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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2017 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

September 8, 2017  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Irma slams cemetery but spares most other local Jewish facilities

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press


Rabbi Daniel Treiser of Temple B’nai Israel carries two Torahs out of the temple for safe-keeping at a secure place during the storm. Rabbi Daniel Treiser of Temple B’nai Israel carries two Torahs out of the temple for safe-keeping at a secure place during the storm. High winds from Hurricane Irma toppled 8 huge trees and 20 medium sized ones at Chapel Hill Cemetery in Largo, uprooting one casket and causing up to $75,000 damage.

Though the casket, entangled in roots of a large tree, was not in the Jewish portion of the cemetery, the fallen trees damaged the main irrigation pump and pulled irrigation and drainage lines from the ground, leaving the cemetery, owned by the Jewish Burial Society of Pinellas County, with estimates of $50,000 to $75,000 to make all repairs and do landscaping work to restore the grounds to normal. It is apparently the hardest hit Jewish facility in the Tampa Bay area. Only relatively minor damage was reported to other local Jewish community institutions, as of the press deadline.

On Friday, Sept. 15, four days after Irma struck the Bay area, Doug Negretti, chairman of the Jewish Burial Society, was at Chapel Hill waiting on a crane to remove the casket from the roots and rebury it.


Above, Doug Negretti, chair of the Jewish Burial Society of Pinellas County, seems dwarfed by a tree blown down by Hurricane Irma at Chapel Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Largo. At right, a casket entangled in roots of one toppled tree, was unearthed in the non-Jewish section of the cemetery. Drainage and irrigation lines were also uprooted, with damage estimated to run as high as $75,000. Above, Doug Negretti, chair of the Jewish Burial Society of Pinellas County, seems dwarfed by a tree blown down by Hurricane Irma at Chapel Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Largo. At right, a casket entangled in roots of one toppled tree, was unearthed in the non-Jewish section of the cemetery. Drainage and irrigation lines were also uprooted, with damage estimated to run as high as $75,000. “All of the caskets [in the Jewish portion of the cemetery] are secure and people should not worry about their loved ones,” Negretti said. There was no damage to headstones and only two small trees blew down in the Jewish Menorah Gardens. Those toppled trees did not affect burial sites.

As utility trucks were arriving and giving Negretti hope the facility would have power before the day was out, he noted that the cemetery is still capable of holding funerals. The Jewish Federation of Pinellas and Pasco Counties board is to meet on Monday, Sept. 18, to discuss the cemetery’s funding needs.

The rest of the Tampa Bay Jewish community heaved a collective sigh of relief after Hurricane Irma swept through the region in the early morning hours of Monday, Sept. 11 and left many grateful that a change in the projected path spared the region of catastrophic disaster.

Instead of talk about buildings destroyed and lives lost, the main concerns for most were when electrical power, cable and internet service would be restored and when some of the few postponed events would be held.

With power still not restored to all areas by Friday, Sept. 15, a few synagogues had not been reached as of press time. Of those who could send out news, none reported serious damage, in spite of wind gusts reaching 79 mph in Pinellas County.


Rabbi Yossie Eber of Chabad of West Pasco offers a hot meal to those affected by Hurricane Irma. Rabbi Yossie Eber of Chabad of West Pasco offers a hot meal to those affected by Hurricane Irma. There was light cosmetic damage to the exterior of the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg and it was scheduled to reopen Saturday, Sept. 16. There were two downed willow trees that did not hit any structures at Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg. A sign in front of Temple B’nai Israel in Clearwater was destroyed by winds and a tree fell in the temple’s parking lot, but did not hit any cars.

Heidi Shimberg, chief operating officer for programs and services at the Tampa JCCs, reported no damage at JCC facilities and she had not heard of serious damage at any other Jewish institutions in Hillsborough County. “It bodes well that the Jewish organizations took care to prepare, or we would have heard of damage,” she said.

The Tampa JCCs and Federation closed their JCC operations prior to the storm and reopened them on Wednesday, Sept. 13. The JCC preschools were also closed and reopened for full-time students on Sept. 13 and for all students the next day.

Four events at the Bryan Glazer Family JCC, each expected to draw 200 to 300 people, were postponed due to Irma. Among those events was a Bat Mitzvah.

Hillels of the Florida Suncoast cancelled the launch of its big community-wide “Reverse Tashlich” event on Sunday, Sept. 24. Synagogues including some youth groups had signed up to scour along the waterfront and pick up trash and debris.

Among other events postponed was a talk by a noted rabbi from the Czech Republic was to speak at Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg and an open house at Congregation B’nai Emmunah in Tarpon Springs.

Power outages affected Jewish facilities throughout the area.

Due to an extended time without electricity, Temple B’nai Israel Shabbat services were cancelled on Friday, Sept. 15 as well as Selichot services on Sept. 16, with members invited to attend the Selichot program at Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg. Lack of power at Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater also caused cancellation of Shabbat services with members invited to services at Congregation Kol Ami in Tampa.

The Jewish Press office in St. Petersburg was still without electricity as of Friday, Sept. 15. Four members of the staff finished putting out this edition by working from the home of its owners, Jim and Karen Dawkins, who were the only staffers not to lose power.

Emilie Socash, executive director of the Pinellas/Pasco Federation, monitored the situation in the community from her out-of-town evacuation destination until the Federation offices regained power. The federation’s office in Largo was able to reopen on Tuesday, Sept 12.

Reaching out to those hardest hit

Chabad of West Pasco served as a hurricane shelter for the duration of the storm, providing accommodations and meals for evacuees from Miami. Meanwhile, Chabad Centers throughout the Tampa Bay area offered hot meals to those without power or just in need of a hug for surviving the ordeal.

All of the Chabad of Tampa Bay affiliates were organizing a relief effort, including 50 young professional and student volunteers, who were to travel by buses to the Naples, Marco Island area in a few days to help folks there.

Menorah Manor assisted two other nursing homes, one in Charlotte County and another in Pasco County, to evacuate their residents by lending them their 16-passenger bus for a day. Menorah Manor also sent a truck with food, water and cleaning supplies to an independent living facilities in Tampa and another in Plant City that still did not have power.

Tampa Jewish Family Services closed early on the Friday before the storm to prepare for its blow, and the agency was closed on Monday, but reopened Tuesday after the storm and is both delivering food to those in need and accepting donations from those inclined to give to the food bank. The Tampa JCCs and Federation set up collection spots on behalf of TJFS at its JCCs a few days after the storm to send nonperishable food and hygiene items to Irma victims in harder hit areas.

Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services headquarters in mid Pinellas County was still closed for at least four days after the storm and was unable to accept food donations. Some staffers there worked remotely and asked that donations not be brought to their food bank until Monday, Sept. 18.

An anonymous member of the Jewish community who has a business with offices locally and throughout the nation is arranging for a tractor trailer truck full of supplies to be sent to the Glazer JCC. The company deals with many vendors that are filling the truck with battery operated fans, flashlights, toiletries, new blankets, towels, clothing and diapers. Hillels of the Suncoast students and others who have volunteered will sort out the donated items so they can be sent where most needed.

Alissa Fischel, director of development at the Tampa JCCs and Federation, said that Jacksonville was hard hit with flooding and that the Federation is waiting to hear from Federations that cover the hard hit areas in the Florida Keys, Naples and Miami to assess their needs and figure out what items to send and where to send them.

The Pinellas/Pasco Federation issued a call for people to go to a local blood bank to donate blood.

Emergency outreach

Before Irma hit, both local federations set up a web portal for their communities in the event of an emergency. A nationwide initiative, the web portal allows organizations and communities to set up individualized sites where community members and leadership can communicate with each other. Folks can indicate if they are safe or need help, if they wish to donate or volunteer, find access to available resources as well as receive timely updates from all participating community agencies. The Tampa JCCs and Federation web portal is Jewishtampa.recovers.org. The Pinellas and Pasco Federation uses jewishpinellaspasco.recovers.org.

In an email to the community, Socash said she decided to set up this community-wide disaster resource after Charlottesville, envisioning using it should the area ever face a similar hate-based rally. Then after seeing the devastation in Houston and the difficulty in communication, she said. “I could imagine how it could be doubly helpful in the unlikely event we faced such a situation,” she said. “Today we face this situation.”


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