Hurricane Ian Update from Venice, FL With Shliach Rabbi Sholom Schmerling

Courtesy of, we present an update from Rabbi Sholom Schmerling of Chabad of Venice, FL on the situation and relief efforts following the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian.

It’s been five days since one of the most destructive natural disasters in American history, Hurricane Ian, left most of our community without power. The gas stations don’t accept digital payments, so this morning, we literally handed out cash to community members who need gas. We’ve reached out to dozens of our community members, but with no phone reception, most are unreachable.

We’re all battered after the storm. Our friend Sara’s roof is gone, and with two toddlers at home she’s running low on food and diapers. Our friend Marty had to swim out of his flooded home in the night. His home is gone now. Our insurance company, like many here, has gone bankrupt. We’ve been left to cover the repairs to our home and our Chabad house, on our own.

The storm didn’t leave us time to give our friend Joseph a proper burial. He passed away on Rosh Hashanah and is still awaiting burial.

Many, like our friend Irene, came to Venice to retire. We’ve been desperately trying to reach her. She’s in her late eighties, and lives alone.

Without power there’s no air-conditioning or refrigeration. It’s hot, and we couldn’t let our community go hungry. We reached out to our fellow Chabad emissaries around the state of Florida, and asked them to help. Soon, Chabad of Venice’s building grew into a hurricane relief center. One colleague sent us a generator, others have sent food and supplies, and still others volunteered to come and help. Now, we’ve invited our friends and community members to stop by our Chabad House to cool off, charge their phones and get a hot meal.

The Jewish community of Boca Raton, synagogues, schools, and federations, teamed up and sent us a caravan of volunteers, and a food truck that delivers food and supplies to those in need. They even brought a team of volunteer cooks, and now we’re serving hot meals to the community every day. Other organizations, like a food pantry in Lakewood, New Jersey, have stepped up by sending truckloads of meals and supplies.

It’s hard to keep track of all the people who have lent a helping hand. Chabad of South Tampa, and the Jewish Federation of Tampa, are bussing in volunteers.

Using our vehicles, and supplied with our gas canisters, they’ll be driving to every community member to make sure everyone is safe. We’ve received countless messages from family and friends, asking about loved ones they can’t reach.

After our volunteers reach everyone on our contact list, we’ll pass information along to loved ones.

The power may be out for weeks and Yom Kippur is approaching. The cost of our relief effort is large. There is still so much more to be done.

In the merit of the good work we’re all doing together, may we be blessed with a year of true abundance. Please help Chabad of Venice provide relief for the people of Venice. Visit

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