurricanes. JFNA also is helping victims of Mexico's two massive earthquakes.
Meanwhile, Chabad-Lubavitch of Puerto Rico, one of two synagogues located on the island, arranged for a private plane to deliver much needed supplies such as canned food, bottled water, medical items, flashlights, batteries and other necessities.
The Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters has also established a fund to begin raising money for what is expected to be a long and costly recovery.
Last week, the American Jewish Committee announced that it has partnered with IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian aid agency, to assist Puerto Rico. The team is focused on distributing potable water and setting up water filters.
Berman stressed the need for immediate action to help those impacted by the disaster.
“We do have a Jewish community there. There is a Chabad there, there is a Reform synagogue there. They don’t have the resources,” Berman said. “ I guess to me that was the biggest thing. There’s all this confusion. How do we help them? When do we help them? That makes me think back to the ’60s. What do we do? This! When do we do it? Now!” JN
For more information on the charity event, call 602-522-8000.