Even though the weather is dry and the winds are breezing at a gentle 17 miles per hour, Rabbi Eli Reyder reports that Myrtle Beach is quickly becoming a ghost town.
“We are helping people find places to go, especially the elderly and the infirm, who don’t have an easy time picking up and roughing it in a motel a few hundred miles from home,” says Reyder, who together with his wife, Sara, directs activities for Chabad of Myrtle Beach in Carolina Forest, which is only 5 miles from the coast, but just outside of the mandatory evacuation zone.
Operating out of Carolina Forest, Chabad of Myrtle Beach is presumed to be the only Jewish institution that has remained open as of Thursday.
Meanwhile, Chabad rabbis and volunteers have been helping people stock up with food, water and other essentials, and assisting them in boarding up homes in advance of what promises to be a devastating storm of historic proportions.
Rabbi Doron Aizenman, director of Chabad of Myrtle Beach with his wife, Leah, noted that everything in town is closed—the shops, the businesses and the schools, including the Chabad Jewish Academy. They said they will be keeping in touch with congregants as the storm develops.
“We just installed new windows and a new roof, and it’s a strong structure, so we are hopeful there won’t be any damage,” he said, noting that “20 years ago, we had a roof fall off when we were in the middle of Shabbat prayers during another hurricane, but since then the roof has been sturdy and we’ve had other storms.”
Aizenman reports that the congregation’s Torah scrolls have been removed from the sanctuary, placed in waterproof containers and transferred to a safe storage area, where the flood waters will not be able to reach them.
Despite the mandatory evacuation orders, Reyder says there are residents who have chosen to stay, including some elderly ones. Chabad rabbis and rebbetzins have taken on the role of a shadchan (“matchmaker”), pairing people up with neighbors who can be in touch with them and walk over to check up on them as needed.
Working their networks of social-media contacts (using WhatsApp, in particular), he and other Chabad representatives are helping neighbors get the supplies they need. “If someone evacuated and left behind a generator, we find someone who is staying and can use that generator,” says the rabbi. “The same goes for gas, sandbags, food and other necessities that people have left behind and are happy to share.”
As the storm bears down on Shabbat, along with his in-laws, Reyder expects to host a Jewish reporter who was assigned to cover the story for a TV news outlet, and who asked about his options for kosher food and prayer services.
“We are not sure if there will be a minyan, but we will be praying and celebrating, and he is welcome to join us for the duration of Shabbat,” he says. “That is how we are operating right now—taking one moment at a time, helping one person at a time.”
This story originally appeared on Chabad.org/News.